Heroine archetypes and how they have influenced the female stereotypes of animation

This is the final proposal for how I intend to write my article and the detail of what I intend to write about.

Research Question: How are female characters in modern animation breaking with the original archetypes of characters from the 20th Century and what effect is this having on the character stereotypes seen in animation made in the past decade?

Within this article I will analyse the character archetypes set out in ‘The Writers’ Journey’ and how these have been used through out animation. I shall write about why gender stereotyping is a problem, especially when it comes to the roles of female characters and heroines. I will also examine how, in animations made in the last decade, these ideas are changing and some of the stereotypes previously associated with female characters and heroines are now being broken. Comparing and contrasting Disney’s Princesses with the modern female characters being presented in today’s mainstream animation industry will be relevant.

There are several areas, which I know will be important to my topic. I will research and examine the types of female character presented in animation and how the ‘Independent Heroine’ developed in cinema. The essay will research female characters, who have broken with stereotype, in order to explore how the portrayal of female gender has developed in mainstream animation during the last decade.

The two films I consider most important to this article are Brave and The Croods. These films have Heroines who break with some of the stereotypes previously circulated in mainstream animation. In order to support my analysis of the Heroines in these films I will also look briefly at how Western animations from the 20th Century usually do not have female characters who influence the story so heavily, I will make reference back to the passive princesses of Disney here.

In order to make my analysis as well rounded as possible I will also make brief reference to other films, which have female characters of different ages break with the roles apparently assigned to their gender. Important films to consider when doing this are Shrek, Les Triplettes de Belleville and Princess Mononoke.

In this article I would like to look at the idea of the Female Heroine and how certain stereotypes have become associated with this character. There are certain ‘thoughts’ that come to mind when creating a heroine. If she relies on strength in battle her appearance often becomes Amazonian featuring more prominent muscles and stature, but losing some of her femininity. On the other side of this if a heroine retains a more delicate appearance she tends to have some skill or ‘power’ which helps her overcome obstacles opposing her but this type of character would also lose her independence and often be paired with a male partner who would take on a ‘Warrior’ role. In more modern animation they have begun creating a better balance between these features so that female characters become stronger and more independent while breaking with the stereotypes and creating more realistic heroines, which an audience can relate to.

The two main heroines I am examining in this article are ‘Eep’ from ‘The Croods’ and ‘Merida’ from ‘Brave’. This is because they both exemplify and reject the characteristics of the ‘Heroine Stereotype’ I outlined earlier. Eep takes on some of the Amazonian characteristics in that she is muscular and uses her strength to acquire what she wants but she is in many ways an incredibly feminine character who displays a sweetness and tendency towards emotional vulnerability when it comes to her love interest. Merida however while being the more delicate in appearance of these two characters and taking on the stereotype of having a skill rather than strength is considered to be unfeminine as a character as she does not exhibit any of the usual traits associated with ‘Princess’ characters. Merida is also vastly more independent than many of the other Disney Princesses with perhaps the exceptions of, Mulan, Pocahontas and Tiana. All of whom show a strength in themselves which is somewhat lacking in other princesses.

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