Are Disney films good for children? How do they represent issues of gender, race, colonialism, and sexuality? And what is Disney's role in the globalization and commercialization of childhood? In this module, we will explore the centrality of the Disney corporation to the construction and globalization of childhood in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Founded in 1923, the Disney company rapidly expanded throughout the latter half of the 20th century, coming to define our idea of childhood, both locally and globally. From movies, to theme parks, to branded commodities, Disney has permeated many aspects of childhood, impacting both how children experience themselves and how they experience the world around them.
In order to unpack this impact, we will approach Disney from a global perspective, considering how the company emerged, expanded, and eventually came to have such an influential relationship to childhood. To this end, we will view and discuss one of Disney's most famous cultural productions--the Disney movie--considering how these films, which are designed for and viewed by children around the world, represent issues of race, gender, colonialism, sexuality, and politics.
Additionally, we will also consider Disney`s wider role in the spread of Western capitalism and consumerism. Our wager, throughout this class, is that, far from being political benign, media made for and distributed to children has a significant impact on the organization of culture and politics globally and, together, we will aim to understand its effects through Disney.
Disney & Corporate Childhood
View in Class: Steamboat Willie (Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney, Walt Disney Productions, 1928) [8 min.]
Elizabeth Bell, et. al., `Introduction: Walt`s in the Movies` From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture, p. 1-17
Henry A. Giroux and Grace Pollock, `Are Disney Movies Good for Your Kids?: How Corporate Media Shape Youth Identity in the Digital Age,` in Kinderculture: the corporate construction of childhood. P. 73-92.
Henry Giroux, `Introduction: Disney`s Troubled Utopia,` The Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence, p. 1-17
Henry Giroux, `Disney and the Politics of Public Culture,` The Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence, p. 17-61
`Who's the Fairest of them All?`: Whiteness & The Disney Princess
VIEW: Snow White
Tiya Miles, `Mirror, Mirror on the Wall,` Women Worldwide: Transnational Feminist Perspectives on Women, Ed Janet Lee and Susan M. Shaw, McGraw Hill, p. 98-100
Dorothy Hurley, `Seeing White: Children of Color and the Disney Fairy Tale Princesses,` The Journal of Negro Education 74.3 (2005): 221-232
Peggy McIntosh, `White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack` (1989): https://www.wcwonline.org/Fact-Sheets-Briefs/white-privilege-unpacking-the-invisible-knapsack-2
Sing It, Sister!: Voice, Embodiment, & Femininity
VIEW: The Little Mermaid
Laura Sells, `'Where do the Mermaids Stand?: Voice and Body in The Little Mermaid,` From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture, p. 175-192
Elizabeth Bell, `Somatexts at the Disney Shop: Constructing the Pentimentos of Women's Animated Bodies` From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture, p. 107-124
Pamela Colby O'Brien, `The Happiest Films on Earth: A Textual and Contextual Analysis of Walt Disney`s Cinderella and The Little Mermaid,` Women's Studies in Communication 19.2 (1996): 155-183
He's a Beast: Masculinity, Class, & Heteronormativity
VIEW: Beauty & the Beast
Susan Jeffords, `The Curse of Masculinity: Disney`s Beauty and the Beast` From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture, 161-172
KA Martin and Emily Kayzak, `Hetero-Romantic Love and Heterosexiness in Children's G- Rated Movies,` Gender and Society, 2009.
Anthropocentric Interlude: Between Child & Animal
VIEW: The Jungle Book
Susan Willis, `Disney's Bestiary,` Rethinking Disney: Private Control, Public Dimensions. Ed. Mike Budd and Max H. Hirsch. Middleton, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2005. 53-74.
Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart, `From the Child to the Noble Savage` How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic (New York: International General, 1984): p. 48-58
Scott Hermanson, `Truer than Life: Disney`s Animal Kingdom` in Rethinking Disney: Private Control, Public Dimensions, Ed. Mike Budd and Max H. Hirsch (Middleton, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2005): 199–230.
Cynthia Chris, `The Disneyfication of Nature` in Watching Wildlife (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press, 2006): 28-44.
Patrick D. Murphy, `The Whole Wide World was Scrubbed Clean`: The Androcentric Animation of Denatued Disney,` From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture, 125-136
Megan Condis, `She was a beautiful girl and all of the animals loved her`: Race, The Disney Princesses, and Their Animal Friends,` Gender Forum 2015
Nicholas Sammond, `Dumbo, Disney, and Difference: Walt Disney Productions and Film as Childre`s Literature,` The Oxford Handbook of Children`s Literature. (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011): 147–166.
