Mickey Mouse Monopoly was a documentary discussing the criticisms in which always seemingly positive and innocent Walt Disney films have had negative implications. In class we have been discussing the Five Perspectives on Media Effects that are the Magic Bullet, Two-Step Flow, Cultural Studies, Cultivated Research, and Agenda Setting effects. Of the five, the Magic Bullet, Cultural Studies, and Cultivated Research effects are of extreme takeaway from these children films.
The Magic Bullet effect alludes to the idea that media effects are powerful, direct, and able to incite action on its audiences. Throughout the documentary it was not the experts who exhibited this effect, it was the commentary from the children themselves. Children were used to respond to a critique regarding how the Beast in Beauty and the Beast is physically and mentally abusive to Belle who, as the film goes on, forgives the Beast for his negative abuses. The children’s responses to questions regarding domestic violence and the allowance of abuse were directly correlated with what they had seen on screen. The children thought that it’s okay for men to abuse women as long as they eventually stop and can be forgiven. Jacqueline Maloney pointed out another direct and powerful effect from the Disney movie The Lion King. In the film, the hyenas, representing the enemy, had voiceovers done by African Americans who talked in ways that our society perceives inner-city children to talk. In an example, Maloney discussed how a family friend’s child was terrified at a mall because they overheard African American children talking and was convinced that the hyenas from the movie were a reality.
This last example can be related to the effect of Cumulated Research as well. In class we discussed how impressions of the world could be cultivated through long-term media exposure as well as the fact that heavy viewer likely to believe that the real world is a dangerous place. Though not a severely extreme example, the story about media’s influence over the perception of African American voices serves a powerful one if it can inhibit fear among audiences in the outside world.
The Cultural Studies effect was shown to be the most prominent seen throughout the Disney franchise. Dr. Henry Giroux goes into great detail and passion about how Disney has used its global renown and money to exhibit power over the commercialization of products and its influence over the entire news entertainment industry. He says that Disney is extremely political in the ways in which it legitimizes which news can be relayed, which products will be sold, and what content their films can instill on audiences. The content itself in these films as discussed by Gail Dives implements strong cultural stereotypes that further reinforce and give representation to people in society. These cultural representations are exemplified through the feminist portrayal of the leads in Snow White, Mulan, and Beauty and the Beast. Dives give meaning and understanding of the creation of these cultural stereotypes by saying that scriptwriters are people present in society that hold their own cultural stereotypes that inadvertently make their way into the script; therefore further reinforcing and strengthening stereotypes already present in our society.
I found this assignment very interesting because I myself am an avid lover of Disney classics. It was difficult though to uncover all of the negativity that comes through this positive idea of film and entertainment. Though I do agree that there are many unhealthy representations in these films, I support Dives in saying that they are not intentionally placed in these films. However from here on out, Disney should work to diminish these stereotypes as a more multicultural, and gender equal world is evolving.