Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: https://zone.biblio.laurentian.ca/handle/10219/3781
Title: Make(over): an integrated rhetorical analysis of masculine transformation in Disney animated film
Authors: McKee, Kristeen M.
Keywords: Disney animation;gender;ideological criticism;makeover;postfeminist masculinity;rhetorical criticism of film;robots;transformation narrative
Issue Date: 4-Nov-2020
Abstract: This thesis analyzes patterned constructions of paternal, hetero-masculine heroism in three contemporary CGI animated Disney films: Wall-E (2008), Wreck-It Ralph (2012), and Big Hero 6 (2014). Wall-E the robot, Ralph the avatar, and Baymax the automaton, are maleidentified “artificial figures” who are positioned as inferior and insufficiently masculine because of their flawed physiques or social anomalies (Kakoudaki 2-3). Through processes of transformation, these seemingly unconventional males learn to present and perform their gender in ways that comply with hegemonic ideals of hetero, patriarchal masculinity. There are three main rhetorical strategies used in each film to map the male characters’ transformations. Juxtaposition, discipline, and reward are employed to project a set of ideals about gender, to correct deviance from these ideals, and to reward conformity. The artificial figures in the three films analyzed in this study reveal the latest trend in male-focused Disney animated makeover narratives. All three Disney animated films employ the makeover motif to reinstate dominant conceptualizations of masculinity despite occasional attempts to counter some of the male body types, gender role stereotypes, and male/female power dynamics found in previous Disney animated stories featuring male characters. Wall-E appears to be a fragile, dirty, broken lowclass labourer; Ralph is emotionally stunted and banished from his community; Baymax is fat, androgynous, and desires to care and nurture, which are traditionally “feminine” characteristics. However, although these animated films present slightly revised versions of masculinity by incorporating postfeminist characteristics into the narrative fold, as a whole, the films do not alter, in any significant way, conventional presentations of masculine physical supremacy, traditional gender roles, as well as patriarchal and hetero-normative structures. As my analysis demonstrates, it is more accurate to view these films as promoting the illusion of progress, particularly through the transformation narratives featured in each film. Thus, this dissertation answers a broad question about Disney’s masculine makeovers: what type(s) of male bodies and masculine roles are considered ideal according to these animated films? To answer this guiding question, I address the following sub-questions: how do the films through their visual, aural, and kinesic modes give preference to particular models of masculinity and how do these accounts of masculinity act upon audiences in a combined sensorialideological way? Drawing on concepts and methods from gender scholarship within Disney Studies, postfeminism (Angela McRobbie and Rosalind Gill), gender order theory (R.W. Connell), rhetorical criticism (Kenneth Burke), rhetorical materialism (Carole Blair), social semiotics and multimodality (Carey Jewitt), structural Marxism (Louis Althusser), cine-psychoanalysis (Laura Mulvey), cultural materialism (Mikhail Bahktin), and cultural studies (Stuart Hall), this study examines the symbolic choices and patterns used by Disney filmmakers not only to characterize the gender of their artificial figures but also to uphold particular idealizations of masculinity. The communication of ideology through film is not limited to the literal meaning of the narrative. It also occurs through emotional appeals enacted by the aesthetic elements of the films. The affective dimensions of these films and their capacity to instruct (in an ideological sense) and arouse (in an embodied, material sense) can shape the audience’s perceptions of gender and social relations. This study thus engages in a modified approach to ideological rhetorical criticism that accounts for the sensorial and affective dimensions of film. I call this method integrated for it attends to both the individual and collaborative functions of three symbolic modes: visual, aural, and kinesic used to promote hegemonic constructs of masculinity as well as to provoke embodied reactions in audiences that strengthen their identification with the characters and their makeover journeys. As a whole, this thesis uncovers how meanings about paternal, heteromasculine heroism emerge in the interaction of these three symbolic modes and what types of messages these films articulate, reinforce, or suppress to the embodied and emotionally-involved audience.
URI: https://zone.biblio.laurentian.ca/handle/10219/3781
Appears in Collections:Doctoral Theses

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