Disney princess study shows people have too much time on their hands

Linguistic researchers have logged hours upon hours of dialogue from Disney movies, and found that in the most recent ones, male characters speak three times as often than female characters:

And yet, in one respect, “The Little Mermaid” represented a backward step in the princess genre… The plot of “The Little Mermaid,” of course, involves Ariel literally losing her voice — but in the five Disney princess movies that followed, the women speak even less. On average in those films, men have three times as many lines as women.

The data come from linguists Carmen Fought and Karen Eisenhauer, who have been working on a project to analyze all the dialogue from the Disney princess franchise. Because so many young girls watch these movies — often on constant repeat — it’s worth examining what the films are teaching about gender roles.

Dangerous right? Let your dughters watch Disney movies at their peril. The researchers divide the Disney princesses into two “eras”; Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty are classics, and the modern era is from The Little Mermaid on. In the classic era, female characters speak as much or more than males; outside of Tangled and Brave, no Disney princess movie from the past half-century has more than about 40% of its dialogue spoken by women.

At Acculturated, Carrie Lukas notes that many of the loquacious gents in these movies are side characters (“the modern-day Jiminy Crickets such as Sebastian inThe Little Mermaid or Olaf in Frozen”) who aren’t even human, and whose gender may not be super clear in the traditional sense.

But there’s something else afoot. Ask yourself, Who are the bad guys in these movies?

Snow White had her Evil Queen. Cinderella had her wicked stepmother and two moronic stepsisters. Aurora, which is apparently Sleeping Beauty’s given name, had Maleficent. Sure, Ariel had Ursula, but Ariel also didn’t have a voice for much of the movie. Since then, most of Disney’s big bads have been boys. After Ursula, the next major bad gal was Rapunzel’s stepmother in Tangled. And surprise: That would be the next movie where female dialogue eclipsed males. (The “bad guy” in Brave was a bear, I think, so it’s a different case.)

(Sidebar: though Jafar serves to underscore this theory, I’m throwing Aladdin out as a “princess movie.” Though Jasmine is marketed heavily as part of the pantheon of “Disney Princesses,” Aladdin is not a princess movie. You can tell because it is named after the male protagonist. This is a hint. You might as well kvetch about Nala not getting enough lines as the “princess” in The Lion King. Also, how much of the 90% of the male dialogue in Aladdin came from Robin Williams?)

Many of the non-protagonist male characters that hog the script serve as either the evil-doers or as buffoonish comic relief. Neither is a particularly favorable image. Would Frozen have been a better movie for women if the slow-witted Snowman had been voiced by Melissa McCarthy? (By the way that could have been hilarious.) That is the answer to the “problems” these researchers have found, and it isn’t clear that it improves the messages these movies send to young girls.

What is clear is that someone got paid to watch an awful lot of Disney movies.

September 12

It has been 14 years since the September 11 terrorist attacks. It’s the day each year when Americans share the answer to a very simple, basic question: “Where were you?” The question begs no further clarification needed, at least not today. Those who were alive and cognizant at the time remember just where they were.

For all the sadness, heartbreak, ugliness, and terror of September 11, something amazing happened on September 12. It’s a bit tough to talk about because of the gravity and the horror of the attacks themselves. It manifested itself in different ways, not all of them good. There was patriotism, and love of country. There was a resolve to fight the forces behind the attacks.

But in the days after September 11, we had more than blind patriotism. We had community. We had each other.

It’s easy now to write that off as a fad of the time, to point to the catchy post-9/11 country ballads, the now-onerous airport security, and most of all the unpopular wars that sprang from the attacks. Listening to today’s political rhetoric makes it easy to forget the unity America felt.

You can see the continuation of that each year on Facebook, when people share tributes to their lost friends and loved ones or simply relive the emotions and experiences of the day.

But as we remember the grief each year, so too should we remember that feeling of togetherness that outweighed our disagreements back then – because there’s nothing more singularly American, nor more human, than getting up after falling down.

We should remember that when we hear Lee Greenwood sing “God Bless the U.S.A.,” the very first thing he sings about – the very first thing! – is getting knocked down and getting back up.

We should remember that our national anthem isn’t a song about purple mountains and fruited plains. No, our national anthem is adapted from a poem about taking a bombardment from the dominant military power in the world at the time – and standing strong. (And we used one of their old drinking songs for the tune. Cheers, mates.)

And you know what happens when you sing the national anthem publicly, and get nervous, and mess it up? This:

We should remember that no matter how loosely stitched our seems appear, the thread that holds us together is strong. That no matter how horrible and scary a day September 11, on September 12 we were family.

We should remember all that – and never forget.

Baltimore needs Dads

A Facebook friend posted two startling statistics the other day in light of the mess in Baltimore:

  1. Young men with absentee fathers are twice as likely to wind up in jail.
  2. An astounding 83% of black kids in America will reach their 17th birthday without a father in the house.

There certainly may have been justified anger in Baltimore, but manifested itself as unjustified behavior. In this week’s “By the Numbers” post at Communities Digital News, I note that the 2010 census showed that 53% of Baltimore’s children under six are in fatherless families (and 63% are in single-parent households).

