The Not So Wonderful World of Disney
The “Wonderful World of Disney” has been a part of America for as long as I can
remember. With its movies, television shows, songs, theme parks, toys, and fictional characters,
Disney is the epitome of children’s entertainment. Disney serves as one of the largest sources of
entertainment to Americans, which is why it reigns as a commercial success and influence in our
country. According to Henry Giroux, a popular critic of the Walt Disney Company, Disney’s
immense success also represents “the power of the culture industries to mediate and influence
almost every aspect of our lives” (19). However, does Disney stand for pure and innocent
entertainment, or does it carry alternative motives that seem to be well-hidden from the public
eye? Many critics argue that Disney productions have the ability to affect American children and
families through their insensitive portrayal of certain aspects of society and culture.
Critics mark the idea of negative social influences as one of Disney’s most ubiquitous
problems. In a study done on the role of the Walt Disney Company, Vincent Faherty explains
that Disney displays certain aspects of “social vulnerability which need to be raised to a level of
public consciousness, given they do affect so many children and families “(17). For example,
Disney emphasizes social vulnerability through the overwhelming male dominance displayed in
their animated films. Faherty argues that even though there have been recent movies such as
Mulan and Pocahontas, which portray strong female roles, “the quantitative disproportion of
male characters in Disney animated films needs to be addressed if we expect children to be able
to relate to appropriate role models” (19). Lack of females in Disney animated films may give
children an altered view of modern society, where men serve as the most influential participants.
Males are usually the heroes, the villains, and the parent figures in Disney movies. If men are
always the heroes, then women are always the ones who have to be rescued. Females in Disney
films lack the ability to save their own lives. The negative influence comes with males who play
the typical “bad guy” roles. Faherty explains that the prevalence of males in villainous roles
“should be analyzed for its potential negative impact on children and their relationships with
caring male adults” (19). Along with heroes and villains, males seem to dominate the parent
figures as well. In her book Deconstructing Disney, Eleanor Byrne explains the phenomena that
the female characters in most Disney movies typically exist as teenaged girls with no mother.
She points out that in the instance of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, “Ariel’s
mother is never mentioned, neither is Belle’s; in subsequent films, Princess Jasmine is
motherless in Aladdin, Pocahontas bonds with her father by grieving over her dead mother, and
Quasimodo’s mother dies on the steps...