Animation: Villain Eyeshadow

From Twitter: A follow-up to my "gender eyeshadow" post.

If you liked the "cartoon women are gendered via eyeshadow / fur-shadow / heavy shading of the eyelids" tweet thread, you may want to stick around for this one where I talk about queer-coded/feminine-coded villains and their eyeshadow. Let's go through some Disney movies by date.

Snow White, 1937. Snow White has subtle eyeshadow, while the Evil Queen has darker and clearer eyeshadow paired with significantly longer eyelashes.


Pinocchio, 1940. I can only recall two female characters in this: Cleo the fish and the Blue Fairy. Both have light eyeshadow, presumably in order to mark their status as Not Men.

Fantasia, 1940. Fantasia has white centaurs who wear blush but are mostly without eyeshadow (I found precisely one white centaur with shadow: the red-coated one.) but the Black zebra centaurs have heavily shaded eyes. Racists hypersexualize and villainize Black women. (I find it interesting that the one white centaur with eyeshading is the red-coated one. Red-heads have traditionally been hypersexualized for multiple bigoted reasons, including anti-Irish sentiment. Is that in play here? I don't know and can't say!) Fantasia has other eyeshading--most notably the "sexy" fish who has heavy purple eyeshadow. The non-sexualized Dew Fairies, in contrast, have none. Their gender is instead conveyed through hair accessories (the yellow flower on the yellow pixie).

Already we're seeing patterns:

- Eyeshadow used to convey gender. (Cleo)

- Eyeshadow used lightly or not at all for sympathetic or non-sexualized characters. (Snow White, Blue Fairy)

- Eyeshadow used heavily for villains or hypersexual characters. (Evil Queen, Fantasia Fish)

From this we can infer that *heavy* eyeshadow--as opposed to light use--indicates someone that the viewer is supposed to be wary of: either because they are villainous (Evil Queen) or because they are hypersexualized and therefore, per society, "temptresses" (Zebra Centaurs). Let's see if later movies bear out these patterns and inferences.

Cinderella, 1950. Cinderella has no eyeshadow. Her step-sisters, who are villainous but fall into the "childish, comical, and/or ineffective" sidekick trope, also have none. Lady Tremaine has heavy eyeshadow.

Alice in Wonderland, 1951. This movie, which features a child and her imagination, has no eyeshadow anywhere that I can find. But the live-action reboot applied eyeshadow to the Queen of Hearts so effectively that I was surprised to find it wasn't in the original.

Peter Pan, 1953. Not a single woman in this movie seems to have eyeshadow. Not Mother Darling, not Wendy, not Tinkerbell, not the (evil, sexual!) mermaids, not Tiger Lily (not pictured here). Nana, a female dog, arguably has furshadow but that pulls double-duty as "tired bags under eyes" to indicate over-work and fatigue. But then you have the villainous Hook: full eyeshadow! I believe this may be the first instance of eyeshadow being applied to a villainous *man*. And Hook is very queer-coded/feminine-coded. His villainy is one of soft whispers, lies, and social manipulation. He likes luxury and plays music. He talks in a seductive purr.

Lady and the Tramp, 1955. The prim Lady and her sweet owner lack any touch of shadow on their pure eyes. Peg, the sultry dog who sings a lusty song for "The Tramp" has eyeshadow (that may double as a "street smart" black eye, per some readers. Unsure.).

Sleeping Beauty, 1959. Aurora, her mother, and the good fairies have no discernable eyeshadow at all. Aurora will sometimes have shaded brows for emphasis (as when she's asleep), but no actual makeup. Maleficient, in contrast, is rocking loud purple shading. If we compare Snow White ('37) to Sleeping Beauty ('59) we see how much the trope solidified in 20 years. SW had a little purple on the Heroine and a little more purple on the villainess--a subtle difference. SB has NO shading on the Heroine and LOTS of purple on the villainess.

101 Dalmations, 1961. Let's go through the good women: Anita, the loving wife and dog guardian; Perdita, the sweet dalmation mommy; and Nanny, the faithful housekeeper. No eye shading. Then we have Cruella de Vil, whose heavy eye makeup is so iconic that it's been utilized in every live-action remake.

Sword in the Stone, 1963. This one pulls an odd one on us: Madam Mim does not have eyeshadow, even in her sexualized form! I don't know what to make of that. We do still have "fur-shadow" to make sure we know that the girl squirrel is a Girl.

The Jungle Book, 1967. There are no female characters in this movie at all that I can find except for the mother wolf (Raksha) and the little girl at the end (Shanti). Neither have shading, even though Shanti "lures" Mowgli out of the jungle. (To be very clear, I think it is a *good* thing that Disney didn't add *extra* hyper-sexualizating eyeshadow to girls of color like Tiger Lily and Shanti.)

