In the documentary “Mickey Mouse Monopoly”, which looks at the undeniable power and influence Disney “empire” has gained in our society over the years, the media perspectives we discussed in lecture were illuminated. Two class perspectives that stuck out to me when viewing this enlightening documentary on a media power that we are all so familiar with was the cultivation theory and culture studies.
We learned in class that culture studies looks at the representations in the media of what is already existent in the society they appear in. The way that way that media and culture affect and influence each other, snowballing into our cultural ideologies. One of the ideas behind this concept is that the people who are producing the culture that we are exposed to are all of the same “breed”, white males usually over the age of fifty. These are the people who hold the power in our society because they have the ability to influence our ideas on the world we live in. In “Mickey Mouse Monopoly” Dr. Henry Giroux expresses this idea when he describes how Disney influences the minds of our children. “That’s an incredible amount of power,” says Giroux in the documentary, “We’re allowing Disney to form our children’s imagines.” Later in the documentary this concept is exemplified when the ideas that children hold about particular ethnic groups and genders shown to mirror those that they see in Disney’s films.
One example shown in the documentary is the role of boys and girls as illustrated by Disney’s films. With clips of Disney films shown as evidence, the documentary effectively shows how the representations of females in many of Disney’s films are overly sexualized. It’s mentioned that while Disney is not the creator of this stereotyped imagery representing females in this way, their power over the minds of children allows Disney to heavily promote this image to young, vulnerable minds.
This idea is also brought up when exploring Disney’s depiction of racial minority groups in an offensive way. Dr. Gail Dines brought up an underlying concept in cultural studies when explaining that the racist scripts in Disney films “are written by real people who themselves have been socialized in this society [and] are going to internalize those norms and those values and when they produce this work it’s of course going to come out in someway.” In other words, the writers of the scripts are going to write racist and sexist scripts because they have been socialized in a racist and sexist society.
The cultivation theory that was discussed in lecture tells us that the ideas about society and its members that we hold are built from an accumulation of the images the media hands us. Long-term media exposure is what cultivates our impressions of the world. In “Mickey Mouse Monopoly” Dr. Justin Lewis summarizes this idea when describing Disney’s influence on children saying “the way that the media impacts the way we think is much less immediate and straightforward… it’s much more of a question of creating a certain environment of images that we grow up in, that we become used to and after a while those images will begin to shape what we know and we understand about the world.”
Disney acts as a prime example of how culture studies and cultivation theory work together to form our impressions of the world. While it is the creators behind the empire of Disney whose ideas our presented to us shaping our own perception of the world, it is the accumulation of these images over time and generations which truly form our societal ideologies.