While doing my research yesterday, I had this exchange:
So I thought about what effect gender might have on things. Let’s take a look.
First, let’s look at the gender breakdown of the movies in general, both of the antagonists and the protagonists. (Some movies don’t have only one protagonist, so some movies are labeled as having both male and female protagonists.)
As we can see, despite Disney’s princess movies, Disney animated films are overwhelmingly male (much like most of Hollywood). Interestingly, the rates of movies with male villains and male protagonists are the same, about 70%.
I also looked at how the genders match up – do female villains only face off against female protagonists, for example?
Here we see that there’s no strong associations with male villains – either gender of protagonist can face a male villain. However, there is a strong dissociation of male protagonists to female villains – in fact, there’s only two movies that have male protagonists and a female villain – The Emperor’s New Groove and Meet the Robinsons, both in the current century. (And the “female” in Meet the Robinsons is a robot.) Female villains will also go up against an ensemble of protagonist that includes males, but in general they must go against a female main character. We also see that those man vs self and man vs society movies are literally “man” – only one female protagonist out of the 8.
Now, what about my idea that gender affects their fate? First, let’s check the gender of the villain.
Turns out I was wrong – there’s no association between gender and death (or banishment). 57% of all villains die, while 56% of male villains die and 60% of female villains do. There’s a slight association with male villains being imprisoned while female villains are merely thwarted, but the sample size for those is much smaller. But while the distribution of genders for the villains is lopsided, how they treat those villains is pretty equitable.
What about the heroes? Do the male heroes cause all the death?
No, not really. The death stats are pretty close to the overall stats. I do see an association with male protagonists banishing their foes while female ones imprison them, though.
However, as Elena said above, most Disney deaths are not directly caused by the heroes – they are often accidental or caused by the villain themselves. By my reckoning, there are only 5 villains that are directly killed – Maleficent, Ursula, Scar, Shan Yu, and Captain Rourke.
Now, you may think, “Well, James, 3 of those movies have female protagonists and 2 male, so there’s no association, right?” Well, yes…but then, think about who actually deals the killing blow: Prince Philip kills Maleficent, Prince Eric kills Ursula, the Hyenas kill Scar, Mushu kills Shan Yu, and Milo kills Rourke. Yes, even Mulan does not actually land the final killing blow, though she arranges all the circumstances of that death and should be credited with it.