“Is that really the Bo Peep I knew?” I wondered as I walked out of the theater, having just watched the newest movie of the Toy Story series. The female character of Toy Story, Bo Peep, had transformed herself to a completely different character in Toy Story 4, which was released last June.
From a relatively passive character that only had the role of a feminine porcelain doll attached to a lamp to a leading protagonist who independently survives in the outer world, Bo Peep had dramatically remodeled herself, reflecting the changes in society over the years. Not only have her character traits become bolder, but her outer looks have changed as well; her clothing has changed from an impractical, long, and fancy dress and wearing a bonnet to a much more simple and efficient jumpsuit that allowed her to be athletic and carry out her plans.
Similar examples can also be seen in the new Aladdin live action movie. Princess Jasmine, whose story was not much elaborated or emphasized in the original movie from 1992, has also altered herself to a whole new protagonist. In the Aladdin movie released last June, Jasmine refuses to submit to the male authorities in the palace and rebels against her father, the Sultan.
Princess Jasmine is portrayed as a strong, defiant female character not much interested in marriage, and is depicted as a daring woman that desires to become a Sultan and therefore successfully rule the country under her control. Jasmine has strong motivation and aspires to accomplish her goals as a Sultan and lets herself determine her own fate, not in the hands of others. In the new ending, Jasmine succeeds in becoming a Sultan and abolishes a law to marry Aladdin, while in the 1992 movie, the marriage was made possible by Jasmine’s father repealing the law.
These changes in characters’ roles in movies reflect how our perceptions of feminism and gender roles have altered over time. Compared to when the original versions of the two movies were released (the 1990s), women exert much more social influence and are no longer only treated as supporting roles in modern society.
Standards of conventional beauty have changed as well. Seen in the example of Bo peep, the traditional dress seen as “beautiful” is no longer existent. Traditional values of beauty tended to restrain the nature and spirit of the female character: the shepherd crook that Bo peep used to shyly hold on to is now used as a fierce weapon for combat. Without these restrictions or being treated as accessories, female characters in movies now hold a major role and develop their own independent story.
This trend can also be spotted in other fields as well, such as songs tending not to contain lyrics that could be offensive to a certain gender. As the advocates of feminism and gender equality have increased and other growing values such as diversity have been on the rise, this trend will continue to be seen in mainstream culture. We can now expect more female characters to hold significant, symbolic roles in the upcoming films and tv shows without doubt.
Seohyun Chun, Grade 12
McLean High School