The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Blame it on Disney

That sound you hear is me, slapping the desk and laughing hysterically.

Honestly. How can anyone take seriously something like this:

Researchers at the University of Michigan have concluded that the love stories told in classic Disney and other G-rated children’s films – such as the Little Mermaid – are partially to blame for the pervasiveness of what they label “heteronormativity.”


“Despite the assumption that children’s media are free of sexual content, our analyses suggest that these media depict a rich and pervasive heterosexual landscape,” wrote researchers Emily Kazyak and Karin Martin, in a report published in the latest issue of the Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) publication Gender & Society.

Kazyak and Martin said they studied the role of heterosexual relationships in several of the highest-grossing G-rated films between 1990-2005.

The results, say the researchers, illustrate two ways that the children’s films “construct heterosexuality”: through “depictions of hetero-romantic love as exceptional, powerful, transformative, and magical,” and “depictions of interactions between gendered bodies in which the sexiness of feminine characters is subjected to the gaze of masculine characters.”


“Characters in love are surrounded by music, flowers, candles, magic, fire, balloons, fancy dresses, dim lights, dancing and elaborate dinners,” the researchers observed. “Fireflies, butterflies, sunsets, wind and the beauty and power of nature often provide the setting for – and a link to the naturalness of – hetero-romantic love.”

The SWS press release on the research blamed what they called the “old ideals” of romantic relationships, specifically those found the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, which in many instances inspired the films’ storylines, for “such heavily gendered depictions and glorified portrayals of heterosexual relationships.”

The team says the results point to heterosexuality achieving a “taken-for-granted status” “because hetero-romance is depicted as powerful.”


“Both ordinary and exceptional constructions of heterosexuality work to normalize its status because it becomes difficult to imagine anything other than this form of social relationship or anyone outside of these bonds,” they concluded.

“These films provide powerful portraits of a multifaceted and pervasive heterosexuality that likely facilitates the reproduction of heteronormativity.”

I think I have to go lie down. This is just too much. My sides hurt.

(Oh: and a wave of the deacon’s stole to the Lady in the Veil, who always knows how to make me smile…)

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posted June 30, 2009 at 2:08 am

What Brilliance, Ms Kazyak and Ms Karin Martin? Guess they did not know about a certain Pope JPII who shared about on the Theology of the Body for so many years. They also seem to be unaware of what the Catholic Church (for some is the largest organisational set-up in the world – so should be bigger than Disney)also teaches and stands for. Thanks for the share its really Good. God Bless you Brother

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posted June 30, 2009 at 2:24 am

This is amazing for two reasons.1. Catholics would be having a similar reaction if Disney made a movie with a homosexual couple in it 2. Heterosexuality, in our pluaristic world, is just another sexuality, rather than the norm for human beings as evidenced by evolution and by the natural law

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posted June 30, 2009 at 3:02 am

Seriously? *sigh* some people.Even though it's good for a laugh, I'm afraid those people are heard more and more. Won't be surprised when in ten years in children's movies homoseksuality is the norm :S

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posted June 30, 2009 at 8:29 am

I have to agree with ingridairam: this is just an early step in the insidious process that eventually leads to the paper's thesis becoming conventional wisdom.Think of abortion: When I was growing up, abortion was universally condemned in the U.S. Now, of course, it's accepted by all except retrograde Christians.

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Paul Stokell

posted June 30, 2009 at 8:31 am

Funny…quite a few of the guys in college had no problems with the '90's-era Disney films. In fact, they loved 'em! Something to do with show tunes. (Why, yes, it was a seminary college.)I'll stay tuned for the hard-hitting analysis of "Spongebob Squarepants." Provided they get another grant.

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Kay Neudecker

posted June 30, 2009 at 8:49 am

Seriously, though, I know of many little girls who are being fed a steady diet of "princess worship". The definition of womanhood that these princesses present is dependent on being over-the-top physically beautiful and unable to be happy independent of a powerful and "perfect" male.

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posted June 30, 2009 at 9:11 am

Dan Brown had a comparably amusing/disturbing take on the Disney movies as promoting goddess worship in the Da Vinci Code. I don't have a copy (or ready access to one) but if someone does and is not too embarrassed by the fact, that passage would make an excellent post and, I hasten to add, an important corrective to the conclusions drawn by Kazyak and Martin.

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steve p

posted June 30, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Ummm… "hetero-romance" is powerful. Thank God!And I didn't know that "hetero-normativity" was a new scourge to our social fabric. Yikes.

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Dr. Linda Shookster

posted June 30, 2009 at 5:27 pm

I think that this article is just another sign of how shallow and degraded our culture has become. Not funny to me.

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posted June 30, 2009 at 6:57 pm

Amusing, but ultimately it's just a research scramble; e.g. to get published, look for an angle and go after it. It's not any different from when I was at U-M and one of my classmates did a short film about her boyfriend's penis. She got a good grade and praise, but more important, she and her boyfriend used to show it at the end of parties when they wanted people to take the hint and leave. :)

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posted June 30, 2009 at 10:30 pm

What an insanely rich culture we must be that there would be both time and resources to study this.I can't think that such idleness bodes well for us in any way imaginable. Esterbrook has observed that the richer we get, the more we're convinced things are bad, in terms of our cultural view. This would suggest that perhaps such vast surplus wealth really is bad for us.

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god googler

posted July 1, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Remember when Sesame Street floated the idea that Bert and Ernie were gay? I wonder if they did have them intentionally "come out" I wonder what the backlash would be?I too think the research is absurd though.

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