Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Online Assignment #3

The Mickey Mouse Monopoly documentary gave insight into Disney’s power in influencing our stereotypes and cultural expectations hidden behind an image of fun and magic. Behind what Dr. Henry Girox describes as a “spectacle of innocence” are powerful messages that make their way into American culture. Two perspectives demonstrated in Mickey Mouse Monopoly are the cultivation theory and the “magic bullet” theory.
Cultivation research shows that long-term media exposure influences people’s perceptions and behaviors of certain groups. One example of Disney cultivating certain ideas is seen in its portrayal of race. In the beginning of the documentary, for example, Marisa Peralta explains how her daughter wondered why all the dark people always seemed to be doing bad things. Marisa Peralta also pointed out that in one Disney film, the only hispanic character was a Chihuahua that always seemed to be doing what he should not be doing. Issues with the portrayal (or lack thereof) of black characters are also seen in Tarzan and the Jungle Book. For example, in the Jungle Book, Dr. Diane Hadley claims that the orangutans and monkeys are meant to be black people. She also points out the problems with how these characters sing about wishing to be human. While hiding behind a mask of good intentions, these messages about race distort perceptions and maintain negative stereotypes.
Among Payne Fund Findings in line with the “magic bullet” theory of direct absorption of media messages, children learn from, tend to accept things as true from and imitate what they see in movies. Disney’s role in creating genders norms and roles is transmitted directly to its young audiences. According to Dr. Diane Levin, children look to the most salient characters for cues on how to look and act and Dr. Gail Dines noticed that even the coy and seductive female animal characters contribute to constructed notions of femininity and what being a woman is. She Several troubling messages come from Beauty and the Beast. Dr. Carolyn Newberger says the message of “saying no and not really meaning it” is shown in the candlestick and broom characters and the message of reinterpreting and excusing abusive behavior is demonstrated by Belle when she falls in love with the beast. Young girls absorb these messages directly from Disney movies without a lens of feminist sensibility.

These gender and racial stereotypes are dangerous because of the appeal of Disney’s movies and families see the movies as wholesome entertainment, according to the documentary. Yet these movies cultivate ideas and distort perceptions with a magic bullet, hitting a vulnerable, malleable young audience.


Jessie Kanter said...

I totally agree with what you are saying, especially about Disney's use of the cultivation perspective to shape kids' beliefs over time. I also see where you are coming from with the magic bullet theory, but I almost feel like this theory contrasts with the cultivation theory. Cultivation shapes beliefs slowly over time, whereas the magic bullet is instant and powerful. I think the power of Disney lies in its reoccurring themes and messages that reinforce ideas that children have. The magic bullet may be used to introduce certain ideas, but the cultivation perspective is what instills them in children's minds. In this way, they work together, but I feel like the cultivation perspective might be better argued for how Disney influences its audiences.

Trevor said...

I found it interesting that you wrote about both the cultivation theory and the “magic bullet” theory because I too wrote about the cultivation theory and even used examples from your “magic bullet” argument for my post. I guess it is up to interpretation whether, for example, young girls viewing Disney movies see the construction of what a woman “is” and act accordingly based off of one single movie-watching experience or whether it takes multiple viewings of multiple movies over time to affect behavior. The latter was how I interpreted it, but it could very well go both ways, with an immediate “magic bullet” influence that also leads up to a greater cultural views type of influence as per the cultivation theory.

If Disney has strong influence in light of both theories, that is a pretty scary amount of control in the hands of one media company.

Olivia Bruce said...

It's fascinating to me to look at Disney movies and characters through a race-sensitive lens. To be honest, I had never noticed the "dark people doing bad things." However, it raised a very interesting point. While I may not have been attune to it, I'm sure many kids have been. If anything, Disney's portrayal of such characters is definitely playing into negative societal stereotypes. If Disney is going to be influential, I would hope that it would decide to exert its influence in a positive manner. i.e. overcoming the stereotypes that we see on a day-to-day basis.

My only question, really, would be perhaps this isn't so much a magic bullet theory. The magic bullet theory tends to say that the audience is just helpless and the media injects them. However, if kids are watching these movies and taking note of such stereotypes, perhaps they're not as helpless as they seem.