Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Online Assignment #3, Brendan Fellenz

            Disney has slowly but surely turned into one of the few major media sources that kids are exposed to today, giving them power unlike an other.  In the film Mickey Mouse Monopoly, a group of experts analyze Disney’s film history and point out negative messages of race and sex, hidden within the confines of Disney’s movies.  This movie also shows indications of Disney’s usage of the ‘Magic Bullet’ effect and cultural studies, and how these two perspectives have shaped both their films and the minds of children and adults today.
            The idea of the ‘Magic Bullet’ effect is that consumers of the media are affected heavily in a direct and powerful way, and that this effect is gained in ‘one shot’.  One major example from the film is when Dr. Gale Dines discusses the portrayal of femininity by Disney.  She talks about the fact that Disney has not changed the appearance of its female characters at all over the years. They make all these female characters very sexual and seductive, both human and animal, which gives girls a constructed notion of femininity, and a false idea of how women look in the real world.  Another major example of the ‘Magic Bullet’ is where Alison Wilson talks about the idea that Disney always has a male saving a female.  This can be seen in movies such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Little Mermaid, and is a very skewed representation of the roles of gender in a society.  She even mentions that she has seen girls pretending to be in distress on the playground at school, and boys coming to save them, meaning that there is a clear development of these ideas occurring.
            Disney is a major offender when it comes to cultural studies.  These studies are meant to look at how culture is presented in the media, and compare it to actual existing culture.  One of Disney’s offenses is the Chihuahua in Oliver & Company.  Marisa Peralta discusses the blatant racism presented in the movie when they make this Latino character steal a car.  This not only gives a negative outlook on Latino people, but it gives the false sense that Latino people will do things that they are not supposed to do.  Another example that is very crucial is Disney’s portrayal of black people in society.  Up until Princess Tiana, Disney’s only “black” characters are portrayed as animals, such as crows and orangutans.  Jacqueline Maloney, a Harvard University employee, discusses how these animals are striving to be more like their human counterparts, who are almost always white characters.  This is a serious issue, because it continues to subconsciously instill race roles in a society that is still struggling to break these false norms today.          
            Dr. Gale Dines talks about the fact that most of the power in Hollywood comes from white men, and that whether their ideas are intentional or unintentional, the media effect are still the same.  So although some of Disney’s blatant uses of sexism and racism may not be on purpose, they have still managed to produce harmful media through the perspectives of the “Magic Bullet” and cultural studies.  Though I still love Disney movies and their roles in my childhood, I will definitely think twice the next time I watch some of my classic favorites.           


  1. You develop a very strong argument in your post, and I agree that Disney has become a major power in the media industry, capable of shaping the thoughts and behaviors of our youth. I think the portrayal of women in Disney films is an issue as well, and I'm surprised nothing has changed over the years, especially as documentaries like this one are released. In terms of cultural studies, I think you hit the nail on the head. The fact that Disney continues to reinforce racial stereotypes has huge implications. You are right, how can they do this in a society that still struggles with "false norms"? As such a influential entity, I believe that Disney must act more responsibly and carefully when they portray characters in certain films.

  2. Nice analysis! I used the magic bullet and cultural studies in my analysis as well. I like your example that Disney hasn’t changed the appearance of its female characters in years. It’s something I never noticed, but when I think about it, it is actually true. They do attempt to portray femininity in their characters by showing them to be sexual or seductive to the male character which does give a false idea to their young audience, girls and boys, this false idea of what women look like. I also talked about the male characters saving female characters in a “damsel in distress” type situation and how it portrays females weaker than males in society. I completely agree with your point on that. I liked your example of cultural studies, as well. I loved Oliver and Company growing up and I never once thought to think that they were portraying racism in its characters. It makes me think that Disney is as much of a family animation company as I thought it was when I was child. I enjoyed your conclusion and I do agree that Hollywood, including Disney, generally does consist of Caucasian males and they are the people who run the media companies that everyone watches. Overall, great analysis and I too will be paying attention to the next time I watch a Disney film to see if I can catch something I missed as a child.