Why Disney Villains Are Actually Drag Queens
Start writing a post
Entertainment

Why Disney Villains Are Actually Drag Queens

Everyone knows that Disney reinforces unrealistic beauty standards, but did you know that Disney appears to constantly equate gender ambiguity with evil?

5315
Why Disney Villains Are Actually Drag Queens
Movie Pilot

Everyone knows that Disney reinforces unrealistic beauty standards (perfect hair, tiny waistlines) and is often historically inaccurate (let’s not pretend the Native American genocide resulted in the settlers and indigenous people living happily ever after), but did you know that Disney appears to constantly equate gender ambiguity with evil? The same can be said of race and other physical distinctions, but those are a whole other story entirely.

Before I get into the details, I want to say that I recognize that Disney isn’t the only company guilty of perpetuating these kinds of prejudices, nor am I saying that it necessarily has some sort of racist/sexist/homophobic agenda. Like all other cultural entities, Disney was and still is a product of its time and continues to evolve accordingly. I am pleased to say that it has improved in respects to diversity and not demonizing “others”. However, it is no secret that both Disney and society at large still has a long way to go. So let’s take a better look at Disney’s faces of evil and see what they have to say about our culture.

Think about it: Ursula, Maleficent, Cruella, Madame Medusa, The Evil Queen, Queen of Hearts, Yzma, etc. What do they all have in common? For starters, all but one of the villainesses have harshly angular facial structures and masculine facial features accentuated with heavy, if not drag-esque makeup. “Drag queens” are men who perform a highly theatrical, or campy, form of femininity as part of their personae — a performance that has been read by some as a biting critique of stereotyped gender roles.

In fact, according to an audio commentary by John Musker, Ron Clements, and Alan Menken, members of Disney animation studio's leading director teams, "The Little Mermaid's" Ursula was actually based on the legendary drag queen Divine, who also donned signature white hair, arched brows, heavy purple eye-shadow and a bold red lip. Maleficent from "Sleeping Beauty" sports similar arched brows, dark purple eye makeup and red lips.

Madame Medusa from "The Rescuers" and The Evil Queen from "Snow White" also meet these three criteria. Cruella De Vil from "101 Dalmatians" and Yzma from "The Emperor's New Groove" share these same features with the exception of Cruella’s eyeshadow being swapped for green and Yzma’s lipstick a dark purple. As mentioned above, there is always some incorporation of the color purple into the villainesses’ makeup or wardrobe.

Could purple in itself is purple, not quite only a “girl” or “boy” color (literally a combination of pink and blue), be illustrative of both gender non-conformity and evil? Curiously, very few of the Disney Princesses incorporate the color purple into their appearances. Although many utilize drag in order to challenge gender roles, Disney doesn’t give me the impression that their villainesses are meant to convey the same messages.

In contrast, the “good” Disney princesses and heroines like Ariel, Aurora and Snow White almost always have round and either cosmetic-free faces or very minimal make-up. With the villainesses, however, it feels as though you could prick your finger on any of their jagged features, which appear to be saturated with make-up.

The exception to the make-up rule is the Queen of Hearts, whose lack of heavy makeup also emphasizes her masculinity. However, the same effects are achieved - because she doesn’t display traditional feminine features or beauty, we are subtly conditioned to associate her with evil. Unlike those who criticize gender clichés with visual satire, Disney is only encouraging them — “true women" are youthful and beautiful (and naturally so).

Consequently, when the antagonists in films are continually fashioned to be “ugly” by conventional norms, audiences may begin to subconsciously comprehend those who may share similar physical characteristics in their own lives as synonymous in terms of morality. In other words, the perpetual combination of Disney Villainesses’ malaise and “ugly” aesthetics reinforce that those who don’t fit the criteria for traditional beauty also reflect an unnaturalness and perhaps, evil nature.

Now think about the male Disney villains: Hades, Jafar, Shere Khan, Governor Ratcliffe, Scar, Shan Yu, Dr. Facilier. What do they all have in common? You guessed it - deviance from gender norms. With the majority of Disney villains, this means physically appearing somewhat “feminine” or maintaining the “sissy” (and other traditional gender conflicting) archetypes . Hades from "Hercules" is a caricature of the, well... (literally) flaming gay man archetype.

