Two course concepts that I saw in the documentary Mickey Mouse Monopoly, which argued that Disney movies are having a negative effect on the children who watch them, are the concepts of cultural studies and cultivation theory.
The concept of cultural studies explores how media affects culture, and in turn how culture affects media, as well as how the companies in control of media use their power. In the 1920’s the Frankfurt school hypothesized that media is a form of production that produces culture, which is made up of values, beliefs, myths, and common sense, all of which are political. The opportunity of the people in charge of the media to speak through mass media or decide on its content is a form of power. In the video the narrator talks about how Disney is a transnational media conglomerate, explaining Disney has a tremendous influence on national and international popular culture. Another aspect of the cultural studies concept found in the video is people in the cultures mass media messages enter may resist the ideas. This is apparent through out the video. Author Dr. Henry Giroux was one of the first individuals to call out Disney for its control over the media. He explained the difficulty he had with using a Disney image on the cover of his book explaining that Disney has “monopolized the market on how it represents itself.” Although not everyone agreed with his critical view, it was important that he called this view to the public’s attention, instead of remaining a passive receiver of the messages Disney movies were creating.
The concept of cultivation theory can be found in the film as well. This research focused on the common cultural experience a child was born into in the second half of the 20th century. The concern was that television was replacing family, state, and church’s influence on children. People who spent more time viewing television, especially children, developed distorted perceptions. Although the research focuses on television, this concept can be applied to children watching Disney movies. Dr. Diane Levin discuses this idea when she explores the idea of role models to young children. Dr. Levin explains, that when trying to develop their idea of what women should act like and be like young girls focus on dramatic characters such as Disney characters rather than real women in their lives. Another aspect of cultivation theory apparent in the video was the idea of stereotypes being reinforced by Disney. According to the cultivation theory research impressions of the world can be cultivated through long-term media exposure. This can be dangerous as the children could pick up the stereotypes portrayed in the movies. Marisa Peralta explains the negative portrayal of Latina people in the movie Oliver and Company through the Chihuahua character. “It’s almost expected that the character playing the Latino will do something he shouldn’t do,” she explains, “if it wasn’t so tragic it’d be comical.”