Gender Stereotypes in “Despicable Me 2”

The most popular modern films always manifest gender and cultural stereotypes, including animated Disney movies, where the major studios can easily hide the most controversial ideas. In the movie “Despicable Me 2” (2013), Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud continue to build gender stereotypes on the same basis as in the previous film, but the accents have changed from global to local problems, especially in the context relations between a man and a woman in the family. The authors divided gender roles between women and men, but also hyperbolized their images thanks to the color camera and visual design. This essay proves such social phenomena as career and family primarily express gender stereotypes on the example of Gru and Lucy, resulting in the distorted understanding of a man as a free being and cultivating the cultural institutions of power that determine his/her will. 

The main character of the film is Gru, who is on holiday and occupies almost all household chores. He is both the anti-hero and the idealized image in the current animation, which is the tendency for many post-modern animated films, including Pixar and Disney. Gru has distinct masculine features, including “the typical V-Shave torso, broad shoulders and arms tapering to a thin waist”. At the same time, he has long female legs, and often knocking them together in the typical feminine pose when he panics. His appearance resembles the stereotypical image of metrosexual in which black sweater and tight pants unite with heeled boots. Besides, his ever-present scarf completes the image. The last one, in fact, is impractical and unnecessary in his profession, but the directors ignored this to use the make-up and costume is an important communicative method. All this reflects the modern male images, where the subtle feminine traits also present.


The racial and gender stereotypes intertwined in Gru in one monolithic image of a man who decides all cases. In this case, his objective is to find a woman to equip his family. It means that the family is not natural without a woman. Therefore, the appointment of women is to complete men in their “natural” mission. Moreover, a woman is also deficient until she finds a man and does not form the happy family. Therefore, the discussions about gay marriage are meaningless in this paradigm of relationships, because they do not fit into the model of “ a man looking for a woman”. It is no accident such films are intended for family viewing, while most of them focus on the generalized social stereotypes and gender roles.

Most of the male characters in “Despicable Me 2” are trying to convince their physical and social power. First, Gru proves that he can raise their daughters alone, but he lacks strength. It means that he needs a woman to educate his daughters as well as his goal is to survive the world but not to bother himself with such everyday worries. Later, he meets an eccentric scientist Vector at the museum, who also expresses both masculine and race stereotypes. For example, he says the following phrase: “That’s me because I commit crimes with both direction and magnitude”. By saying that, Vector makes some controversial moves, causing an erotic association. This phrase has a sexual innuendo because it expresses the masculine confidence and potency as a marker that men can conquer all. In fact, such actions encourage only to deterioration of the gender situation in a patriarchal society. There are also many active scenes with weapons of different caliber and cars as a means of self-affirmation. For instance, the directors used special effects in the first scene with Gru’s large car-tank as the symbol of his dominance among other men.

It seems that Gru is an asexual character who does no show an interest in the opposite sex. On the other hand, all his friends led by Jillian want to date him with someone because such man should have a woman. At the beginning of the film, during one of his daughters’ birthday party, Jillian leans against his shoulder and proposes him to date with Natalie, who is also single and “has a lot of free time”. But Gru rejects her proposition and adds that he is fine. This episode clearly indicates both gender and sexual stereotypes. On the one hand, this scene may hint about Gru’s homosexuality that is undesirable for children’s movies. It occurs because he is afraid of contact with Jill, and the directors perfectly used distance and location to express this idea. On the other hand, the authors say that Gru is just looking for a single woman, and he is not interested in others. According to Lewis, the directors used the method of shot relationships in all scenes to emphasize the dynamic narrative.

 It is possible to compare Gru with Lionel from “Dear White People”, who also drops out of the context. They both are outcasts in their worlds, and thus the characters have to change the current social roles. Moreover, Lionel also tries to find his place in the society, but finally he fails. However, if “Despicable Me 2” offers hidden gender stereotypes that the characters try to overcome, while the characters in “Dear White People” characters adapt to the dominant “white” context. Therefore, his image is controversial because of combining a metrosexual and family man. In this case, Li-Vollmer and La Pointe convinced that modern animation increasingly abandons the stereotypical masculine images, and thus Gru’s asexuality is an example of the gradual withdrawal from machismo.

The agent Lucy Wilde, a new character in the animation, represents gender stereotypes about women. At the first glance, the authors tried to break gender stereotypes that show women as a housekeeper, and thus to show the female character as someone who can occupy social positions and professions that often belongs to men. It is no coincidence, only 1/3 of women are working in the cartoons, while others tend to do nothing. Thus, it seems that Lucy is satisfied with her work and gives the impression of a cheerful and energetic person. In other words, she adopts masculine traits, creating an impression of a strong and independent woman. However, she also has stereotypical female traits such as caprice and unpredictability. No one knows what to expect from Lucy, and thus it marks a female irrationality as the most expressive feminine feature. Similarly, the Gru’s mother also resembles a strong woman, when training in the gym. More to say, the transferring of male qualities happen to the children, who are trying to be strong, brave, and independent.

The animation shows that Lucy is a brave woman because she compensates her weaknesses with its activity in the AVL, including the lack of men. It is not surprising she becomes to build romantic relationships with Gru – the man, who finally allowing her to be weak as a woman. The film argues that a woman cannot fulfill herself in life on her own. For example, in one episode, Lucy expresses his admiration for Gru’s work as the villain, once again emphasizing the dominance of men in society. Even when she wants to show her character, it turns into a collection of famous clichés in the end. In this case, the film has many graphic matches, creating comic and absurd moments. She is similar to the female character Coco in “Dear White People” because both want to realize themselves in the patriarchal/racist world, sacrificing their identity. The agent makes only one decision when abandons from her career to be with Gru all her life. As for Coco, she also changed her name because Colandrea refers to the ghetto discourse. They both should adapt to this world, and the price is their independence. 

The only example of overcoming the gender stereotypes is the minions, the assistants of Gru in the investigation. They look like androgynous, and many of their actions have no racial, gender or other prejudices. The idea to introduce these characters is an attempt to move away from traditional roles and to represent them in the fluid cultural context. Thus, the directors used the high-angle shot to show them in a mass of other minions. On the other hand, some cultural theorists criticized the minions for their racial discrimination, because they resemble the Chinese with their collectivism and incomprehensible. However, such a comparison is not always correct, because they are the abstract second characters that function as a background. The minions can also represent the fluid types thanks to the stylized sets because they can embody any gender and race.

In conclusion, the animated film “Despicable Me 2” is an example of the active use of gender stereotypes that divide male and female roles. The rhythm and tempo are fast because they do not allow keeping the attention on one thing. The basic idea is that men and women should create a family and raise children together. Otherwise, each of them is defective. Thus, women cannot succeed in a career, because it is the evidence of her failure to be a housekeeper. The film like “Dear White People” confirm that different social and cultural institutions of power affecting on gender choice because, in fact, people cannot be independent as well as they are always under pressure of the stereotypes. However, the characters from “Despicable Me 2” are more principal, when most of the male and female roles types are vulnerable in the second film. On the contrast, the minions are the transgressive images that can change the cultural, social, racial, and gender roles. This alteration is not always tolerant, but it helps to show the conditional boundaries between nations. As a result, “Despicable Me 2” does not overcome the gender stereotypes, but the Disney animators confirm them once again.


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