Propaganda in Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon: exploring the stereotypes around the ideas of a woman and femininity

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Title: Propaganda in Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon: exploring the stereotypes around the ideas of a woman and femininity
Author: dos Santos Ferreira Leandro, Ana Rita
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2022
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Degree program: Globaalin politiikan ja viestinnän maisteriohjelma
Master's Programme in Global Politics and Communication
Magisterprogrammet i global politik och kommunikation
Specialisation: Media and Democracy
Media and Democracy
Media and Democracy
Abstract: This thesis sets out to investigate how the ideas of what it means to be a woman and femininity are constructed and propagated through the film Raya and the Last Dragon, the latest Disney Princess film, in the form of stereotypes. Previous studies show that Disney Princess films, from The Walt Disney Company, produce effects on the behaviour and thoughts of children when it comes to gender roles. As propaganda became associated with totalitarian regimes, studies about media effects rarely coin said effects as caused by propaganda. Therefore, propaganda as a field of analysis lacks a body of literature and a consensual set of analysis rules. This thesis contributes to the establishment of propaganda as a field of analysis, by defining it under Jacques Ellul’s categorisation. The study relies on a qualitative analysis based on the propaganda analysis model proposed by Garth Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell. The empirical material consists of the film Raya and the Last Dragon, and it is available on Disney+, the streaming service of The Walt Disney Company. The findings of this thesis illuminate how the ideas of a woman and of femininity are constructed in Raya and the Last Dragon and allow to understand, against the literature review, if these constructions have changed and evolved when compared to previous Disney Princess films. The results indicate that the film presents a world where women and men are seen as equal, leading it to break previous stereotypes associated with women and femininity. By presenting a female-centric story, with independent characters who have diverse personalities and clothing, who fight and have no romantic interests, the film subverts the trope of a passive woman in a dress waiting to be rescued by a man from a powerful evil woman. Additionally, the film rotates around the relationship between Raya and Namaari, using the patriarchal trope of plotting a woman against a woman to focus on female friendship. Yet, as the filmmakers are conditioned by their positionality, some stereotypes are still oriented by patriarchal logic and a western perspective, namely the omnipresence of a patriarchal figure that guides the protagonist. In the end, besides its contributions to the field of propaganda analysis, the thesis updates the tradition of studies done on the gendered stereotypes present in the Disney Princess films.
Subject: propaganda

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