Women depicted in animation these days typically fall into a handful of archetypal roles. Here’s a look at four of the main ones, depicted by a female student at the California Institute of the Arts and explained by Erica Larsen-Dockray, who teaches a class on “The Animated Woman” for the school’s experimental animation program.
She has an impossibly tiny waist and is gorgeous beyond belief. Big eyes, flowing locks, luscious lips and a heart-shaped face. She’s historically usually white and depicted as innocent and virginal. About the typical princess’ waistline, Larsen-Dockray says: “If they were life-size, they would not have space in their bodies for reproductive organs.”
THE FAIRY GODMOTHER
She’s always plump and rosy-cheeked, with particular emphasis on large breasts and buttocks. “I think a lot of animators at that time were thinking about their nannies,” Larsen-Dockray says. “They’re like the epitome of physical comfort, every man-child’s dream.”
While male villains can be any shape or size, female villains almost always are old and unmarried. They have gray hair, wrinkles and harsh makeup. They’re hardened and sour and always look stern and angry. Visually, they’re typically depicted looking almost bony with sharp lines, including high cheekbones and pointy elbows.
Many female sidekicks are depicted as nerds. They have glasses, they’re shy and awkward, and they often have freckles. They’re also usually in a makeover episode at some point, Larsen-Dockray says, as if to remind viewers that they can be feminine. “It’s really messed up,” she says.