From the first toy we play with to the first thing we see on a television screen, everything has its brand name. Popular names like Disney ring in our ears from the earliest age, instilling brand loyalty amongst the youngest. But what does all this mean? Is it too much too soon? And what kind of values do youngsters gain from all this?
To understand it all we have to take a look at the study of ideological criticism. The text Critical Approaches of Television examines ideological criticism as, “the ways in which texts reflect the dominant ideas, agendas, and policies of the society in which they are produced and consumed” (p.292). This concept differs from others because of the way it examines our use of brands and products in our everyday lives. It looks at the underlying effects of how different texts in our lives affect us as people.
Are you confused a little? Well, let’s take a look at the idea of ideology. According to our Professor, Dr. Sandy Nichols, ideology is “a means of exerting power. An instrument dominant elites use to extend control over others. It works to maintain existing power relations.” In our class we have taken the idea of ideology and applied it to the political economy perspective. This theory, “examines the role of ownership in media industry and how production and distribution practices shape the media texts.” In short, it’s a way for the conglomerates of the world to have some power over the people. In our lectures, we focus on the mass media and how conglomerates control what we see, buy, and use.
Now, let’s apply this to the real world and look at the Walt Disney Company. Disney is one of the biggest conglomerates of the world, owning shares in many different companies. A large portion of things we see as a child are distributed by Disney. In terms of the political economic perspective, Disney is a large hegemonic force. Disney has a large control over what we see and play with. Disney also has a large part in the values that are enforced upon us at a very young age.
A documentary we watched in class, Mickey Mouse Monopoly, delves deep into the world of the Walt Disney Company and how they as a company have come to affect our lives over the years. The documentary examines all different aspects of Disney and how they shape our lives more then we may think.
The documentary examines the different values we as little kids learn from the various movies and products. It is explained in the movie that, “Disney is dangerous because it is sublime kind of education. It is absorbed by our young people’s minds as entertainment.” Children look at Disney as fun and exciting. Disney movies are often children’s favorites growing up. But, what do the values in these movies teach children, especially young girls?
A good example of this concept and how Disney is part of the theme of hegemonic power is, Beauty and the Beast. In the movie, Belle is kidnapped by the Beast and held hostage in his palace. Beast is exerting his control and power over her. But, as Belle spends more time with Beast and she comes to love him, she believes she can change him. This goes hand in hand with the hegemonic concept of patriarchy, how men hold more power over women. Little girls may take these ideas learned in Beauty in the Beast and apply it to real life. In the documentary many little girls interviewed agreed that they would be able to change and help an abusive man, they wouldn’t leave him.
Think I’m reading too much into this? Well, let’s look at another example, The Little Mermaid. Arielle quickly gives up her voice in the movie to become a human being. She falls in love with a man, but they can’t even speak to each other. He knows nothing about her, only what he sees on the outside. Arielle was willing to give up the most important part of her so she could be with a man. What does this message teach little girls? That looks are more important than personality. Also, that it doesn’t matter what we have to change about ourselves to get a man. These messages are unfortunately depicted everywhere through Disney movies.
It is important we study these concepts because of the large role it plays in our lives. As we have examined, Disney isn’t full of innocence and fun. It is a large conglomerate that has come to instill values in us over the years. It’s important for us to be aware of the role Disney and other large corporations play in our lives because it has more power over us then we think. These ideas may be innocent on the surface, but ugly and complicated underneath.
Vande Berg, L. R., Gronbeck, B. E., & Wenner, L. A. (1998). Critical Approaches to Television . Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Mickey Mouse Monopoly Transcript