Mickey Mouse Monopoly effectively illustrates the immense power that media—in particular Disney—has over our culture. I believe that the film focuses on two “perspectives” of media: critical-cultural and cultivation. These perspectives often are intertwined.
The mass appeal of Disney films is integral to our society because Disney effectively constructs our culture by how it represents men, women, and life in general. The ideal man is usually represented as buff, strong, and in control (e.g. Hercules, The Beast [even though he is “ugly,” he represents these qualities], Aladdin [despite living and eating an unbalanced diet as a pauper, he is muscular]). In contrast and more problematic, as Dr. Gail Dines describes, women are represented as slim, seductive, buxom, and in need of rescuing. This image of woman has barely changed from early Disney films up to the present day. She says that even female animals, as is the case with the sensualized bunny rabbit seducing another animal and a female centaur being pursued by male centaurs in a movie from the 40s, fit this “notion of femininity.” A further example of how Disney represents culture problematically is aptly demonstrated in the question a young girl asked her mother—“Why is it that black people are always doing bad things?” Disney has a massive viewership, so when it portrays culture in certain ways, society will likely reify those stereotypes in our culture because we see them so widely and so often.
Similarly, Mickey Mouse Monopoly shows the sway Disney holds in the context of the “cultivation perspective” of media, where television is a cultural environment that exercises influence through small, cumulative effects. Justin Lewis states that Disney is the “dominant story-teller for children globally.” Its audience is massive, its influence permeating our society because, as Alvin Poussaint describes, it is a part of our culture. Most importantly, it is part of our culture to be raised as a child watching Disney films. And at this point in time, multiple generations have been raised on Disney films. It’s deep within us. Lewis articulates how media is not a “magic bullet” but the slow, cumulative effects of the cultivation perspective. He says “The way media influences what we think is much less immediate and straightforward…creating a certain environment of images that we grow up in, that we become used to. And after a while, those images will shape what we believe and understand about the world.” This can be seen in how children pick up on social interactions and motifs from their environment (television) and begin acting within the culture they see depicted from a very young age. The film describes how a young girl out on the playground swooned up against a fence while her friend recruited boys to “save” her, thus enacting the Disney stereotype that women are in need of rescuing. If children grow up thinking and behaving in this way, they are more likely to see things this way as adults.
Henry Giroux says that “Disney has made a spectacle of innocence.” Consequently, it is easy to see how society has been drawn in by and fallen in love with Disney films. However, it’s problematic when these films permeate our culture to this extreme degree, but represent negative stereotypes of gender roles, body shapes, race, and relationships. I believe that as college students who are likely to have children within the next decade, we need to consider whether or not we wish to continue holding Disney as such a deep-rooted part of our lives.