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Good Girls And Wicked Witches (#110 of 1)

Review: Amy M. Davis’s Handsome Heroes and Vile Villains: Men in Disney’s Feature Animation

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Review: Amy M. Davis’s Handsome Heroes and Vile Villains: Men in Disney’s Feature Animation
Review: Amy M. Davis’s Handsome Heroes and Vile Villains: Men in Disney’s Feature Animation

Released in 2006, Amy M. Davis’s Good Girls and Wicked Witches is a theoretically light, often unconvincing examination of Disney’s depiction of femininity in animated features over the course of the 20th century, specifically as related to similar depictions in live-action films, such as 1991’s Thelma & Louise. The situating of Disney’s femininity within a larger Hollywood schema ultimately leads Davis to the conclusion that “the Disney studio has presented an image of women—and femininity—which, although not perfect, is largely positive in its overall make-up,” a conclusion (and apologia) that remains problematic, not least for its by-proxy estimation that Hollywood cinema’s depiction of femininity over the course of the 20th century is “largely positive.”

These hollow sorts of claims return again in Davis’s new book—a sequel, if you will—entitled Handsome Heroes and Vile Villains, which takes as its subject the male figures in Disney’s animated feature films. As it turns out, Davis displays no more aptitude for positioning these depictions in a suitable socio-historical context, eschewing research-based examinations for apologia redux, ultimately ending the book by stating: “Though Disney films are not perfect by any means, their track record for showing balanced representations of gender roles is improving, little by little.” Such conclusory remarks would merely be weak rather than baffling had they not been preceded by Davis’s accusatory comments that “Disney’s enormous familiarity, combined with the popularity of iconoclasm generally, makes Disney the perfect focus for those with time on their hands and an axe to grind.” Davis’s evidence of “those” people amounts to a single YouTube video from 2007, with nary a single academic (or even popular critical) work as the object of her scorn.