How Same Face Criticism Can Become Sexist

Waaaay back in 2013, when Frozen came out, a lot of people pointed out one or both of two things: that Anna and Elsa had the same face, and/or that they had the same face as Rapunzel. It has since sparked the discourse of “Same Face Syndrome” looking at female character design in Disney animated movies.

At first, I was relatively on board with it. I mean, it seemed like a pretty big issue, especially since all three characters have huge-eyed heads on stick thin bodies. But by the time Big Hero 6 was being hyped, things got WAAAAAAAAAAAY out of hand.

The “Honey Lemon looks like Rapunzel!” claim has practically become a meme, but I noticed right away that it was less about wanting better representation and more about wanting to look for something to blame/make Disney look evil. Proof? The treatment of Gogo in fandom until the film’s release.

Gogo was either outright ignored in favour of debating Honey Lemon’s face, or, I shit you not, accused of looking like Elsa. I actually saw a post claiming that Honey Lemon looked like Rapunzel, Aunt Cass looked like Anna, and Gogo looked like Elsa. Not only is that extremely contradictory given how just the year before they claimed that Anna/Elsa/Rapunzel all looked the same (and now they admit there’s some differences) but I felt like the situation had gotten really sexist. The women of Big Hero 6 definitely don’t look identical to each other, have more diverse body shapes, and are scientists and superheroes…and the first thing you do is claim they all have the same face to make Disney look like the worst thing ever.

Like, all that mattered to these people was how the characters looked. Nothing else. Thankfully it mostly died down once the film was released, but the cycle began anew when Moana was in the works and people AGAIN tripped over themselves to justify saying that Moana looked like another Rapunzel clone. Yes, really. Because that’s not racist at all, taking the first Princess of Color in a long time and one of the few Polynesian characters in media and saying that she’s just another Rapunzel clone.

To add insult to injury, these people would be the type to claim that Disney was evil and DreamWorks Animation was so much better, showing how DreamWorks women have more diverse faces. Never mind that most DreamWorks female characters only exist in small or supporting roles and not as leads, all that matters is, again, their looks.

While it is important to have more female characters that aren’t doe-eyed waifs, at some point you have to realize that fixating solely on how a female character looks and not the role she plays in the story or how developed she is a character veers dangerously into sexist territory. You can be a woman and the hero of your own story but if you look too pretty or similar to another female character, it won’t matter as much.

The reason why I’m bringing this up again is because I came across some redesigns for the women of Overwatch. I don’t feel like it would be right to post the pictures here, so I will instead link you to them right HERE. (Disclaimer: this is NOT a personal attack on the editor or their editing skills, or saying that all the redesigns are bad. They have a right to criticize, I have a right to respond.)

While I have no problems with giving them thicker body types, what really strikes me is how some of the face redesigns are either unnecessary or uncanny valley. Like why do you need to redesign Ana and Moira? Their designs are pretty revolutionary for video game standards, and Moira just looks unappealing. Widowmaker is left in her unpractical outfit in order to give her zombielike eyes. I’m honestly really offended at the Zarya redesign; lord knows, we can’t have big buff women ALSO be beautiful and feminine at the same time.

See, the thing I liked about Overwatch was that is showed that ALL women can be beautiful and powerful. Women of colour, disabled women, older women, bigger women, you name it. There is definitely some deserved criticisms, such as making a lot of the women look very young and not having more women with thicker builds, but I just don’t understand why female character designs constantly need to be criticized and picked apart while nobody feels the need to redesign male characters for any reason.

Yes, it is important to be critical of things we love and consume. Yes, we need more diversity in female character designs. But if you find yourself overly fixated with how a character looks, point flaws that aren’t necessarily there, and don’t say anything about a male character’s design (beyond how he’s allowed to look different) at the expense at looking at the female character’s role in the story and how she can represent marginalized women…the problem might be with you first. But that’s just how I feel about it at least.

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Author: Laura Alexander

My name is Laura, I use they/them pronouns, and I'm a college student with Asperger's currently enrolled at the Social Service Worker Program at Sheridan College. I have a passion for film and animation, social issues, and helping others, all of which will be featured on The Flying Red Robot blog. Please read the about page before commenting or following. "Big Hero 6" is my favourite movie.