Monday, December 2, 2013

Online Assignment #3

“The way the media affects how we think is a much less immediate and much less straightforward impact...it's more about creating an environment of images that we grow up in, and after awhile it cumulatively shapes how we see the world.” - Dr. Justin Lewis, Mickey Mouse Monopoly

The documentary “Mickey Mouse Monopoly” raises important questions about the power and impact of Disney on children, culture and society. Specifically, the movie reflects most the media effect perspectives of cultural studies and cultivation theory.
When I was little, I loved Disney movies. I still have an entire Spotify playlist, several hours long, that's devoted to Disney music. In light of this, I have to admit that although I agree with everything discussed in this movie – it is hard to hear. As the movie says “Disney capitalizes on innocence.” It also sparks strong feelings to learn that the beloved childhood memories of many children represent some of the worst stereotypes of our culture. Even if these are unintentional, as the documentary says, the effects are still present.
The cultural studies perspective argues that representations within media are influential, consequential and reproduce existing power structures. This is clearly the case with Disney. With movies such as Beauty and the Beast, they reinforce the nurturing, forgiving woman, even in the case of abuse. In fact, all portrayals of female roles are overtly sexualized and dependent – even those such as Mulan, who save the day, yet still end up married in the end. Depictions of race are no better, between the Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp to the hyenas in The Lion King. They also reinforce international power structures and white supremacy with a Tarzan movie that is completely absent of any African characters and a historically inaccurate Pocahontas. These character choices, even in animals, reflect the power structure of Hollywood and of society.
Not only does the documentary reinforce existing power structures, as argued by the cultural studies perspective, but the cumulative effect of these media influences reflects cultivation theory. Disney is profoundly prevalent - not only do they monopolize children's cinema, but they spread this influence into toys, games and children's play. This compounded influence, over time, shapes the worldview of children and how they perceive reality. Children interviewed in the documentary clearly see nothing wrong with the movies. For example, several of the young girls said they would support Belle to stay with the Beast, despite the abusiveness of the relationship, because "he can change". This makes Disney a powerful influencer of culture, and at the same time, a perpetuator of potentially damaging cultural stereotypes.
The bigger issue becomes, then, if children are only reinforced in these same media stereotypes, how can Disney and society change? In this case, it would appear that the effect of Disney has not been so prevalent that it has quelched some dissent – as with the opposing side of the cultural studies, many of the stereotypes have been “reinterpreted and resisted”. The existence of this documentary is evidence of that. Similarly, the release of movies such as The Princess and the Frog shows an attempt, at least, on the part of Disney to create slightly less harmful cultural appropriations and portrayals. However, it is still an issue. Children are impressionable, and when they receive stereotypical impressions from Disney, the media effects they are being exposed to could shape their lives, their self-perception and their values.

2 comments:

Sofie Lenzen said...

Your analysis quickly captured my attention right at the beginning with your quote from Dr. Justin Lewis. It was the perfect quote that drew a majority of the ideas expressed in the documentary into one statement. I also how you noted that this movie was a tough pill to swallow when watching because you grew up watching Disney movies, because I had the same feeling. I liked your example of Beauty and the Beast and their relationship when discussing the cultural studies perspective. I wish you would have elaborated more on the other examples you use for this perspective, like how the Siamese cats portray Asians as cunning and deceitful, and the example of the Hyena’s dialect given in the movie where the young boy playing recognized African Americans as “the hyenas” and thus, the bad guys. I liked your analysis of the cultivation theory perspective. Disney is a huge conglomerate that owns more companies and media and has more influence than much of the public is even aware of. I liked how you drew the parallels between this and the girl’s comments on the relationship of Beauty and the Beast and how they would support her if she were their friend. You did an excellent job of showing how damaging this could be. I liked how you ended your analysis by showing that Disney may be trying to change this with movies like the Princess and the Frog, but the stereotypes still exist. Good analysis, Kelsey!

Molly Hanson said...

Kelsey, your analysis really went a step beyond simply summarizing the documentary and how it connected to class concepts. You did a really great job of bringing up your own thoughts and experiences to make the documentary mean something more. It was important that you brought up how even if the stereotypes that are presented in Disney’s films are unintentionally there it still matters. The effect on, as you say, the “impressionable” minds of our children is still the same. I liked how you brought up how difficult it is to accept this about Disney because it brings up an interesting idea. I think it says something about the almost hypnotic influence of Disney on our generation, and generations before us, that even after hearing and knowing that Disney has made a monopoly on painfully blatant stereotypes of certain ethnic and gender groups, it is hard to accept. As much as I hate putting people in boxes, as much as I speak out against racism and sexism, it’s hard for me to hate Disney.

You did a great job using this documentary to exemplify the culture studies perspectives and the cultivation theory. In addition to that I think you did a great job of pulling out the most illuminating scenes and ideas in the film to back up these class concepts. The only thing that would have potentially added to your analysis/summary is to have gone one step further to discuss the men behind the curtain who are writing the dialogs and illustrations and thus creating the skewed perceptions of society Disney has been presenting to us for generations.

Really great analysis! It honestly made me contemplate the film in a new way.