Robin Hood, 1973. [racist imagery] None of the women have eyeshadow in this movie (not Maid Marian, not Lady Cluck), but notably Robin Hood wears eyeshadow when he dresses up as a "traveling fortune teller" and implied woman of color. There's also something going on with the queer-coded Prince John (villain) and King Richard (hero)--Prince John has darker eye shading than his brother the king.

The Rescuers, 1977 / The Rescuers Down Under, 1990. Returning to our Snow White roots where "light" eyeshadow equals good and "dark" eyeshadow equals bad, we have The Rescuers with Bianca and Madame Medusa. (Though I think Bianca's shadow was added in the 1990 sequel.)

The Great Mouse Detective, 1986. TGMD gave us the hero Basil (no fur-shadow); the deeply queer-coded, charismatic, and highly flamboyant villain Ratigan (purple eyeshadow and image-obsessed); and incidental sexualized tavern-dancing mouse girls.

Oliver & Company, 1988. O&C has child Jenny and various human characters with no eyeshadow. Then we have Rita, the sexual street smart dog who is voiced by Black women, and the pampered rich-bitch Georgette.

The Little Mermaid, 1989. Ariel and her sisters have no eyeshadow. None of the human servants in the castle seem to have eyeshadow. Even Vanessa, the false bride who steals Erik, doesn't have eyeshadow. But Ursula. Oh, Ursula. Ursula has more eyeshadow than she knows what to do with. Being banished from the palace hasn't hurt this villain's cosmetics stash. (Ursula was, notably, based on famous drag queen Divine.)

Beauty and the Beast, 1991. So much eyeshadow in this movie and yet so little. Let's go through some main characters.

- Belle, our heroine: No eyeshadow.
- Beast, our hero: No discernible fur-shadow.
- Gaston, our villain: No.
- The "Bimbettes", his sexy groupies: None.

Then you have Lefou who has always been arguably gay-coded (and which Disney chose to make extra-gay-coded in the live-action, a choice I did not appreciate). Something is going on with his eyes here, but I cannot tell you what.

The castle has the usual cast of animated objects where the women have been heavily shaded because it's very important to know the gender of a tea kettle and a dresser and a feather duster. (Note that Chip, a child and a boy, is not shaded.)

But then you have these two: Lumiere and Cogsworth. Both men, both on the side of the heroes, but both heavily queer-coded in different ways. A rare example of a Disney queer-coding characters who aren't villains? (I don't think we'll see a repeat of this until Elsa in Frozen.)

Aladdin, 1992. The good characters are light on the eyeshadow, if at all. Jasmine, the lone woman in the movie, has occasionally-shaded lids that might be makeup or might just be "These Be Eyelids" shading and it's hard to tell. (I genuinely expected her to have eyeshadow in her red outfit at the very least, but no. A subtle indication that her heart is still pure and her own, even as Jafar tries to force her to fall "in love" with him?) Then we have Jafar, a villain who is queer-coded *and* a dark-skinned evil foreign man. His coloring and clothing is always substantially darker than the clothes worn by Aladdin, Sultan, and Jasmine, and he has heavy eye-makeup.

The sometimes-very-good-writing-but-somewhat-cheaply-animated cartoon series sequel to Aladdin fell right back into eyeshadowing women left and right, particularly villainous ones. (In order: Fatima, Saleen, Jackal Girl, and Mirage.)

Interestingly, and also from the show, we have Sadira who is a female villain who is sympathetic and eventually joins the good guys: no eyeshadow. Then, Mozenrath who is a male queer-coded villain who is not sympathetic: eyeshadow.

The Lion King, 1994. We compare Mufasa (good father, little shadow) to Scar (evil uncle, queer-coded, heavily shaded). Then Nala (love interest, no fur-shadow) to Shenzi (villain, Black-coded, fur-shadow).

The sequel, Simba's Pride (1998), doubles down on this. Nala and Kiara are members of the "good" pride and have light shadow; Zira and Vitani are members of the "bad" pride and have much darker fur.

Pocahontas, 1995. Pocahontas and John Smith have no shadow, but the heavily queer-coded male villain (AND HIS DOG) have eyeshadow and purple clothes/accessories. (Interestingly, Ratcliffe's assistant who is also queer-coded does *not* have eyeshadow. My theory is that either he falls into the "comic relief" exclusion that we saw previously with Cinderella's step-sisters and/or that the Queer Villain Eyeshadow trope has a "there can only be one per movie" Highlander-style clause.)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1996. No one in this movie wears eyeshadow (at least that I can find, not even Esmeralda--and not even in her red dancing outfit during the festival, which surprised me!) but the queer-coded and villainous Frollo has eyes that just... are naturally shaded, even in the bright of day.

