Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Online Assignment 3_Burnham

I thoroughly enjoyed this documentary because I found it really brought many of the aspects we have talked about to like through a culturally relevant example that we can all relate to. At one point, almost everyone can relate to Disney as being an influential part of his or her childhood. But no one really pays close attention to the cultural influence that it inflicts on young moldable minds. We see Disney as the ultimate fairytale with good triumphing over evil and the guy getting the girl. But when you look a little closer some of the other stereotypes they include are sending alarming messages to children.

When the magic bullet was in lecture it was described as a direct contact with media having the ability to influence our thoughts and beliefs. This is very relevant in the documentary when talking about how women are portrayed as Disney characters. Dr. Elizabeth Hadley talks about a specific instance in Aladdin when Jasmine uses her sexual appeal to attract Jafar to distract his attention from Aladdin. This is interesting because when watching the movie I never thought of this part had any specific connotations, I just thought that Jasmine and Aladdin were working together to defeat Jafar. But after hearing Dr. Hadley's reasoning I totally agree that the idea that Jasmine can only use her sex appeal is damaging to young girls who are still vulnerable to new ideas. When they see Disney characters like Jasmine using her body to distract Jafar they may think that a women's body defines her worth and beauty. Another important movie that embodies this ideal of women’s worth is The Little Mermaid. In this Disney movie Ariel ultimately gives up her voice to be with the man she loves. She is viewed as a sex symbol through her coy face and unrealistic body. Prince Eric who she loves motivates everything she does. But in the end he is the one who must come to her rescue and save her from the evil Ursula. This just shows how children’s direct contact with media shapes their opinion of what a women should be like.

The other aspect that I noticed relates to the magic bullet effect in the form of cultural studies.  In many Disney movies stereotypes are very commonly reinforced through certain character traits. Dr. Alvin Poussaint talks about how in the movie Tarzan the writers completely eliminated black people from the movie so when African Americans view the film they identify with the gorillas. He argues that this could potentially be promoting white supremacy, because the white male is dominating the animals. This is destructive to children’s views because race is already a very touchy and potentially troublesome issue in culture already. If Disney promotes this view at a young age, then it is even harder for people to over come these stereotypes later in life. Racism and white supremacy has been a common thread all the way through the twentieth century and although our culture works to overcome these opinions, they remain a major part of the gap between different races. I think this is due to our exposure to these ideas so early on in life. When we see Latinos portrayed as Chihuahua dogs who are always making bad decisions, it is easy for this to transfer onto our real life ideas as we grow up.


  1. I also think it's really interesting that we never noticed many of the messages embedded in Disney movies as children that we are able to pick up on now. One of the most interesting parts of the documentary for me was the portrayal of Asians, Latinos, and African Americans. I never realized as a child that Tarzan should have taken place in Africa, yet there were no Africans in sight. The documentary pointed out what people must have thought when they were viewing this movie in African theaters, which probably sent a really damaging message to African youth. It really makes me wonder if I would see Disney movies differently or if they would have made a different impact on me if was a race other than white. Regardless, I agree that one of Disney's greatest effects is on racial and gender stereotypes in our culture. I personally don't think the portrayal of women in Disney movies had a much different effect on me than the rest of the stereotypes we encounter throughout various platforms of society on a daily basis. Even now, I'm not really offended by the Disney's portrayal of women because I'm so accustomed to these roles being the norm for women of our time. Granted, women are becoming more powerful members of society every day, but I believe a majority of the classic women's gender roles are still very present in our society.

  2. I think the subject you picked out regarding a girl’s identity in society and a relationship is thought provoking. You mentioned that you were unaware of this when you were little and consuming these types of movies, that are mostly produced by Disney. I think that it is startling to realize that we potentially live our lives, unknowingly, based on what a few writers in Hollywood came up with during a lunch meeting.

    It is sad to think that girls may have molded their identities based on these notions that Disney has created or maintained in our society and culture. Your specific point about the limited skills that female Disney characters posses is something that I didn’t really pick up on when I watched the film. I was aware of the way the documentary highlighted their appearance but not their actual ability to problem solve. This moral dilemma is obviously concerning but leads to other aspects that may cause young female audiences to feel constrained with their own abilities.

    You mentioned that young girls could ultimately feel like they had to wait on a man to save them or provide for them. While that is obviously concerning for a girl’s independence, I think that it also puts a lot of pressure on young boy viewers as well. They assume responsibility to take care of the opposite sex or else there will be no savior. While the point you highlighted is concerning for girls, it equally puts boys in a position that makes them feel obligated for the well-being of the girls around them.