Frozen mouths: Disney heroines get way less talk time than male characters

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Disney's Female Characters Get Fewer Lines Than the Men

It earned nearly $1.3 billion at the box office and spawned a generation of kids who want every doll or dress related to the flick and can't stop singing its theme song, "Let it Go." Nope, there's no denying that Frozen was a resounding success. The flick has been lauded for depicting its main characters, Princess Elsa and Princess Anna, as independent heroines—even if they've been found to have the exact same face as female characters from other animated Disney films.

But it seems the duo couldn't talk too much while kicking butt and taking names. Two researchers who crunched the minutes of speaking time in the film found that female characters in the flick talk a mere 41 percent of the time.

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That lack of speaking time for female characters is a trend that's true across the majority of Disney films, according to linguists Carmen Fought and Karen Eisenhauer. They analysed speaking time according to gender for every animated Disney flick from since 1937 when Snow White made its debut.

Earlier Disney films such as Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella have long faced criticism for their damsel-in-distress-is-rescued-by-Prince-Charming storylines. But both movies have a greater gender balance in talk time than Frozen. Female characters in Sleeping Beauty talk 71 percent of the time, and in Cinderella they speak 60 percent of the time.

However, the years between 1989-1999 when several popular animated movies were released by Disney, male dominance became the norm. Princess Jasmine figures prominently in the story of Aladdin, but she and other female characters only speak 10 percent of the time in the film, while women in Pocahantas only talk 24 percent of the time. Worst off is Mulan, where women only get to speak 23 percent of the movie's running time.

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The two researchers took on the project because they're intrigued by how gender roles are taught to children, which made studying animated films essential. "We don't believe that little girls naturally play a certain way or speak a certain way," Fought, who teachers at Pitzer College in California, explained to The Washington Post. "They're not born liking a pink dress. At some point we teach them. So a big question is where girls get their ideas about being girls."

Fought and Eisenhauer believe part of the problem is that there are so few prominent roles for women in animated movies, which is true throughout Hollywood, whether a movie is animated or not. Given that Frozen is the highest grossing animated film of time, it certainly seems the audience is down to hear what what female characters have to say.

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