In addition to his sassy sense of humor and conventionally effeminate mannerisms, Hades also possesses darker colored eyelids and lips reminiscent of eyeshadow and lipstick. When compared to the heroes, the “good guys” have little to no lipcolor, and if they do have lipcolor, it is almost always restricted to just the upper lip in order to “retain” masculinity.

"Aladdin's" Jafar, the only male to be dressed in a gown instead of pants and a shirt is also clad in full-on shoulder pads and, in addition to dark eyelids, wears black eyeliner. Shere Khan and "The Lion King's" Scar, although not human, also appear to wear “eyeshadow” and exudes the same effete aristocratic energy as Jafar and "Pocahontas'" Governor Ratcliffe. They all use precise articulation, draw out their s’s, and rise inflection at the end of their sentences - qualities society has decided sound “effeminate."

Accounts of anti-aristocratic sentiment likens male aristocracy with “delicate” women. This is similar to how gay men, due to assumptions that they were sexually docile, were synonymous with “delicate” women. Evidently, we see the same sex-related chauvinism displayed, but with somewhat differing logic. They also have “limp wrists”, something often associated with the “sissy” trope.

Voices aside, these Disney villains don’t look or behave in a way that aligns with masculine stereotypes. In addition to his refined English accent and mannerisms (he even lifts his pinky when drinking wine), Governor Ratcliffe wears pigtails with hot pink bows, a hot pink cape and appears to wear purple eyeshadow. During his very theatrical musical number, he’s also clad in a sparkly gold outfit.

Although the other male lions in "The Lion King" also have a slightly darker eyelid color, Scar’s is much more severe and he also appears to have dark “eyeshadow” that extends to his bottom lid like eyeliner. "Mulan"'s Shan Yu, quite possibly the scariest looking Disney Villain, also has a haircut indicative of femininity, as he is the only male character in the movie to wear his long hair down. His unnaturally yellow and black-colored eyes (he should probably get those checked out) appear to be heavily lined in black eyeliner, emphasizing that Shan Yu may not be as masculine as his male, and possibly even female, counterparts.

Dr. Facilier from "The Princess and the Frog" also has similar mannerisms to Jafar, has the same kind of voice as Hades, and has dark eyelids and lips. His attire includes a necklace and tight crop top, two things contradictory of traditional “masculinity”. Again, purple, not quite only a “girl” or “boy” color (literally a combination of pink and blue), seems to be the color of both gender ambiguity and evil.

So what can we take away from this? Do villains and villainesses look the way they do primarily in order to emphasize the hero’s masculinity or femininity and therefore, goodness? If this is true, does this teach young children that conventional male and female attractiveness and behavior suggest whether a person is morally upright or not? That someone in real life who doesn’t conform to or meet these standards are inherently evil? That there is no room for shades of gray (or purple?) in gender?

Furthermore, the main goal of many Disney princesses seems to be to meet her “prince charming” and live happily ever after with him, and the gender non-compliant villains always threaten this dream with their evil agendas. Does this reflect society’s irrational anxieties about the fabricated “gay agenda”? Certainly, one doesn’t need to be gay to present in a way that doesn’t conform to traditional gender roles.

Gender presentation has nothing to do with sexuality. However, because many have made the gross oversimplification that divergence from traditional gender roles equates to being gay, it leads me to believe there may be value to scrutinizing the minutiae tucked away in the pages of the fairy tales that is Disney, as they may have much to say about how society processes gender.

I don’t know if this stereotype stems from society’s disinterest in exploring complex characters or if we are so simple-minded that we need to make sense of the world in binaries. Regardless, I am hopeful that with proper exposure and education we will be able to overcome such cultural and ethical hurdles.

The next time you watch a Disney movie, a movie targeted at youth, or any movie for that matter, pay more attention to what physical appearances, voices and mannerisms have to say about each character, their relationship to traditional gender roles and their morality.


Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Health and Wellness

5 Simple Ways To Give Yourself Grace, Especially When Life Gets Hard

Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we are becoming.

