Throughout the Mickey Mouse Monopoly documentary, I found two theories were most relevant: The Cultural Studies Theory and the Cultivation Theory.
Disney owns a lot of various companies. As such, they have a “tremendous influence on culture.” It is this influence that leads Disney to have “unprecedented control over images” and as a result, provides the public with a limited and skewed perception. Rather than family, state, and church shaping our perceptions, that job is done by television—as evidenced by the Cultural Studies Theory. Images—like Mickey Mouse—provide companies with an opportunity to speak through mass media as a form of power. Regarding the publishing of a book, the image of Mickey Mouse underneath a Mouse trap was unable to be published due to publisher’s fears of upsetting Disney—or worse, being sued by them. Another example of this power struggle is one in which people are not allowed to use a picture of Disney World without obtaining permission first. A culture in which Disney is incredible and they must be “protected” at all costs has been fostered by this use of media to gain power. Taking a deeper look at the image of Mickey Mouse, the image is associated with happiness, love, and childhood memories. According to the Cultural Studies Theory, content comes from within a culture. Thus, in the states, the culture that is strived for is one that involves “happy ever after’s”… Perhaps a twist on the “American Dream.”
Cultivation Theory emphasizes the danger of creating a “mean world” for the public. A “mean world” in which citizens have heightened levels of fear, anxiety, and anger. However, Disney seems to be creating the opposite. “Heavy viewers” would see that good always triumphs over evil. Yes, there are fire-breathing dragons, but there are also always knights in shining armor—who are ready and waiting to save the “damsel in distress”. Long-term media exposure involves more than a once-off viewing. It involves playing with Disney-related toys, games, and watching movies. Does this long-term exposure give us a skewed vision? Life won’t always have a happy ending or a fairy godmother. However, is it really that bad to have kids grow up thinking positively? It’s far better than growing up a cynical child. We allow “Disney to shape our children”, but perhaps it’s a beneficial type of shaping.
There are negatives to the way Disney can be perceived through the Cultivation Theory mindset. The theory states “perceptions of certain groups may be cultivated by media representations.” This plays a role when looking at how men and women characters are portrayed by Disney. Women are supposed to have the skinny waist and large chest and “use their bodies”. Unfortunately, this brings rise to concerns of feminism. The women characters almost always seem to need rescuing by the big, handsome, aggressive, male character. However, when looking at modern-day society, it is a social norm for people to be with one another. Humans are inherently made to be social creatures and interact. Thus, is it really so bad for Disney to encourage companionship?
While Disney does convey an ideal world in which evil is always conquered and people always find their mate, it is a tough line to walk. At the end of the day, though, Disney really is just a fantasy.