There are plenty of questions for the City of Baltimore to answer in how it handled Freddie Gray, and there are reasons for the citizens to be reproachful of the police. But maybe the anger, distrust, and frustration could have come out differently than the ugliness of destruction.

In the coming weeks, plenty of policy experts will have political solutions to help – things like police reforms or community initiatives to help bridge the gap between law enforcement and their constituents. These proposals might help the problem. Still, there are deeper rooted issues whose solutions simply go beyond the relatively limited realm of politics.

There is no substitute for Dad.

Team Clinton falls for Karl Rove’s trap

Karl Rove owes no one anything. He’s not asking for votes.  He’s drawn enough ire that activists from either the left or right hating on him has become white noise. So who better than Rove to needle Hillary Clinton about her faculties?

The result? Shock and indignation from Team Hillary. Her husband, former Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, even weighed in, vouching for his wife’s well-being.

Some thought the discussion promises to expose how Clinton avoided Benghazi testimony, but it may not have been quite so calculated.  After all, a potential candidate’s health is a legitimate question, especially for Clinton.  If she wins and assumes the Presidency in 2017, she would be just nine months younger than Ronald Reagan was on his first Inauguration Day.  She had her infamous spell back in December 2012. In the back of many voters’ minds, her age and competence could be an issue – perhaps not a deciding issue, but an influential one. (John McCain could probably share a thought or two on that.)

Whether or not there’s anything there, Clinton’s surrogates have spent a week on defense talking about her health. Voters who may have forgotten all about her December 2012 episode had their memories refreshed. And in their zeal to respond to anything coming from Rove’s mouth, the response has come off a little over the top.

Had Clinton and Company simply ignored Rove, the story might have been over. They kept it alive on their own.


Our American Holiday

Is there a holiday that reflects America better than Thanksgiving?

It’s enjoyed best with family, but without the materialism that creeps into gift-giving holidays like Christmas.  There’s no pressure to buy the right item, spend the right amount, or remember the right people.  There may be some chores, like cooking and washing dishes, but those are the only obligations.

People are more giving.  It’s a shame when people are hungry any day of the year, but there seems to be an inherent belief that it’s especially shameful on Thanksgiving.

Most take the day off, and we aren’t entirely comfortable with companies that expect people to work.

It recognizes religion and belief in a higher power, an appreciation that, sometimes, hard work isn’t the only factor in how successful we are.  At the same time, it doesn’t recognize a specific religion.  There isn’t a religion that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving.

There are also points to be made about gluttony and consumerism, and if you’re a concussion-hawk you can grouse about football as well.  I choose to focus on the positive, and hope you and your family can as well.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Obamacare and the NFL

News broke yesterday that the Department of Health and Human Services hopes to enlist the NFL as a partner in expanding enrollment in health insurance plans through state exchanges.

There’s probably no better, more apt partner for Obamacare than the NFL, a league which is certainly familiar with health care:

Will Obamacare offer a system that will take care of you the way the NFL takes care of its players?  Kathleen Sebelius might want to re-think the optics of that partnership.

How to handle a scandal? Pick on coal.

President Bill Clinton was “Slick Willy” long before the Lewinsky perjury scandal.  But that one kind of cemented the legacy.  The President lied about an affair with a subordinate to a Grand Jury (who was investigating a sexual harassment claim by a former subordinate), lied about lying about it to the American people, and eventually got to keep his job as if none of it happened.  Famously, Dick Morris’s polling showed that the American people didn’t care about his boss’s poling so long as it was a matter of personal indiscretion and not a government matter.  When Clinton and Co. managed to turn the whole circus into a story about sex, it lost its steam.

President Barack Obama is in plenty of hot water today, and his approval rating is starting to wane.  Even the hard left is less than pleased with the NSA revelations.

How does the President blunt the scandal-based criticism and win back his most ardent supporters?  The same way Santa punishes bad kids: coal.  In a speech on Tuesday, the President has promised bold action through executive fiat on climate change.  Coal plants are expected by be in the crosshairs, as they have been since Obama was a candidate.

The rules don’t have to go into effect for Obama to win.  The best case scenario for the administration plays out like this:

  • Pro-energy groups, who tend to have plenty of allies on the right, react strongly to the rules.  Words and actions from the center-right are focused on the President’s extreme agenda.  Suddenly, the most influential opinion-leading voices drop the discussions about non-impeachable issues like the IRS targeting the Tea Party and the NSA surveillance programs.
  • Environmentally-themed left-wing groups rally to shut down coal plants.  There are teach-ins, rallies, and maybe even a hunger strike or two supporting the President’s crusade rather than defending Edward Snowden.
  • Energy industry companies and trade groups spend money on paid advertising and grassroots activation to mobilize public support opposing the rule changes.  Every computer screen in Washington, D.C. that pulls up Politico sees banner ads about clean coal, and pro-coal TV spots run during the local DC news.

Clinton made it through a scandal by getting people to look at it in a different way and trying to win popular sentiment to his side.  Obama may get through a half dozen scandals by prioritizing a hot button issue to create the type of hyper-political environment he claims to hate.