Shaping Girls: Analyzing Animated Female Body Shapes
The debate over whether television and film affect girls’ body image has been contentious. Researchers argue that film and television negatively affect, only partially affect, or do not affect girls’ body image. These studies have one common limitation: they approach animated female bodies as if they are the same because they are, mostly, thin. In this project, the author seeks to extend and complicate this existing scholarship by analyzing bodies in 67 films produced by several American animation studios from 1989 through 2016. In this study, she classifies 239 female characters as one of four body types: Hourglass, Pear, Rectangle, or Inverted Triangle. Her argument is two-fold: (1) over the last 30 years, there has been a shift from a singular dominant shape (Hourglass) to the dominance of several body shapes (especially Pear and Rectangle); and (2) young girls may be affected by characters their own age who have been largely ignored in studies thus far. The author argues that young girls see diverse images of bodies rather than the singular image that scholars study. Girls’ body image may be affected by animation, but animated images are so diverse that this effect may be difficult to determine. A more nuanced understanding of the body shapes animation utilizes may allow researchers to study the more complex messages that girls do or do not internalize.