Run Time: 93 minutes
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
Overall, this film does not seriously engage with marginalized cultural identities; however, Meg, the main female character, challenges traditional gender roles regarding femininity in some ways.
This Disney film, based on the classical mythology of Hercules, shows Hercules’ transition from a young boy into a hero. As Hercules tries to reclaim his immortality, he fights against Hades, the Greek god of the underworld, and falls in love along the way.
Name-calling: “freak,” “oh my gods”
- Arrows and daggers
- Fighting, decapitation (no gore) of monsters
- Minimal sexual content
- Kiss and embrace
- Hades drinks what appears to be a martini and smokes a cigar
- Meg, the main female character in the film and Hercules’ love interest, challenges traditional gender roles regarding femininity. For example, Meg saves Hercules and Hercules saves her in return. Also, Meg says she can handle her own situations rather than letting a man do things for her and tries to take matters into her own hands. Thus, Meg specifically challenges the damsel in distress trope.
- Zeus offers Hercules advice that challenges traditional gender roles regarding masculinity. For example, Zeus says to Hercules, “A true hero is not measured by his strength, but by the strength of his heart.” This means that a person’s moral character is more important than a person’s appearance.
- Five black women narrate the story.
Sexual Orientation– N/A
- Hercules’ adoptive mother is fat-bodied and depicted is as caring and loving. This is important because fat bodies are often indicative of immoral character in the media.
- While Meg does challenge traditional gender roles in some respects, Meg adheres to traditional gender roles regarding femininity in many ways. For example, Meg is depicted as stereotypically beautiful (long flowing hair, big eyes, hourglass shape, wears pink, wears makeup). Also, Meg is sexualized and uses her body to manipulate men. Further, Meg sold her soul to save her cheating ex-boyfriend’s life. Lastly, while Hercules is defeating a monster (active), Meg is concerned with her appearance and wrings out her wet hair (passive).
- Additionally, the male gaze is present throughout the entire film (Meg is gazed at by Hercules, voyeurism of the bathing nymphs). Also, many times throughout the film, Hercules can’t help but be transfixed by a beautiful woman.
- Hercules’ mentor, Philoctetes, describes an ideal hero in terms of adhering to traditional gender roles regarding masculinity. For example, Philoctetes explains that a hero must rescue the “D.I.D,” or damsel in distress, must be muscular, and must insert himself in dangerous situations. Also, Philoctetes says, “Who do you think taught Jason how to sail? Cleopatra?” thus suggesting that women are incapable of doing certain physical activities.
- Hercules adheres to traditional gender roles regarding masculinity as he is stereotypically attractive (strong, white, big blue eyes), and ladies swoon over Hercules as a result.
- In the film, animals appear gendered through the use of masculine and feminine body ideals. For example, in order to distract Hercules’ pet Pegasus, a sexy female horse bats her long lashes at Pegasus.
- Hades is a dark blue (darker than most of the other characters) and is depicted as evil. The centaur, Nessus, is also a dark blue and is depicted as evil. This is problematic because the media often depicts characters of darker complexions as immoral.
- No main characters are characters of color.
- There appear to be no variations in sexual orientation.
- Hercules is told to not make eye contact with a man who appears to have a mental disability. Thus, this is suggesting that people with disabilities should be avoided in society.
- A character with a mental disability is depicted as being disgruntled and unaware.
- The black fat-bodied female character (the only fat-bodied narrator) is the most comedic. This adheres to the idea that fat-bodies are often used for comedic relief and are not taken seriously in the media.
- The Fates are grotesque (old, gangly, wispy haired, pointy noses and chins) and are depicted as evil. This adheres to the stereotype that appearances are indicative of moral character, which is regularly perpetuated in the media.
- The Cyclops is grotesque (fat-bodied, missing teeth, has one eye) and is depicted as evil and stupid. Again, this adheres to the stereotype that appearances are indicative of moral character, which is regularly perpetuated in the media.
Suggested talking points
- A common theme in Disney films is romantic love between a man and a woman. This can be problematic on two levels, as romantic love is depicted as necessary for happiness and also, as heterosexuality is a prerequisite for romantic love.
- A common theme in Disney films is that a hero is male, muscular, and usually stereotypically attractive. It is important to discuss with your children that heroes come in all shapes and sizes (and genders).
- It is important to note that physical appearance is not indicative of a person’s moral character. In the film, grotesque bodies are often associated with evil characters. Can you think of any grotesque bodies in the media that have been depicted as moral?
Keywords: grotesque, hercules, movie, animated, disney, two paws, 2 paws, family, adventure,