Category: Clothing & Color Scheme


The Evil Queen and step mother from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is missing a bit more than a caring heart. Though her makeup, complete with red lips, black eyeliner, and eye shadow, gives an impression of feminine beauty her absence of hair gives her a very masculine appearance.

A black fabric hood hides her hair

Long flowing hair, associated in Western culture with women and femininity, is notably absent in all of the Disney women. Though not all of them lack hair, those that have it tend to have short hair or hair that is bound above the head and hidden from direct view. As seen below, both Maleficent and Yzma have no visible hair at all, making them appear much less feminine.

The villainesses that do have hair have shorter hair which also tends to be gray or white.

This is a clear contrast to the protagonists. All of them having long flowing hair, the exception being Cinderella and Tiana, but earlier in their respective films both of them are drawn with their hair down.

The absence of hair makes the villainesses severely less feminine and shows that women who are not feminine are unnatural. Their appearance sends the message that pure and good women have long flowing hair and that women who neglect their appearance are outsiders and evil.

The early Disney villainesses (including the Evil Queen, Maleficent, and Lady Tremaine) are all drawn wearing much more conservative clothing than their youthful princess counterparts. A reinforcement that older women have lost their beauty, this conservative dress makes them appear less feminine.

Lacking any semblance of a figure

In comparison, Snow White is much more loosely dressed. Instead of a flowing robe that hides most of her curves, she is wearing a low-cut dress that is cinched at the waist, flattering her feminine figure.

Even more drastic of a different is Maleficent’s clothing. She is also wearing a flowing robe, but it has absolutely not feminine shape to it. The only ways in which she is markedly female, in terms of how she is drawn, are her makeup and her small thin hands.

The contrast in feminine clothing is startling between the villainesse and the princess, whose bodice is even more low-cut than Snow White’s and whose waste is equally flattered by her dress.

Though not a film still, this image is sanctioned by Disney to represent Princess Aurora

Finally, in Cinderella, Lady Tremaine is wearing a very conservative Victorian dress. Though not as obscuring as the two former villainesses in terms of flowing black capes, her clothing is still remarkable more restrictive and unflattering than Cinderella’s dress.

Not only is the lack of an accentuated bodice similar in all three villainesses, but also the lack of an exposed neck. Both the Evil Queen and Maleficent have large collars or black fabric that cover their necks, and Lady Tremaine’s dress also reaches to her skin. This implies that once a woman reaches a certain age her body must be hidden away from sight. Only young bodies are celebrated in Disney films, and the early villainesses are no exceptions.

Unnatural Eyes

In maintaining my thesis that the Disney villains send the message that what is outside of the norm is evil, I decided to look at eye color as an aspect of the inordinary being manifested in the characteristics of the villains and villainesses.

Frequently, Disney villains have either green irises or the whites of their eyes are yellow. Green is the most rare of all iris colors, uncommon in the general population except among those of Celtic heritage. Even within that population, green eyes make up, at most, 16%.

Lady Tremaine's green irises

The entirety of Maleficent's eyes are green

Dr. Facilier even has purple eyes, which are humanly impossible.

Yellow eyeballs are generally uncommon and associated with sicknesses including hepatitis, autoimmune liver disease, cancer or sickle cell anemia. The repeated use of this unnatural hue associates those in the minority with those disabilities and illnesses with villains.

Yzma

Hades

Shan-Yu

 

Though there are many villains with yellow eyes, it should also be noted that several are regular. As opposed to green eyes, many Disney villains just have black eyes. The two exceptions are Mother Gothel, who has stone gray eyes, and Gaston, who has bright blue eyes. Gaston’s bright blue eyes, traditionally the most attractive eye color, further his caricatured attractive masculinity.

Gaston's bright blue eyes as he falls to his death.