After buying CBS, Disney Corporation became one of the top six biggest media corporations in the world. Because of the large amount of control over what media our society consumes, the influences it has on us and especially our youth are huge. Disney has been called out many times for their portrayals of cultures and genders in their movie. By using the cultural studies perspective and the magic bullet perspective, we are able to pick out specific instances of these genders and culture stereotypes.
The cultural studies perspective is based on the idea that stereotypes may already be present within a person and the films only reinforce these stereotypes. In some cases children chose to continue to believe in these already existing stereotypes or they can choose to ignore them. A specific example of this would be in the Disney movie, the Lion King. In this classic children’s movie the helpers of the main villainous character are the hyenas. According to Doctor Alvin Pouissant, the voices of the hyenas are similar to the stereotypical language of inner city kids, many of which happen to be African American. The resemblance of the hyenas and inner city kids is enforced by the instance where a young white boy who believed that a group of African American children who were playing were bad just like the hyenas in the Lion King was. He was able to make this connection because of the way the kids were playing and the way they were speaking.
Similar to the Lion King, the Disney movie Tarzan also depicts African Americans in a stereotypical way. In this movie, the Apes are voiced by African Americans and are the only instances of anyone with African descent in the movie. This is very noticeable because the movie itself takes place in Africa. Tarzan has been said to have an underlying message that promotes white supremacy to young children. In both of these movies we were able to easily pick out instances where African Americans were either underrepresented or negatively represented.
Another perspective discussed when talking about Disney media would be the magic bullet perspective. This perspective says that contact with media can have a direct influence on people’s thoughts and actions. This is especially true for children. Children have a tendency to act and dress like the characters they see in Disney movies. This may lead them to have false beliefs about certain races or genders. A good example of this is in the instance that Nancy Elridge discussed. In this instance many of the kids who had visited the Plymouth Plantation were under the impression that all Native Americans acted as they did in the Disney movie Peter Pan. Dr. Gail Dines also comments on the influence Disney princes have on young girls. In almost every movie made by Disney, the lead female character is over-sexualized with large breasts and a skinny waist. They also are often in need of the heroic male character to come to her rescue. Children will learn to accept these stereotypes unless someone is able to explain to them that it is just movies and not real life.