How media affects people is an important element in understanding society. It is essential to determine how people respond to media so we can better understand today’s culture. Our consumption of media starts at an early age. Children are influenced heavily by movies. The Payne Fund findings indicated “children accept the information in the movies as correct unless it is flagrantly incorrect.” This shows the importance in the messages displayed in children’s movies such as Disney films. These films and their effects on children were examined by the Mickey Mouse Monopoly documentary. The documentary focuses heavily on the cultural studies media and magic bullet perspectives by examining how gender and racial stereotypes affect children who watch Disney movies.
In the Lion King, Dr. Alvin Pouissaint claims that the Hyenas speak in a street/city African American dialect identifying the hyenas with inner-city minorities, particularly African Americans, and portraying the hyenas as the bad guys in the movie. This portrayal of the hyenas as the bad guys led to a three-year-old white child associating a group of African American children with the hyenas. According to Jacqueline Maloney, the child not only recognized the type of dialect used but also made the connection that the group of African American children were bad as the hyenas were portrayed in the movie. The Lion King is not alone—Tarzan depicts a white man in the jungles of Africa with no African people present potentially promoting white supremacy to African American children. Not many Disney films depict even one African American character at all and the children interviewed in the documentary took notice of that.
The documentary also explores the depiction of women as being slim with large breasts, and mostly dependent on men. In Aladdin, Princess Jasmine uses her looks to seduce Jafar, while in movies like the Hunchback of Norte Dame and Hercules, the main female character has to be rescued by the lead man, symbolizing an inability to be independent.
Just by viewing these movies children might see these misrepresentations as truth. This is an example of the magic bullet theory where the effect of the media has an immediate impact on them. Furthermore, as children they don’t have an ability to find out if what, if any, customs they viewed in the movie are actually true. This is a major reason why the messages and portrayals in children’s movies are so important. They just take what they see and hear as truth, being very passive in how they view the media.