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.