Aladdin, Buzz Lightyear, Simba, Nemo ... has anyone noticed that they're all male? Researchers at USC's Annenberg School for Communication have.
They studied the 101 top-grossing G-rated films released between 1990 and 2005, analyzing 4,249 speaking characters. They discovered that more than two out of three of those characters were male and that the female characters were much less likely to be central to the narrative.
In the report, "Where the Girls Aren't," due to be released today in conjunction with the See Jane program of the nonprofit group Dads & Daughters, the researchers even noted that females constituted only 17% of the characters in crowd scenes.
"Research generally reveals that repeated exposure to such an unbalanced representation can lead to children stereotyping personality traits and sex-type behavior," said Stacy L. Smith, an associate professor at USC who was the study's principal investigator.
As for Belle, Mulan and other figures largely from the Disney princess canon, Smith said, "Just because you can think of a few strong female characters off the top of your head, you can't generalize what the entire landscape looks like to a [preschooler]. We see, no matter how you look at it, that women only account for 20 [to] 25% of all the characters."
-- Rachel Abramowitz