A Whole New World: Race & Orientalism
Said, Edward. `Introduction,` Orientalism. p. 1-38.
Erin Addison, `Saving Other Women from Other Men: Disney`s Aladdin,` Camera Obscura 11 (1993): 4-25
Jack Shaheen, `Aladdin: Animated Racism,` Cineaste 21.3 (1993), p. 49
Henry Giroux, `Children's Culture and Disney`s Animated Films,` The Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence, p. 83-121
Lila Abu-Lughod, `Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others,` American Anthropologist vol 104.3 (2002): 783-790
Jacquelyn Kilpatrick, `Disney`s 'Politically Correct` Pocahontas,` Cineaste 21.4 (1995), p. 36-37
Derek Buescher & Kent Ono, `Civilized Colonialism: Pocahontas as Neocolonial Rhetoric,` Women`s Studies in Communication, vol 19.2 (1996): 127-153
Radha Jhappan and Davia Stasiulis, `Anglophilia and the Discrete Charm of the English Voice in Disney`s Pocahontas Films,` Rethinking Disney: Private Control, Public Dimensions. Ed. Mike Budd and Max H. Hirsch. Middleton, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2005. Pp. 150-180
Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart, `From the Noble Savage to the Third World,` How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic (New York: International General, 1984): 59-80
Andrea Smith, `Sexual Violence as a Tool of Genocide,` Conquest: Sexual Violence & American Indian Genocide. Durham: Duke UP (2005): p. 7-34
Derek Buescher & Kent Ono, `Deciphering Pocahontas: Unpackaging the commodification of a native American woman,` Critical Studies in Media Communication, vol 18.1 (1999): 23-43
Democratic Imaginaries: Disney, Politics, & Multiculturalism
VIEW: The Lion King
Eleanor Byrne and Martin McQuillan, `'You Can't Lionize the Lion: Racing Disney,` Deconstructing Disney (1999): 94-100
Matt Roth, `The Lion King: A Short History of Disney-Fascism,` Jump Cut, no 40. March 1996 p. 15-20
Rosina Lippi-Green, `Teaching Children How to Discriminate,` English with an Accent: Language, Ideology, and Discrimination in the United States, p. 101-129.
Annalee Ward, `The Lion King`s Mythic Narrative: Disney as Moral Educator,` Journal of Popular Film and Television (1996), 171-178
Maurya Wickstrom, `The Lion King, Mimesis, and Disney`s Magical Capitalism,` Rethinking Disney: Private Control, Public Dimensions. Ed. Mike Budd and Max H. Hirsch. Middleton, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2005. 99-124
Disney Rebooted: Ecofeminism & Indigeneity
Jill Birnie Henke, et. al., `Constructions of the Female Self: Feminist Readings of the Disney Heroine,` Women`s Studies in Communication, 19 (2): pp. 229-249
Disney-World: Disneyland, Consumer Culture, and the Globalization of American Childhood
Henry Giroux, `Globalizing the Disney Empire` & `Turning America into a Toy Store` The Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence, p. 157-220
Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto, `Imagines of Empire: Tokyo Disneyland and Japanese Cultural Imperialism,` Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom, p. 181-202
Lee Artz, `Monarch, Monsters, and Multiculturalism: Disney`s Menu for Global Hierarchy,` Rethinking Disney: Private Control, Public Dimensions. Ed. Mike Budd and Max H. Hirsch. Middleton, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2005. 75-98.
Henry Giroux and Grace Pollack, `Disney, Militarization, and the National-Security State after 9/11` n The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010): 133–56.
Richard deCordova, `The Mickey in Macy`s Window: Childhood, Consumerism, and Disney Animation,` Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kindgom, p. 203-213
Louis Marin, `Utopic Degeneration: Disneyland` in Utopics: The Semiological Play of Textual Spaces, Trans. Robert A. Vollrath (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1990): 239–58.
Jean Baudrillard, `The Hyperreal and the Imaginary` from `The Precession of Simulacrum` in Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Faria Glaser. University of Michigan Press, 1994. 12–14.
Greg Siegel, `Disneyification, the Stadium, and the Politics of Ambiance,` Rethinking Disney: Private Control, Public Dimensions. Ed. Mike Budd and Max H. Hirsch. Middleton, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2005. P. 299-324.