Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mickey Mouse Monopoly - Assignment 3

In the documentary Mickey Mouse Monopoly, two main perspectives on media effects are discussed: the Cultivation Perspective and the Cultural Studies Perspective. With Disney being one of 6-7 companies that own all media, many fear the major influence it has on our society.

                According to Justin Lewis, since Disney’s stories form a child’s imagination it would be foolish to “imagine that the only way that the media affects us is through an immediate impact on the way we think”. This is an argument against the Magic Bullet Effect. Lewis states that the effects are much less immediate and straightforward and more “a certain environment of images that we grow up in that we become use to”, and these images will shape what we know and what we understand about the world (Cultivation Perspective). According to the cultivation perspective, impressions of the world are cultivated through long-term media exposure and the effects are small, indirect and cumulative which contrasts the Magic Bullet Effect. This idea can be supported through gender representations in Disney movies. Disney has always sexualized the woman image and this portrayal has constructed the notion of femininity to young children. Carolyn Newberger uses movies like the Beauty and the Beast to show that our notions are constructed through these movies. Elizabeth Hadley points out that in Aladdin, Jasmine becomes a seductress which shows girls they should use their body to get what they want. As seen in the Mirror Project, children will reenact what they see because their long-term exposure has led them to believe that is acceptable.

The second perspective is the Cultural Studies perspective which states messages are created within a society and that writers produce messages that make sense in that culture. Alvin Poussaint states that the white, educated male writers hold stereotypes and they write from that point of view because they aren’t involved with other races so they draw from what they know (the things they have gained from the media – stereotypes). This shows the circular effect between media messages and culture. Disney’s messages have the power to reinforce/assign new meaning to people/cultural objects. Ultimately, media influences culture and the media is used to reinforce beliefs. Gail Dines said that we develop our notions of reality from cultural mechanisms around us and that the media shapes our stereotypes and beliefs systems. This can be seen in racial stereotypes such as the Asian cats in the Lady and the Tramp. Additionally, Henry Giroux argues that Disney’s ideas are skewed by cooperate interests. Disney can rewrite history to eliminate controversial topics (like Pocahontas). Deirdre Almeido stated that Disney altered history and made kids believe it, which she argues serves a political purpose. These claims show how the media is used by elites to maintain power. Disney’s monopolized market allows them to control how they represent itself: they can police their image and representation and control what children see and believe.

The documentary highlights two key perspectives on how the media affects us: The cultivation perspective and the cultural studies perspective. Considering the immense power Disney holds in our society, they should have a responsibility to depict race, gender and history in an accurate and positive light.


Kelsey Beuning said...


Great job! I thought this was a great analysis of the perspectives discussed in this documentary - I actually chose the same two. I thought your examples were also good, especially the portrayal of Jasmine in Aladdin.
I wanted to point out that, as you said, many of these stereotypes are perpetuated by college-educated, white male script writers...and as the movie said, even if the stereotypes they portray are unintentionally created, the effects that they have are still present.
The only thing I would add is that while I completely agree that cultivation theory is a better fit to the Disney influence than the magic bullet approach, I don't think they're mutually exclusive. Obviously the stereotypes and perception of the way things are in Disney movies have a cumulative, long-term effect. But they also have some short-term, almost magic-bullet-esque effects (though obviously I didn't argue this perspective and I don't think it's as strong of a point). For example, children's imitation of Disney characters like Pocahontas, or their inability to separate the images on the screen from reality. In some ways, these direct media effects, most prevalent on children, are the reason that the long-term effects are so strong. After all, children are incredibly impressionable.
Overall, however, great post and great examples!! :) This was very well-written.

Alex Shimony said...


I really liked your response, it mirrored a lot of the same points that I saw in the film. I don't necessarily believe the point made by Dr. Giroux that Disney's portrayal of women and racial minorities is intentional to bolster their image and uphold the interests of the white males who run the media corporations, but he has a lot more knowledge on the subject than I do. I like the way you presented clearly the two main theories presented in the documentary and used great quotes to really bolster your argument. I really liked your conclusion and I totally agree that those few media corporations do have a responsibility to not necessarily be lazy and depict how our society is but take a proactive role in leading our society in a new, more diverse direction.