In the past several months, I've seen articles surfacing artwork that gender bends Disney Characters. If you haven't seen these images swirling around the Internet, check out sakimichan on DeviantArt. Because the pieces are so visually stunning, I didn't really think how the perception of the characters would differ if the gender roles were changed. My cohost, Z.D. Gladstone, brought it up again on our last podcast episode and it got me thinking. If everything was left as it is today other than the genders, how would the characters resonate with the audience? How much would the stories need to change to make them appealing? I have more questions than answers.
Beauty and the Beast
Concept: A man is transformed into a beast by a witch because of his horrible behavior towards others. Only the softening of his heart by true love can turn the beast and all of the castle servants back into humans.
Gender Swap Issues: A physically domineering woman hurtling furniture at a man while in beast form must resonate as a 9.5 on the emasculation scale. Can you imagine the PMS jokes? The poor writers. I can picture them in a room fighting the urge to make chocolate and Midol jokes (she's a beast, so it's toxic, right? does she get carob cravings?).
Belle is a gentle, soft spoken intellectual drawn to books. She's patient and forever encouraging the beast to remember his humanity. Would a bookwormish gentleman read as weak by comparison? Remember, he can't restrain the Beastlette. Asking a man to stick around and fall in love with a hideous creature who flies into rages is intriguing.
The fact that women did not inherit property at this time also presents an issue. The Beastlette would not have a castle of her own. She would not rule over her servants. She wouldn't even have tenants to be cruel to. If we're sticking to historical traditions, the worst she could do is be cruel to those beneath her, such as her governess. Would this warrant the witch's punishment?
The Little Mermaid
Concept: A mer-woman witnesses a party with a beautiful man and is convinced he will fall in love with her if only she had legs instead of a fin. The witch gives her legs but takes away her voice. It should be noted the mermaid was already obsessed with becoming a human and collects human artifacts from shipwrecks.
Gender Swap Issues: A naked guy washes up on shore with no land, no money, and I did mention zero clothing, right? Back in the day, marriages were business arrangements. While it's not out of the question that a prince could settle for a pretty commoner, a princess would be traded--I mean married off--in exchange for peace or land acquisition. It is fun to imagine a talking lobster, flounder, and seagull (all female) giving him advice. "Do pushups! More pushups! Now try squats. Remember, you can't talk. All you have are your good looks. Be charming."
I really wanted to make comments about stalker behavior and hoarding, but I can't see this guy getting into the castle.
Concept: A young woman is forced into manual labor by her stepmother and two ugly stepsisters. She is granted a wish by her fairy godmother and attends a ball. Her beauty and grace capture the heart of the prince.
Gender Swap Issues: I've explained how marriage worked back in the day, so I won't rehash it. I like the picture of King (now Queen in this version) insisting that the princess provide her with grandchildren. What I find really interesting is a young man forced into domestic service. Laundry. Cooking. Cleaning. All while his brothers are allowed to do what they love. I can see these jealous brats belittling Cinder's good looks. Don't worry because this guy has mice and birds for friends.
Movies that Work
The movies that work for me don't revolve around the concept of true love. Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, and even Frozen aren't too hard to imagine with the genders reversed. All of these stories are based on friendship and familial love. Brave doesn't work as well because the big scene where they decide not to marry her off at a young age after a contest of physical feats wouldn't have the same zing to it.
Which Disney movie would you like to see with the gender roles reversed? Why? Do you think elements would have to change?