Disney Company is the most significant entertainment empire in the world, thanks to the creator Walt Disney and his brother. Since the inception of Disney, the society has experienced a change of influence in both gender roles and characters. Disney movies have shaped the skills, attitudes, behaviors, and morals of both children and adults in contemporary society, by engaging them in a continuous series of thoughtless consumption. Most of the movies in Disney portray several diverse roles of gender, thereby influencing adults who grew up watching them and society at large. Some of the Disney films that bring out societal gender roles include Mulan, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and Snow White, Hercules, The Princess, The Frog, and Aladdin. Such a wide-range of films implies that Disney has a widespread influence in our world today. However, what if Disney, a company that is regularly producing films for world-wide mass entertainment, is magnifying stereotypes in children? How does Disney Movies affect society (Lunsford 257)? Engagement with Disney films can influence youngsters to be more susceptible to potentially damaging stereotypes. These stereotypical behaviors have a long term effect of limiting young women.
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How has watching Disney films become a constant cycle in almost all families’ life? Disney Company has over several years, created a household name of entertainment, laughter, and joy. Disney, in general, likewise has been perceived as just fun movies, songs, and films. Still, underneath all the joy, laughter, and dreams, there is a harsh reality of unrealism in every video, which awaits every eye (Dundes 87). The society perceives the characterization of femininity and females in Disney films as pejorative. Interests of love run twelve out of fourteen plots incorporating Disney princesses, and the princesses themselves majorly earn their worth through strategic matrimonies (Vogel 6). Disney films direct young girls away from power by distinguishing the treatment of magical powers between female and male characters. King Triton’s use of magic in the Little Mermaid is depicted as kind and benevolent; however, when possessed by Ursula, a woman, it is represented as undeniably evil. In the hands of women, magic inflicts havoc in the natural world’s order (Davis 32). Also, female protagonists with magical powers, including Elsa and Rapunzel, are portrayed as evil and locked away. Therefore, Disney sends a clear message to young girls that they can only ascend to power via beauty.
Disney films advances hackneyed, incorrect notions of other cultures. For several American families, films from Disney Company provide their first glimpse into unfamiliar cultures. Pocahantas takes us to the colonial Americas; Aladdin to ancient Iraq and Mulan takes us to China. However, Disney has a penchant for stereotypes. Dumbo portrays African Americans as lazy nonsensical birds, while the jungle Book portrays African Americans as lazy, nonsensical monkeys. And whereas there are several Disney films, Arabs get the vilest depiction of their culture (Davis 33). The Phrygian opening tune of Aladdin communicates ideas of the Arab world, which the viewers are supposed to accept: “it’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.” The film’s subtle mash-up of Arab cultures leads to an unfair depiction of populaces whose universal heirloom is beyond an enthralled lamp (Davis 41). Scar and hyenas’ portrayal as having dark coats and dark mane in the Lion King is a symbolic coding. The society, links darkness with evil; therefore, with this, Disney sends a conflicting message regarding valuing all races.
Disney Company initiates youngsters into consumerism and never let go. Most parents can corroborate the unappeasable yen for the Disney products, which trails every film’s release. Disney not only encourages the consumerist behavior, but also trains children the consumerism habits (Batkin 231). Animations from Disney Company promote the projection of emotions onto objects; purchasing Disney merchandise provides extra interaction with these emotions. The company has unending communication avenues, which ensures ubiquity that it regularly ranks among the most influential brands in the world.
Watching content from Disney Company can have some positive aspects to it. Disney films stimulate societal awareness through the use of hero-villain epics and fairytale romances (Batkin 245). Disney’s live-action film, Lion King, implores viewers to make sacrifices like Simba, who gives up meat to balance the top and bottom food chains. Whereas Disney’ Monster Inc. explores the ways of extracting energy, Wall-E offers an apocalyptic caution against unbridled consumerism. In the past twenty years, Disney has examined many of the world’s emerging issues, and is still advancing its matchless voice to ever-adapting tête-à-têtes between society, audience, and film.
Disney movies build youngster’s capacity for hope, a critical tool for success. Central characters in Disney films usually overcome outwardly insuperable hurdles to lead to happier lives. Whether the barrier is a character’s eccentricities, a punishing stepmother, or poverty, heroes and heroines of Disney films reach a point of no return and rebound to success (Dundes 103). Psychologists have long acknowledged the potential of hope as a cognitive, motivational tool. The characters in Disney films embody the transformative power of faith, challenging youngsters to be hopeful.
Disney characters often break social expectations, inspiring children to follow their inner voices. Some of the roles in Disney films are outcasts. Quasimodo is the Hunchback of Notre Dame; the community in Ratatouille banished Remy; Mulan is too inflexible for a planned matrimony. And whereas every protagonist is out of touch with their environments, their rarity ultimately results in prominence. As a conqueror, Paris hails Quasimodo, Remy becomes an epicurean chef; and Mulan becomes a combatant who averts a conquest. The pariahs in Disney films defy society’s norms and call for young audiences to challenge them (Davis 44).
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The character for Mulan in the Disney film Mulan, plays a critical role in supporting the woman who is not satisfied with her subordinated place and therefore, takes action to show the society her real qualities and skills. This example is hardly portrayed in contemporary movies, films, and cartoons so that youngsters rarely relate to this image. Mulan, therefore, helps to endorse the idea of a smart modern woman that breaks gender limitations. Disney teaches young people to find their state of happiness instead of conforming to society’s expectations (Vogel 17).
Disney Company has not created biases, consumerism, or gender roles that permeate the world, although it has broadcasted and benefited from them. To the company’s credit, Disney is thinking about these concerns, and continue to animate characters that negotiate them in imaginative, inspiring ways. Disney movies are contributing to the shaping of the mentalities of future generations. The issues of expression, equality, safety, hope, and self-acceptance are beneficial to children. Disney movies also help us to challenge our present cultural and social comprehension of the world around us. Overall, showing Disney films to youngsters promotes positive actions and qualities.
Batkin, Jane. Identity in Animation: A Journey into Self, Difference, Culture and the Body. Routledge, 2017.
Davis, Jonita. Questioning Cultural Appropriation. Enslow Publishing, 2018.
Dundes, Lauren. The Psychosocial Implications of Disney Movies. MDPI, 2019.
Lunsford, Andrea, et al. Everything’s an Argument: With Readings. St Martin’s, 2019.
Vogel, Sarah. How can They Tell if I am Male or Female? Gender Stereotypes in Disney Movies. GRIN Publishing, 2016.