The mouse that roared

One of my favorite subjects! I hope to go to my grave without ever have stepped foot in Disney World:

In American culture, Disney has become synonymous with childhood. Present-day grandparents grew up watching the animated films, wearing Mickey Mouse pajamas and begging to go to Disneyland. But while it all seems innocent, few people have considered the hold that the Disney Corporation has not only on their own lives, but on the world as a whole.

Henry Giroux and Grace Pollock explore this relationship between consumer and industry in their book “The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence.”

Cuddly cartoon animals and whimsical fairy-tale stories are merely Disney’s public face. The expansive conglomerate is not limited to Disney film and theme parks. It also owns six motion picture studios, ABC television network and its 226 affiliated stations, multiple cable television networks, 227 radio stations, four music companies, three cruise lines, theatrical production companies, publishing houses, 15 magazine titles and five video game development studios. This media and culture monopoly goes unnoticed by most Americans, who just want to indulge their childhood fantasies as Disney so deftly enables with its movies, theme parks and merchandise.

[…] Cultural pedagogy provides the lens through which Giroux and Pollock evaluate not only the media monopoly the Disney conglomerate has built, but also the impact of that media on the development of cultural attitudes and behavior through the targeting of youth, beginning today with Disney video programs aimed at infants.

The Baby Einstein products are designed to entertain and educate children as young as three months. However, according to the Journal of Pediatrics, infants who watched an hour or more of television a day displayed slower language development. While the Baby Einstein Company did eventually remove the section from their web site claiming that their videos had educational value for children, a 2007 study still showed that 48 percent of parents thought these videos had a positive effect on young children.

“The Mouse that Roared” also draws attention to the gender stereotypes in Disney princess movies, from older cartoons such as “The Little Mermaid” to their newest, “Enchanted.”

“Disney has become a major player in global culture, and the first casualties of its dominance in popular culture are, of course, those who are most defenseless – children,” the book warns.

5 thoughts on “The mouse that roared

  1. There are two distinct issue here. How Disney corrupts our society; and does watching too much TV turn you into the village idiot? On the first issue, it is well known that Walt Disney was sympathitic to Hitler and his brand of Fascism. Draw your own conclusions. On the latter issue, village idiots are not a product of watching too much TV but rather that our public schools are staffed by the bottom third of all college graduates. Again, draw your own conclusions.

  2. “…village idiots are not a product of watching too much TV but rather that our public schools are staffed by the bottom third of all college graduates.”

    The fact that Sarah Palin was never a public school teacher undermines this contention, but the fact that her evolution-denying father was a substitute science teacher supports it. Life is complicated.

  3. Overall, Disney is a figure to be admired. Like any other human being, he was not perfect and his continuing legacy is not either. On balance, his contribution weighs heavily on the positive side.

    Disney gave me and other kids in miserable childhoods hope that there exists something better and good in the world. He demonstrated that pursuing excellence and quality is a worthy goal. He also continued to expand and improve after he was already on top of his field, having achieved his goals. Also, he stuck to his mission – which was to provide entertainment and encourage education for children and families. This is in stark contrast to large companies today, which have stated goals of increasing profits by any means possible. If their underlying ‘business’ isn’t profitable, just sell it or liquidate it and do something else. The current idea isn’t about providing a quality service or product, jobs for your community, and being successful while doing it (e.g. Disney). The current idea is to make the owners of the business filthy rich – screw the workers and community obligations are a quaint, laughable notion from the past. Caveat emptor, buddy.

    While today’s Disney may not be 100% politically correct, and may indulge in Smallville thinking a bit too much, my vacations to Disneyland and Disneyworld have been completely enjoyable. I’m glad to have taken my kids there and it was a terrific experience.

    Have all Disney films been perfect? Certainly not – some were terrible. But most were quite good, and some exceptional.

    I think we liberals have a tendency to be so critical, we forget to emphasize what works well. Sure, strive to do better, point out the flaws. But if we’re failing to acknowledge what’s good about something, we’re missing the potential benefits as well.

  4. The Pepto Bismal colored Princess thing is SO nauseating! Such a great role model for our little girls. YUK! Baby Einstein is for lazy parents when READING to one’s child has always been better…. Oh! I could go on! I’m with you Susie, as much as the family want to take the nieces in our clan, I just can’t go along. Yes, I too, could go to my grave without regret of not visiting Disney World. But, I do have a guilty pleasure thing for Jiminy Cricket!

  5. About ten years ago I went to Orlando to keep my husband company on a week-long business trip. I didn’t go to the pay part of Disney but I did visit the free Downtown section, or whatever it was called. That was mostly bars and restaurants put up to lure in the locals, and it was enough of a taste of Disney for me. It was like being in multiple stage sets.

    Anyway, in my travels up and down International Drive (the part of Orlando with the convention center, hotels, outlet stores and other non-Disney tourist attractions), I was struck by a bookstore window display in one of the malls: about a dozen books, all critiquing Disney. Evidently there’s a lot to criticize.

    Leafing through the books, I saw that one of the creepiest aspects of the Disney empire is that they appear to function outside the law the rest of us live under. For example, when there is an accident at Disney, they investigate — no other authorities are let in. That complicates the victims’ ability to sue. So there is a dash of facism there.

    I’m not sure it’s fair to lay Baby Einstein on them, though. Those videos were the creation of a mom who then sold out to Disney, and it was her claim that the tapes were good for babies. They did keep my kid relaxed at the kids’ haircut place when he was young and squirmy so they had some use to me. But no, I never thought they were educational — they didn’t even have a storyline to follow.

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