Sunday, December 1, 2013

Online Assignment 3_Markham

                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.  


  1. I think that Disney movies are a prime example of the cultivation research perspective. I remember growing up and watching Disney movies everyday. I also remember playing with friends and always wanting to be the "damsel in distress" where the man would come and save me. This idea is definitely solidified in Disney movies and really has an effect on children. I think it works similarly with stereotypes. With the Native American example you used, I could see children being taught prejudice from such a young age that they know no better when they get older. I don't think our society will truly be able to banish stereotypes if we keep exposing our children to these same idea at such a young age.

  2. I think that the hypodermic needle theory is in effect here as well. Not only is Disney creating a culture around the values that it creates but also it is directly sending the ideals our youth hold by being the creator of them. Some of them message is directly communicated just by virtue of being created by Disney. Also, it could be argued that parents are tastemakers and in this way, Disney is using the two step method of communication created by Katz and Lazarsfeld. They are communicating that the content is intended for kids to parents who then show the movies to their kids.

  3. Having grown up watching the Disney movies, wearing clothes with the characters on in, playing with the toys, and being fully immersed in the Disney culture, I think our generation can fully understand the effects that Disney has had. Our perceptions of cultures were very much cultivated by this corporation and the way they represented people in the media. The Native American example is especially relevant: I can remember playing as a child and making the "woo woo woo" noises that the Lost Boys make in Peter Pan. Unless Disney makes changes in the way they represent cultures, as well as how they distribute representation of races in their movies, they will continue to falsely shape children's perspectives of these cultures.