Written by Stacie Agnew and Stephanie Lee
Disney is more than just a brand, a network. DIsney is an icon From their many children television shows to their popular films, Disney has become a household name for America. We all grow up watching Disney. We are constantly exposed to media via television and one of the most important networks is Disney. Growing up, kids in the 2000’s were entertained by multiple goofy comedies on Disney Channel. The characters were loveable, hilarious, and more often than not, came in three’s. First, there is the main character. This main character then has two best friends: a female friend and a male friend. This trope is a lot more common than some may think. Although this trope may seem like a coincidental matching of characters, this structure and the archetypes each person conveys sends very important messages to boys and girls about good morals, individuality, self-worth, and more. We argue that the following Disney shows promote independence by breaking stereotypical gender roles while emphasizing that hyperfemininity/hypermasculinity should not be strived for as the only set of gender characteristics.
Popular Disney Shows Left to Right: Lizzie McGuire, That’s So Raven, Hannah Montana. These are the Disney shows that will be discussed in this photo essay.
To discuss the works of these Disney shows, we must define what a stereotype is. According to Ott and Mack, a stereotype is an overly simplified and misleading representation of a group that often results in social oppression and disempowerment due to the stereotype (Ott & Mack). Because stereotype is such a vast term, we decided to firmly define what it means. In terms of stereotype in the Disney shows, we are referring to the breaking of the social outcast stereotype and introducing person empowerment. The female protagonists and the two best friends don’t fit the classic “cookie’ mold of society and are not ashamed to be so.
Three Disney shows that contain this “thrupple” trope are Lizzie Mcguire, Hannah Montana, and That’s So Raven. The majority of us know and love these 9 characters. They are inseparable, constantly getting into really weird and really funny situations. They are all outcasts in regards to their school lives, and sometimes they struggle with that. However, it does not consume them, and the bond between each group always overcomes any problems one or more of the characters are facing. Part of their issues at school revolve around their enemies, and this is an interesting dynamic that also needs to be discussed. In regards to gender roles, the protagonists do not fit into the stereotypical “molds” of being “feminine” and “masculine.” Just as they do not fit these molds, their bullies are overtly “feminine” and “masculine.”
From That’s So Raven. The Super Friendship Trope represented with Chelsea, Raven and Eddie.
From Hannah Montana. The Super Friendship Trope represented with Lilly, Miley and Oliver.
From Lizzie McGuire. The Super Friendship Trope represented with Miranda, Lizzie and Gordo.
It is extremely fascinating how much the best friends in these groups have in common. Beginning with the protagonists, Lizzie, Raven, and Miley. These girls are aware of their femininity, but it isn’t constantly on their mind, and this is a very important message for young girls. These “main” characters tackle a lot of different subjects such as body positivity, family dynamics, their careers, and their education. Common personalities among these three include being outgoing, overdramatic (in a comedic sense), and very genuine. Next, the girl best friends, Miranda, Chelsea, and Lilly. Like the boy best friend, this character is around a lot of the time for comedic relief, but that does not make them any less important than the protagonist. These girls make individuality look so good to young viewers, and that is such a great message. They are very independent women that rarely worry about their own appearances, and they are not stereotypically “feminine”. Lilly is a tomboyish girl who loves to skateboard, Chelsea is a growing activist with a passion for the environment, and Miranda is a good friend with a taste for eclectic clothing and hairstyles. Last, the men, Oliver, Eddie, and Gordo. We all fell in love with these goofballs. They were clumsy, funny, cute, and not stereotypically “masculine”. These characters were also extremely reliable, even though in social settings, they were basically invisible. That doesn’t put a damper on their charm though. Another positive message these characters give is how not every plot needs to rely on relationships. A lot of these episodes revolve around more than just a girl scoring a guy or vice versa.
All in all, the super friendship trope that we demonstrated with the three Disney shows break the standard stereotypes. As opposed to the Disney Princess films such as Snow White or Cinderella, these Disney shows do so much more for female empowerment. Rosalind Gill noted that television seems to be doing better than film in terms of diversity and the variety of shows that are produced (Gill). Hopefully, we can count on Disney for more inclusive television shows that break apart the gender binary norms and introduce to the new generation a new future.