An Analysis of the Portrayal of Women of Color in Western Animation

Abstract

Currently, only one of the top 100 highest grossing animated movies has a woman of color as the leading character (“Highest-Grossing Animated Films”). Well-written female characters (characters with agency, depth, and lack of stereotyping) are hard to find, and well-written female characters of color are almost non-existent. In Western media, female  characters of color have been underrepresented and subject to stereotyping for centuries. Recently, Western animation has improved levels of inclusivity, incorporating more well-written female characters of color as protagonists. These depictions promote the humanity of women of color through the subversion of stereotypes, and pave the way for more inclusivity in the future. The portrayal of women of color (WOC) in Western media has often been sparse and extremely prejudiced, perpetuating harmful myths and lasting negative perceptions of WOC. In animated media, they face stereotypical treatment in both character design and characterization. An analysis of works of animation featuring female characters of color in contrast to preexisting stereotypical depictions indicates that positive, accurate portrayals can be achieved through challenging historical stereotypes.

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