1849
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

If there's one thing I'm absolutely terrible at, it's giving myself grace. I'm easily my own worst critic in almost everything that I do. I'm a raging perfectionist, and I have unrealistic expectations for myself at times. I can remember simple errors I made years ago, and I still hold on to them. The biggest thing I'm trying to work on is giving myself grace. I've realized that when I don't give myself grace, I miss out on being human. Even more so, I've realized that in order to give grace to others, I need to learn how to give grace to myself, too. So often, we let perfection dominate our lives without even realizing it. I've decided to change that in my own life, and I hope you'll consider doing that, too. Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we're becoming. As you read through these five affirmations and ways to give yourself grace, I hope you'll take them in. Read them. Write them down. Think about them. Most of all, I hope you'll use them to encourage yourself and realize that you are never alone and you always have the power to change your story.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

Breaking Down The Beginning, Middle, And End of Netflix's Newest 'To All The Boys' Movie

Noah Centineo and Lana Condor are back with the third and final installment of the "To All The Boys I've Loved Before" series

303953
Netflix

Were all teenagers and twenty-somethings bingeing the latest "To All The Boys: Always and Forever" last night with all of their friends on their basement TV? Nope? Just me? Oh, how I doubt that.

I have been excited for this movie ever since I saw the NYC skyline in the trailer that was released earlier this year. I'm a sucker for any movie or TV show that takes place in the Big Apple.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

4 Ways To Own Your Story, Because Every Bit Of It Is Worth Celebrating

I hope that you don't let your current chapter stop you from pursuing the rest of your story.

190569
Photo by Manny Moreno on Unsplash

Every single one of us has a story.

I don't say that to be cliché. I don't say that to give you a false sense of encouragement. I say that to be honest. I say that to be real.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

How Young Feminists Can Understand And Subvert The Internalized Male Gaze

Women's self-commodification, applied through oppression and permission, is an elusive yet sexist characteristic of a laissez-faire society, where women solely exist to be consumed. (P.S. justice for Megan Fox)

92735
Paramount Pictures

Within various theories of social science and visual media, academics present the male gaze as a nebulous idea during their headache-inducing meta-discussions. However, the internalized male gaze is a reality, which is present to most people who identify as women. As we mature, we experience realizations of the perpetual male gaze.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

It's Important To Remind Yourself To Be Open-Minded And Embrace All Life Has To Offer

Why should you be open-minded when it is so easy to be close-minded?

286102

Open-mindedness. It is something we all need a reminder of some days. Whether it's in regards to politics, religion, everyday life, or rarities in life, it is crucial to be open-minded. I want to encourage everyone to look at something with an unbiased and unfazed point of view. I oftentimes struggle with this myself.

Keep Reading... Show less
Swoon

14 Last Minute Valentine's Day Gifts Your S.O. Will Love

If they love you, they're not going to care if you didn't get them some expensive diamond necklace or Rolex watch; they just want you.

172246

Let me preface this by saying I am not a bad girlfriend.

I am simply a forgetful one.

Keep Reading... Show less
Student Life

10 Helpful Tips For College Students Taking Online Courses This Semester

Here are several ways to easily pass an online course.

114736
Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels

With spring semester starting, many college students are looking to take courses for the semester. With the pandemic still ongoing, many students are likely looking for the option to take online courses.

Online courses at one time may have seemed like a last minute option for many students, but with the pandemic, they have become more necessary. Online courses can be very different from taking an on-campus course. You may be wondering what the best way to successfully complete an online course is. So, here are 10 helpful tips for any student who is planning on taking online courses this semester!

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

Take A Look At The Extravagant Lane Woods Jewelry Collection For Valentine's Gift Ideas

So if you are currently looking to purchase jewelry for yourself or as a romantic gift for your S.O., you should definitely look at the marvelous and ornately designed Lane Woods Jewelry collection

335093

Just like diamonds are a girl's best friend, so are pearls, rubies, gold, emeralds, and any type of luxurious jewelry you can get your hands on! A woman is incomplete without a piece of jewelry on her and it is a gorgeous accessory required for all occasions. So if you are currently looking to purchase jewelry for yourself or as a romantic gift for your S.O., you should definitely look at the marvelous and ornately designed Lane Woods Jewelry collection.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments