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Shama Iqbal Hussain

M.Phil (I)

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English Literature

Literary Theory

Final-Term Project

Hyper-Sexualisation in the portrayal of women in Animations.


This research has shown that females
have been under-represented on television programs, in commercials and even in
cartoons; that female usually appear in
lower status occupations if they are depicted as holding a job; and that female
characters appear as less knowledgeable than male characters. Results indicated
notable discrepancies between prominence and portrayal of male and female
characters. Both male and female characters were portrayed stereotypically.
Compared to female characters, male characters were given much more prominence,
appeared more frequently, engaged in more of almost all of the noted behaviors, and talked significantly more. When
male or female behavior and communication
variables were divided by a number of
male or female characters or by total talk time, results indicated consistency
with gender role stereotypes. This research deals with This research deals with
the representation of female characters in comics, cartoons, and animes. It highlights their objectification by
proliferating “pornification” of women through their costumes, behavior, passivity in character, physical
attributes, conformity to the western ideals of beauty and empowerment and
archetypal roles (i.e dependence on male characters) illustrated in animations;
questioning moral ideologies which are being transferred to the next
generation. This research has shown that females have been under-represented in
these mediums.



Family Guy and American Dad are two shows that are overtly sexist and
can give us a very different picture. Both shows possess similar archetypes;
they are surrounded by the male dominant figure with a family to support. Each
family has a husband, wife, son, daughter, and young child. Though the plot
lines are different, these characters and their sexist banter give us great
pause as a society. Firstly, Peter Griffin is a middle-age
family man from Rhode Island, he possesses a job, though he is fired on
occasion. The normal social obligations are never really followed, and he
treats his wife very unfairly. Quotes from the character like this:

 “Peter: Women are not people; they are devices
built by our Lord Jesus Christ for our entertainment”.



This type of material is always
dominating every situation. Peter’s relationship with his wife consists of
constant jokes about intellectual ability. Although in the show Family Guy,
each individual character possesses some form of sexist nature, it is more
specifically the writing that we will discuss later on. Secondly, American Dad,
which is centred on Stan Smith, a
Republican CIA agent, that combats home life and every common terrorist. The
character Stan Smith is extremely sexist towards his wife and every character
he meets. Smith treats his wife more of a slave then an actual partner in a household.  the wife in some
instances has actually convinced the viewers and herself that her value to the
home is best served by doing household chores. This is the type of information
our viewers are receiving, and the humour masks the situation that is glaring.
It is inherently wrong to view women in this light, but the cycle will
perpetuate itself until someone takes a stand.



The most fundamental issue regarding
the sexist nature of television programs; is the writers, cartoonists, and
networks that give their acceptance to this sort of programming. The writers
and cartoonists analyse and attempt to fill our minds with humorous and sexist
dialogue in the effort to shield what is truly going on. As I discussed
earlier, Family Guy is an extremely sexist show, but the real problem is in the
writing. This show every few minutes will cut to a particular joke discussing
either sexist or racist notion, and this
is quite commonplace.

In cartoonists depictions of normal
societal imagery, they depict women in the worst possible way. They either show
their physical attributes overly exaggerated with a large butt and breasts. As viewers, we understand that this is not a
typical depiction, but the notions of women’s physical attributes selling a
product completely conflict with who we
are as a contemporary society. Animates shows still use this type of loose standardization
when it comes to depicting beautiful women; they usually dress them in very
tight and less clothing. They are portrayed as weak, vulnerable or subservient,
and they paint an unrealistic picture of who they are in general. Women are
usually helpless when it comes to defending themselves, and sometimes are no
more than just decoration. Cartoons usually make women look powerless and
usually were written in as housewives or stay at home Moms.  In The
Flintstones, Wilma is always doing housecleaning, cooking, taking care of
Pebbles, and even taking care of Fred.


So, children use the portrayals of
males and females in a cartoon format as a model for performance of their own
gender. Cartoons tell cultural stories to, both boys and girls, that inform
young minds about who they are to become, especially cartoons, which make
up the majority of children’s television viewing between the ages of two and
eleven. In the cartoon series Scooby Doo, the female characters were
Daphne and Velma. The males outnumbered females considerably. They never played
the part of the main hero or problem solver. In general, they were in
supporting roles. The majority of females shown were also dressed and drawn
stereotypically, with tiny waists and short skirts. The males seemed even more
confined than the females in regards to the roles they were allowed to play and
the way they are dressed. Male characters are not only more prominent than
female characters, but they also portray a broader range of masculine traits.
Male characters were powerful, strong, smart, aggressive and so on.
Occasionally there’s a token female cartoon character but she’s bland, weak,
and more submissive than aggressive. In
an instant, Daphne screams out in horror as she points in the direction of her
fear only to find that she has seen herself in a trick mirror that makes her
look fat.  Her friend says “Don’t worry, you look
perfect”.  Daphne is always portrayed as the frail, helpless,
self-centred female who most times is portrayed as not being smart enough to
help solve the case.  If she does, she stumbles upon it by
accident. Always, her hair perfect, and her cloths unharmed.



Tom and Jerry is a series of comedy
animated cartoons which is about the rivalry relationship between a cat Tom and
a mouse Jerry. It is also a male-oriented as well as male-dominated animated
cartoon, in which the female character (the girlfriend of Tom) is shown in a
very feminine role with long eye lashes and smart physique and always revealed
as an attractive item for desires of Tom being a male. Also, the female characters, although animals, are shown as sexual objects to flirt with and both Tom and
Jerry fall for them at the first sight.



The treatment of beauty, vanity, and sexuality in Disney Princess films
demonstrates how certain gender ideologies are constructed, disseminated and
perpetuated. As we have seen, all the Disney princesses display the common
feature of being endowed with natural beauty that defines them as princesses.
This simplistic equation of natural beauty to notions of goodness means that
the princesses’ identities and value are often determined by their beauty and
sexual appeal. Femaleness and femininity are equated to beauty, which is then
equated to being a woman’s key to happiness. “Happily ever after” comes almost
as easily and naturally to them as their beauty does. What results is a kind of
“beauty contest motif”, in which the beautiful get their reward, and the ugly
never find happiness. There is an implication that females who do not fit the
“natural” standard of beauty should accept their fate and not actively seek
beauty lest they fall prey to vanity, a negative quality associated with
villainy in the films. Other typical traits the princesses possess like grace, domesticity and an almost child-like naivety
are interpreted as desired feminine characteristics of kindness and purity.
However, what is problematic in this portrayal is that their naivety, in
particular, has the effect of infantilising them while the emphasis on their
physical appeal sexualises them.



The princesses’ sexual appeal is
thus key to setting the premise and resolution of conflict. For example, Snow
White and Cinderella are mistreated by their jealous stepmothers
because of their beauty but are also
eventually rescued from their situations by Princes who are primarily attracted
to their beauty. In Ariel’s case, she is literally silenced when Ursula takes
her voice and is given only three days to get Prince Eric to fall in love with
her. Ariel asks how she will be able to do this without her voice, only to be
told by Ursula, “You have your looks, your pretty face! And don’t underestimate
the importance of body language!”

Due to this reliance on their sexual
appeal, self-empowerment is downplayed or disregarded. Their propensity to be
trusting and kind, even to suspicious strangers, as well as their relatively
passive role in determining their own fates seems to imply that what is
desirable in a female is a tender heart of gold as well as a willingness to
suffer in silence. Notably, this aligns with early-20th century American ideals
regarding femininity. Furthermore, Snow White and Princess Aurora both fall
victim to villainous plots that plunge them into a deep, death-like sleep, only
to be later woken by an archetypal male rescuer, the Prince, who gives them the
“kiss of true love”. This creates the impression that females are powerless
figures in need of males to give them a new lease of life. Note also the
pattern of restricting the princesses at puberty, the age of self-discovery and
growing independence. For example, it is explicitly revealed that Aurora and
Ariel are 16 years old at the time the films are set, and when they are rescued
from their respective predicaments, they go on to marry their Princes. In the
end, these Disney Princesses transit from one form of captivity to another
without gaining much opportunity to empower themselves.

Another quite different types of
animation are Mangas and Animes. The portrayal of female characters in anime
and manga is a complex discussion, not only because of the various tropes that
exist but also because of the cultural perspectives through which they must be
filtered and digested. Not female characters with any personality to speak of,
but supple, bouncy, comically large breasts. The women, these breasts were
attached to were not represented by their spectacular intelligence, or their
bravery in battle so much as the fact that they were in possession of breasts.
Instead, many of the characters were caricatures of the typical hyper-feminine
Asian woman, who young American men love to sexualize. A large majority of
times that female characters are sexualized, the sexualisation demeans and
objectifies them. Rather than creating a female character with a complex range
of emotions, with personal goals and motivations, anime creators chose to
pander to a horny, immature male audience — a choice that isolates many female
viewers and distracts the audience from the show’s desired narrative.


Pokémon is a Japanese anime which is based on a video game or card game.
It is also a male-oriented animated cartoon in which Brock and Ash, the main
male characters who are ambitious and active while Iris and Dawn are female
characters which are shown in assisting position to Brock. Dawn is confident who is an active trainer but on the
other hand, she is represented as an
emotional young girl who sometime gets depressed on failure and Iris is a wild
bold and adventurous girl who always loves to hang on the branches of trees in
the jungle. The physical traits of these female characters and less part in
action make them side role, though they
don’t lack in their character or intelligence anyhow as compared to the male



In order to explore the magnitude of
anime with essential female characters, a general understanding of genres
involving female characters comes in handy. For example, “josei” is a genre
generally aimed at young adult and adult women while “shoujo” is
more geared towards younger girls. Both can encompass romantic plots, but
romance can exist as its own genre. Anime and manga tend to fit into more than
one genre and are not only organized by subject but age group. However, because
of this, it is understandable that certain character traits would be more
prominent in one genre than another. Shoujo often addresses a girl’s first
love, and the innocent excitement and sometimes painful drama that comes with
it. It also deals with friendship and personal development.  The josei
genre is where the understanding of adulthood, and what it means to be a
woman, seeps into daily life and with that a sense of maturity and—maybe for
some—disillusionment. Of course, the lines often blur in terms of which genre a
manga can go into, but nonetheless, such
genres are a reason why female character tropes, some more positive than
others, become prominent in the work.

Cardcaptor Sakura is about a girl, Sakura, who opens a book that contains magical cards, Clow Cards, that
scatter across her hometown. Her job is to get these cards back. This magical
adventure is a comedy and a romance, but overall, you get a sense of a willful,
brave, goodhearted girl who you watch grow as a person. Chobits is a guy who finds a persocon, a human-like
robot, in the trash. But in order to turn her on, literally, he has to push the
switch located at her crotch. Her name is Chii and because she has no memory,
she’s completely dependent on her finder. She’s a sweet and lovable character
but without depth, and that dangerously reinforces the stereotype that
women are submissive and cute, a sexist and problematic view. Chobits happens
to be categorized as ecchi, a more sexual genre, and seinen, a genre geared at
older boys and men, so it is not aimed at girls as a model for what being a
girl is, like Cardcaptor Sakura, but it is problematic despite


Another anime which has been a
hot topic of discussion in the past anime year in regards to sexism is Kill
La Kill. Ryuko, the protagonist, is on a search for her father and has the
help of a talking school uniform that transforms when she wears it as she
fights. The school uniform is the topic of debate. Does the uniform represent
her being sexualized and submitting to her situation, or does it show
empowerment through her willingness to wear it and get over the embarrassment
of doing so? When does intent become justification and does the male-heavy
staff affect it in a way that Chobit’s female staff doesn’t? It
depends on who you’re asking.

This research has shown that females
have been under-represented in these mediums. Both male and female characters
were portrayed stereotypically. Compared to female characters, male characters
were given much more prominence, appeared more frequently, engaged in more of
almost all of the noted behaviours, and talked significantly more. Females
usually appear in lower status occupations if they are depicted as holding a job, and that female characters appear as less
knowledgeable than male characters. Results of this research indicated notable
discrepancies between prominence and portrayal of male and female characters.
So we arrive here, having started with a curious look at the portrayal of women
in animations (including cartoons, animated series, animes, and mangas) and
arriving at a sorrowfully inconclusive but hopefully informative end. While the
discussion warrants a chapter in a book, a whole book, or shelves of books
devoted to the nuances of the topic, hopefully,
this has provided a useful insight in understanding that women in animations are a complex, varied topic that grows and
changes with time.



 “Cartoon.” Portrayal of Women in the Media, 12 May 2011,

Hairianto. “Representations of Females and Femininity in Disney Princess
Films.” Medium, Medium, 12 Feb. 2014,

Sofia. “Portrayal of Women in the Media Propagates Sexism.” Since 1896,
9 Oct. 2014,

Teresa L., and Eugenia Zerbinos. “Gender Roles in Animated Cartoons: Has the
Picture Changed in 20 Years?” SpringerLink, Kluwer Academic Publishers-Plenum





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