The Disney name is a name held dearly to many, if not all, households in America. What appears in their movies is conveyed throughout the lives and play of these children for years to come. Should we then be weary of what kinds of messages are presented through Disney’s films? Disney does, indeed, present many quality learning experiences to children, but these experiences often have distorted perceptions of the truth as well as an everlasting effect on the way children view certain objects. The Disney media, through the use of Cultivation Research and Cultural Studies perspectives, shapes the way society views the world.
The Cultivation Research perspective on media summarizes that our impressions of the world can be composed of long-term media exposure and often distort our perceptions based on our degree of exposure. A prime example of this perspective is seen through children’s early and lengthy exposure to Disney movies. As Dr. Justin Lewis mentioned, the impacts of media are not always immediate, but create an environment we grow up in and shape how we understand the world through cumulative messages. In Disney, kids are exposed to many movies with similar ideals and portrayals of individuals, such as the display of females in their movies. Most Disney movies portray women as sexualized individuals that can use their body to get what they want. Kids that see this over multiple movies tend to get a distorted perception of what women need to be like in society. In addition, villains of these movies are often associated with dark colors, creating a negative connotation to dark skin and crime. Scar in Lion King is a darker lion, and villains in other movies are often in black clothing with dark skin colors. The more people are exposed to these connotations, the more perceptions are distorted, according to the Cultivation Research perspective.
In addition to consistent themes in messages, each movie of Disney itself supports the Cultural Studies perspective of media. This perspective states that messages may reproduce existing power structures, and that content comes from within a culture. The Disney movies often portray stereotypes of certain demographics that already exist, strengthening the portrayals of people in society. As seen with Native Americans in movies like Peter Pan and Pocahontas, Indians are seen as savages, which is a long-running stereotype in America. These images conflict any efforts to eliminate these stereotypes, and lead to kids reenacting these prejudice views. Disney, in this perspective, also uses its power to influence others. They often sue anybody that presents their image in a negative light, as seen in many books trying to show the stereotypical ways of Disney. In Cultural Studies, using power to shape society is one effect that large media companies can have because they are able to control messages and perceptions, and Disney is a prime example of this power structure.