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.