Exploring Trans and Non-Binary Representation in Children's Media
Alyse J Knorr
Dr. Brian B Drwecki
For Regis University Honors College
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Thesis - Open Access
Number of Pages
Disney movies are meant to create magic in the lives of young people, but is this really what they are accomplishing? Does leaving trans and nonbinary identities out of children’s media impact the way that children understand gender? This thesis seeks to explore and understand how power and privilege impact the desire for minority gender identities to be given space on a large scale media platform such as Disney. The Meaning Maintenance Model as well as Critical Race Theory are used to explain why minority identities could be overshadowed by identities held by the majority and thus how power and privilege is upheld in society. I chose to explore the movies Mulan, Frozen II, Out, and Luca, for where a trans narrative could have been shown, had there been the inclination. This thesis concludes that Mulan, though it showcased the main character in both traditionally male and traditionally female roles, did not depict gender-diverse identities in a positive or uplifting way. Frozen II showcases a mediocre example of gender-diverse identities by providing a narrative for what can happen if support is given to a trans person in an abrasive and apprehensive way. Out is one of the first examples of purposeful gay representation created by the Disney franchise. Even though Out followed two gay men, it was still problematic when it comes to representation as the gay characters were not given screen time as themselves, but their identities were hidden in the body of a dog. This speaks to how LGBTQIA+ individuals are often thought of as less than human, almost even as animals. Finally, Luca is an example of what fantastic queer and trans representation can look like. The movie follows the main character as he learns who he really is during his accidental coming out. Overall, there is plenty of room for trans and nonbinary identities to be given space in all media platforms, but specifically children’s media. Today, there are phenomenal examples available, but only if you look past the surface-level meaning of a movie. The mechanisms that have historically impaired the creation of children’s media that has true representation is of the system of oppression of trans and nonbinary identities that currently persists in our society. One day I hope to see the creation of a Disney movie that proudly showcases LGBTQIA+ identities in a non-performative way, but for right now seeking queer and trans narratives in those stories will have to be enough until there is a normalization of trans and nonbinary characters in children’s media in the future.
Date of Award
© Mandy L. Colburn
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Colburn, Mandy L., "Is Disney Making A Man Out Of You - Exploring Trans and Non-Binary Representation In Disney" (2023). Regis University Student Publications (comprehensive collection). 1082.