In my business compass course, we were asked to describe Disney as best as possible. Connecting with our childhood, many of us listed words such as “magical, imaginative and entrancing.” Oftentimes, the sentimental connection with Disney causes us to forget that Disney isn’t just a mystical movie maker, but a mass media giant. Being one of the six mega corporations that own a majority of the media market today, Disney has always had an influence over what gets depicted and how they go about doing so. Throughout their animated career, Disney has been under fire for wrongly portraying cultures in their movies. By utilizing the magic bullet and cultural studies perspectives, we can pinpoint these controversial aspects of Disney and uncover any implications they may have had.
The magic bullet perspective is based off of the basis that direct contact with the media can influence thoughts and actions. Children learn from watching movies, whether what the movie is portraying is true or not. They can imitate whatever the main characters do, wear and act and also develop wrong attitudes about certain groups. Nancy Eldridge related that many of the children who visit the Plimoth Plantation believe that all Native Americans acted the way they did in Peter Pan and “hit their faces and go ‘woo woo woo’, wear headdresses with lots of feathers and sit cross-legged with their arms folded.” Jacqueline Maloney told a story where her friend’s son, after watching the Lion King, connected a group of African American children to the hyenas in the movie. Because the hyenas had voices similar to those of African Americans and were villainous, the son believed these kids to be the same. Kids developed mindsets based on what they have seen in the movies and continued to believe them until someone spoke to them explaining what is right and wrong.
Cultural studies perspective relies on the preconceived notion that there may be a stereotype already in place. People are reinforced about these through the films and can either accept or resist them. Dr. Gail Dines noted that “scripts are written by real people” and they relate what they believe to be the norms into their writings. Doctor Alvin Pouissant believed that the film Tarzan promoted white supremacy by having the gorillas in Africa who are connected instead of African Americans. When viewed by kids in Africa, they may believe that this means they are being degraded. Since there are no Africans present in their own continent, they are believed to be on the same level as gorillas who take their place and that the Whites have all the power. Latinos are also depicted unfairly, according to Marisa Peralta. Marisa Peralta stated that it’s insulting that the Latino race are depicted through Pedro in Lady and the Tramp and that he is continuously found doing things he isn't supposed to such as steal a car. Pedro is also insulted and degraded by a good looking dog, but is still entranced by the looks of her and all the previous insults don’t affect him. By tying these examples to what Dr. Dines said, there must have been some type of stereotype within society that caused these writers to portray or exclude certain cultures in the way they did.