Description: Disney animation represents a powerful source of economic and cultural production. However, following the death of Walt Disney, the animation division found itself struggling to survive. It was not until the 1989 release of the hugely successful animated film The Little Mermaid that Disney would reclaim its domination among children's cultural producers. Additionally, The Little Mermaid inaugurated a shift in Disney's portrayals of gender as the company replaced the docile passive princess characteristic of its previous animated films with a physically active and strong willed ambitious heroine. Grounded in an understanding of Disney's cultural significance as dominant storyteller, the present study explores gender in The Little Mermaid by means of narrative performativity. Specifically, I analyze the film's songs "Part of Your World," "Under the Sea," and "Poor Unfortunate Souls" as metonymic narrative performances of gender that are (1) embodied, (2) materially situated, (3) discursively embedded and (4) capable of legitimating and critiquing existing power relations.
Date: May 2010
Creator: Polanco, Raquel