Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Online Assignment #3

Throughout the documentary, Mickey Mouse Monopoly, there are instances in which media perspectives discussed in lecture are clearly visible, namely the perspectives of the magic bullet, cultural studies, and cultivation research.
The magic bullet presents itself though the direct reenactment of Disney's work by children. In The Mirror Effect, a little girl copies Vanessa Williams's dance moves from her "Colors of the Wind" music video. This shows a direct effect because the little girl's dancing is an instant result of viewing the video. She essentially mimics what she sees the woman on screen doing without question. Another instance of the magic bullet occurs when Dr. Diane Levin points out that children are likely to recreate the movies they have seen when presented with toys based off of them. For instance, when given a Tarzan and Jane figurine, a child is likely to recreate the movie rather than create their own storyline. This, Levin suggests, could be detrimental to the imagination of a child.
Cultural studies is visible though Disney's depiction of women. They reinforce the notion that the ideal woman has an hourglass figure, is submissive, and is ultimately dependent on a prince in times of trouble. This idea was prevalent in American culture for centuries. It was not until the 1970s that women began receiving significant equal recognition under the law through civil rights. However, movies made as recently as the 1990s like Beauty and the Beast neglect to show these changing values. It was only within the past few years that change became truly visible. In the perspective of cultural studies, there are two key concepts: representation and resistance. Just as media outlets can reinforce meanings in a society, society can just as well reject them. In recent years since Mickey Mouse Monopoly was made, I personally feel that Disney has done a better job of creating strong female characters, most likely as a response to public outcries. Brave (2012) is a prime example. The story revolves around a Scottish princess who decides she is not ready to be married and fights for the right to make her own decisions. The film was heeded by Brenda Chapman who, among other things, recognized the importance of portraying Merida as a real woman. When she stepped down as director to be a co-director, Disney took it as an opportunity to “revamp” Merida and make her slimmer and sexier, but Chapman fought back, calling it “artocious” and “blatantly sexist” (TIME, 2013).
The final perspective, cultivation research, can be seen through the distorted perceptions of race held by the children viewers. The most obvious example is when Jacqueline Maloney’s friend’s son hears the voices of black children and automatically associates them with the villainous hyenas of the The Lion King. Because menial characters are often voiced by minorities, it creates an affiliation between race and negative qualities. In this instance, the child was scared by the black children because of the way the movie portrayed their race as a whole. Another example is the Chihuahua character who is always voiced by a person of Hispanic descent. In Oliver and Company, Tito the Chihuahua looks tattered and makes references to stealing cars, playing off of and reinforcing negative stereotypes. In both cases, racial perceptions in children were highly distorted and highly cultivated by Disney’s representations in their media.
Overall, Disney exerts a tremendous amount of power and influence over the perceptions of children. They do this through various media perspectives, be it the magic bullet, cultural studies, or cultivation research. Knowing this, one cannot help but question Disney’s motivations and wonder whether they are truly the wholesome company they claim to be.


References

Stampler, L. Do Animated Female Characters Need to Be ‘Pretty’? (2013). TIME Magazine. Retrieved from http://entertainment.time.com/2013/10/14/do-animated-female-characters-need-to-be-pretty/#ixzz2lo37zsBd

2 comments:

Trevor said...

Katie,

You do a great job of tying your observations about Mickey Mouse Monopoly to present day views and their consequences when you relate depiction of women to Brave and end your post questioning Disney’s motivations and wholesomeness.

Also, by beginning with a shining example of the “magic bullet” perspective with the influence of a young girl dancing, you show Disney’s direct, immediate influence. Following this with the cultural studies paragraph is effective because it then displays how Disney’s influence is more than just immediate consequences; depictions build up and the consequences last in our culture as well. Bringing in the TIME example of Brave was quite effective for depicting the progression of Disney since their earlier films.

I do wonder, however, how much Disney has really changed or how much certain directors/staff are feeling pressured to make shining examples in order to ward off criticism.

Kelsey Beuning said...

Katie,

This is wonderful. Your use of examples was especially strong. I really liked how you tied in the modern example of Brave. I used The Princess and the Frog as an example of the potential progressiveness of Disney.

I do think it's interesting, though - despite pushback, Disney clearly does still try to hold on to their stereotypes of women. For example, as you said, they tried to slim down Merida. Also, some of their other, more modern movies (such as Tangled or Frozen) continue to perpetuate the "damsel in distress" attitude. Do you think that they're actually changing, or are they just putting on a face, so to speak? Does it matter, if their portrayals are made less offensive or stereotypical?

Overall, great job with this post. Again, you used great examples, and I completely agree with all three perspectives. Nice work!