Chyng Feng Sun wrote, directed and produced the film Mickey Mouse Monopoly. The film documents different opinions on how the Disney Corporation affects the children’s worldview. Dr. Henry Giroux opens with a stories from when he was writing and releasing the book “The Mouse that Roared. The Disney corporation, he says, presented many roadblocks in his getting published. Off the bat, this gives the viewers an idea of how much sway the seemingly innocent Mickey Mouse Corporation has over the media and information that get to us. “A fantasy that never needs to be questioned.” Giroux describe the clout Disney holds over the consumers. Then a detailed and compelling commentary by Dr. Justin Lewis tells us why Disney holds such power. Disney, he says, is one of a handful of corporations that own most of the media we consume. This poses a grave problem for democracy. A female voice over educates the audience on how the media conglomerates own too much of the media and thereby hold “unprecedented” control over the information and images that we see. This control, I must say would give such an entity the ability to mold stereotypes and even perpetuate.
The film also questions gender representation in Disney Films. Dr. Gail Dines dwells on the notion of femininity in the said films. The temptress, the weak, the damsel in distress, the list goes on. Other commentaries on the representation of minorities in these films. One teacher of liberal arts is disturbed by the fact that the Latinos are always seen as the one who does not know better. The stupid ones, Chihuahuas. She seemed quite offended by the notion that the Latinos are barely ever represented in these films and when they are, the images are rather insulting. Chyng Feng Sun also speaks of misrepresentation. She notes the Siamese twins and Mulan. She says that even if the representation of Asian people, particularly the Chinese have greatly improved, these people are still portrayed as backwards and extremely gender biased. A couple of African Americans also made commentaries about the representation of b lack folks in Disney films. They too were insulted by the representations of their race as the mischievous uncultured race. The Indian woman who made a commentary had the same sentiments toward the representation of her people as nothing more than red skinned folks with feather headdresses prancing about and making silly noises. It is understandable that a great deal of scrutiny and, to a certain degree, protest is posed toward these misrepresentations. As Dr. Diane Levin explained in the film, the children who see these representations do not make the mental comparison between these images and what they see in real life. So what they see in these films could very well be form what they think of these people. From this standpoint, it is quite evident that the media, especially the Disney Corporation, is indeed capable of molding the stereotypes and inculcating them into the minds of their patrons.
The film was nitpicking almost every Disney film they could get their hands on. Disney’s messages were taken apart and scrutinized, dissected, and perused from every possible angle. By the end of the film, one could almost certainly be sure that the observers would be shaking their heads in disapproval. However, I propose to lend a skeptical eye to this very convincing film. Yes there were clear misrepresentations in the film. Yes many of the films were not sensitive to gender or racial issues. And yes, these have grave consequences as we have seen demonstrated over and over in the film. Yes Disney has enough power to effectively mold how today’s children see the world. But what is Mickey Mouse guilty of exactly? The film itself mentions several times that a lot of things can be read into a certain piece. And is the Disney Corporation responsible for everything read into their films? I seriously doubt if the animators or writers came into work and said to themselves “I am going to mold how the child sees black people today.” On this point, at most, Disney is guilty of carelessness, of not thoroughly thinking about what their toons do. I do not believe that these mistakes were deliberate.
Another point that resounded was social responsibility. Toward the end of the film Dr. Giroux let loose a very emotionally appealing question, “Are they teachers or are they entertainers?” The answer is neither. They are businessmen. As bad as it seems, they did not get into the business to promote feminism or uphold racial equality. They never claimed to teach sensitivity to social issues. Also, what they show in their films are merely exaggerated stereotypes of the day. They did not create these stereotypes. They are not the ones who decided that the color black connotes badness or that the girls are supposed to be rescued. They merely followed the trend at the time. They are not the only ones with films of the same brand of humor, we still see a lot of that today. They are not the only ones who print their characters on shirts and shoes and bags and create action figures. They are not the only ones whose advertisements are designed to make kids pester their parents to buy things. They just happen to be one of the best in doing these things.
If we could step back for a second and try to imagine a world without Mickey Mouse, if the Disney corporation had never existed, can we really say that femininity would be represented differently? That the mulattos, Latinos, Asian’s, or China would be more fairly portrayed. I think not. So what is the Disney corporation guilty of. Surely it’s not an immaculate corporation, it is somehow also at fault. In my opinion, what the Disney corporation is guilty of is passivity. It is not guilty of creating or molding these stereotypes but instead of perpetuating and spreading them. It is not to be blamed for the misrepresentations that are so rampant in today’s media, but is guilty for preserving them. The biggest fault Disney has is not being a tool to change the media landscape and break these stereotypes.