Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Online Assignment #3, Mike Anheuser

With great power comes great responsibility. Standing as one of the largest media conglomerates in the world, Disney Corporation must better understand what this means. After watching Mickey Mouse Monopoly, my opinion of this magical, fantasy-inspiring company has been altered. The effect that Disney has on our society is significant and wide-ranging. There are several perspectives with which we can evaluate the effect that mass media has on our culture, and more specifically, our youth. The various interviews and examples provided in this documentary suggest that the magic bullet effect, cultural approach and each apply to the impact that Disney has made over past decades.
There are multiple perspectives to evaluate the effect that media representations have on our society and citizens. One of these is referred to as the magic bullet effect. Under this idea, it is believed that media has a direct and powerful impact on those who consume it. The name is derived from the assumption that it only takes “one shot” for a noticeable effect to occur. One example of this effect in action is that children learn from movies and imitate what they see in their play and behaviors. According to Elizabeth Hadley, the seductive tendencies of Jasmine in Aladdin gives young girls the notion that you can use your body to manipulate men and get what you want. Learning these tactics at a young age can certainly effect the behaviors of girls as they grow up. Also noted in the film is the old “damsel in distress” story, whereupon the female cannot save herself and relies on a heroic male to save here. The direct effect of this can be seen in the playground actions of very young children, when a girl acts as the princess who lays on the ground waiting for her 8 year old “hero”.
Our culture is increasingly effected by media content that is shaped by a considerably small elite. A handful of powerful media conglomerates are responsible for producing “culture” by reinforcing certain values, myths and beliefs. This structure results in serious side-effects, most importantly the presence of stereotypes in the media. Marisa Peralta, a teacher, comments on the use of Chihuahuas in several films. This dog breed seems to always be Latino, and will often be depicted as a lower class individual who will end up doing something that he is not supposed to do. Jacqueline Maloney describes the racist undertones involving the hyenas in The Lion King. The depiction of these animals as bad guys who use “street-language” caused a small child to refer to a group of African-American kids on a carousel as “those hyenas”. Clearly, this stereotypical representation had a significant effect on the thoughts and behaviors of a young mind.

After viewing Disney through the magic bullet and cultural perspectives, I certainly feel that they must become more sensitive when producing content. The messages that they send to children result in direct alterations of behavior as well as distorted long-term perceptions of reality. Disney needs to act as not only an entertainer, but as a teacher, who correctly and faithfully informs our youth about the world around them. 


  1. I agree with what you spoke about in regards to the magic bullet and cultural perspectives. I similarly discussed the use of magic bullet within these films using the example of Jasmine basically teaching young girls that their bodies can be used for manipulation. It's scary that a one time magical and fantasy land of Disney now has so many different meanings when we look back and really analyze what is being discussed. After reading about the cultural perspectives I thought more of it and the barrier between race is so prevalent. There are movies that children grow up with so while they might not realize it at the time, these are the ideas that resonate with them and shape their behavior about how they think of certain things. I agree that Disney certainly needs to change their behaviors because what they do and say creates perceptions of a false reality for children.

  2. Mike, this is really well-written and makes logical sense based on information and examples given in the documentary. I definitely agree that Disney needs to take a more responsible role in demonstrating stronger female roles and shedding a positive light on characters portrayed as different races. Although I am a firm believer in "if you got it, flaunt it", I can understand how Jasmine's and many other princesses' portrayal as a seductress can be taken as teaching young girls the wrong way to get what they want. Although I agree that Disney needs to be make alterations to their content, I do not believe that Disney is necessarily a cause of distorted long-term perceptions of reality. Girls may grow up loving Disney princesses but even in elementary school, it is understood that the world isn't like that and especially now, we are taught about female empowerment and independence with lessons of women like Susan B. Anthony and Deborah Sampson.

  3. Cultural Studies and "Magic Bullet" theory are great ways to illustrate the criticisms that the film discussed pertaining to Disney's portrayal of gender and race in their films. You also put into perspective the scale of Disney's reach and influence which makes it of the utmost importance to prevent children from obtaining incorrect and harmful perceptions about both gender and race. As far as the old films are concerned, the damage is really already done and there is not much they can plausibly do to alter content but what the can do is encourage discussion for parents and children about how the different groups are portrayed and whether that is accurate or inaccurate. Moving forward, it is incredibly important that they acknowledge more racial groups and portray them in a more positive and safe light. They don't need to sugarcoat truths or problems that do exist, but they do need to break their harmful pattern of excluding groups or portraying them in an incorrect light, such as Latins being shown represented by chihuahuas or people of color being portrayed by the scheming and evil hyenas. Their messages to young girls of using their bodies to gain a certain end is also a pattern that needs to end. All in all this is a well-written summary and I agree with you wholeheartedly.