Hercules, 1997. This movie has SO MUCH EYESHADOW. First there are the sexy women who need their eyeshadow so we *know* they're sexy and alluring: Megara, Aphrodite, Hera, a random horse. Among the female cast, the Muses have the least amount of eyeshadow, which is noteworthy because they are Black women. (I'm not sure what to make of this; a deliberate attempt to *not* hyper-sexualize them? Perhaps their Black gospel style of singing would have clashed with heavy makeup?) Then we have the queer-coded villain Hades, who is wearing more eyeshadow than all the female characters combined, somehow.

Mulan, 1998. Mulan and the matchmaker have eyeshadow when they are trying to be feminine. So do the army men when they are pretending to be women. (Notably, the hero Li Shang does not dress as a woman. A line too far for Disney to accept?) The villain, Shan Yu, has eyeshadow.

Tarzan, 1999. There are two people who wear eyeshadow in Tarzan: Jane, who is a woman (even though it makes no sense for her to wear makeup in context! she isn't hyper-feminine and shows no interest in makeup! she's still wearing eyeshadow at the end when they've abandoned their culture's notions of appropriate dress and grooming!), and the prissy feminized villain, Clayton.

The Emperor's New Groove, 2000. The protagonist, Kuzco, doesn't have eyeshadow (even as a llama) though I think it would probably make sense for him to wear decorative makeup. Only the villainess, Yzma, wears heavy purple eye makeup. [Editor's Note: I am informed by a reader that Kuzco does don eyeshadow when he's pretending to be a girl llama.]

Treasure Planet, 2002. Treasure Planet does the "women have eyeshadow" trope with Captain Amelia (and not with her babies, I checked all of them). John Silver, the sympathetic villain, does not have eyeshadow but his cyborg eye is very dark when closed.

The Princess and the Frog, 2009. Tiana uses eyeshadow very lightly in her movie; the only human example I can find is when she's in her fancy blue dress. Once she's a frog, the eye makeup is gone. But Dr Facilier, our queer-coded and "dark-skinned foreign man" villain has it.

Tangled, 2010. Not quite eyeshadowy enough for my eyeshadow thread, Mother Gothel nevertheless has eyes which are significantly darker and more shaded than Rapunzel's.

Frozen, 2013 / Frozen 2, 2019. A rare non-villainous queer-coded example: Elsa from Frozen is so inherently queer that her eyes just naturally generate purple eyeshadow at all times. [/joke] Elsa was, of course, originally written to be the villain in Frozen and her original villain iteration also had purple eyeshadow. So it is entirely possible that the purple eyeshadow was added because of her villainy and then kept in the remodel. But it does mean that we have another "sympathetic" queer-coded character with the purple eyeshadow as a consequence. (Anna--the protagonist--has no eyeshadow in Frozen, but has subtle green shadow added for Frozen 2, I suspect in order to "match" her sister.)

Moana, 2016. This movie doesn't have any eyeshadow that I can find, but the queer-coded Tamatoa created in tribute to David Bowie has what I call "purple eyeshadow all over" in the sense of being, well, purple all over.

I've deliberately kept *this* thread to Disney movies because there's just too many animated films for me to tackle for this topic--this thread alone has 132 images in it, including this next one--but whole dissertations could be written about the Beetle from Thumbelina.

I think we've identified consistent patterns, which I want to recap here:

1. Eye shading as a means of conveying gender. This is still heavily used for "non-human" creatures where the audience presumably wouldn't otherwise know the gender of a toaster oven.

2. Eye shading as a means of conveying goodness. The lighter the eyeshadow, the morally better the character seems to be; at least in relation to other people with darker eye shadow. We see this with villains but also among heroines (Anna is a Good Girl, Elsa is the Bad Girl). This crosses over heavily into racism, with characters of color more likely to have dark-shaded eyes than characters coded to be white, good, and likable.

3. Eye shading as a means of conveying hyper-sexuality, queer-coding, and/or the "bad" sort of femininity that owns one's sexuality without apology. This too crosses over heavily into racism with the hyper-sexualization of non-white people (of all genders) but esp. Black women.

So in short, while I enjoyed compiling my 167 images of "girls who are supposed to be Girls because they have eyeshadow on" thread, I wanted to be clear that the eyeshadow trope isn't just used to convey Male/Female in a neutral manner. It isn't.

And again, to be clear, this isn't just about eyeshadow in the sense of makeup. Many of these characters aren't wearing "makeup". They have shadowed eyes because of skull shape, or fur color, or skin variation, or whatever, but it just-so-happens to align with these patterns.

I feel I should clarify that a queer-coded character doesn't mean that the character IS queer. (I have Negative Feelings about a lot of these characters being praised as Queer Rep, when the queer-coding was intended to signal their inner evil in addition to their evil deeds.) "This character is evil because they remind you of queer people and the stereotypes thereof" doesn't make the character:

- actually queer
- accurate queer rep
- a good person

(Three very different things.)


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