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Princesszilla

15 Nov

There’s a new villain in the Disney world.  He’s not ugly or vicious, at least judging by appearance; he’s not out to destroy anyone in particular and perhaps most importantly, he’s not a he – he’s a she.  She doesn’t appear in films, video games or television shows.  She’s real.  Yes, a real life villain.  Her name: Princesszilla.  The name sounds evil, but for Disney, she’s a “a dream come true.”

Similar to the question of, “When did Disney become Disney?” we can also ask, “when did the princesses become the princesses?”  Belle and Snow White and the rest of the crew have been around for decades, but it wasn’t until 2000 when the new chairman of consumer goods noticed the popularity of the princesses at a “Disney on Ice” show that he suggested marketing the princesses as a package.  The marketing began with a target audience of young girls and tweens, bombarding them with princess-group DVDs, books and other paraphernalia.  Slowly the market changed as older women became more interested and some might say, obsessed, with Disney princesses.  Ramin Setoodeh and Jennie Yabroff talk about Lindsey Timberman in their article, “Princess Power,” a bride whose wedding is taking on an entirely Disney princess theme (1).  The only problem: her fiancé is not nearly as excited as she is.  Her dress, modeled after Belle’s in “Beauty and the Beast,” is set to match the red roses (you might remember the red rose in the movie and the Beast’s quest to find love and be loved in return before the last petal fell, leaving him a beast forever), and Lindsey’s search continues for glass slippers.  Lindsey is not 8 years old, she’s 29.  And she’s still obsessed with the princesses and having a truly fairy tale wedding.  Perhaps her fiancé rescued her from a burning bridge or a giant castle, hence the inspiration.  But probably not.  Lindsey has clearly fallen for the mystical world of Disney princesses and the fun doesn’t have to stop at her wedding.  Sleepwear and houseware are next on the list for Disney’s expansion to appeal to an older demographic.

Disney is well aware of the success and potential for the princess campaign.  How could they not be when, “Princess is a $4 billion business that’s on its way to becoming the most successful marketing venture ever” (1)?

Hooking one consumer at a time (2)

While some parents are worried about the effects of Disney’s messages on their kids (gendered messages, racial stereotypes, the girl needing to be rescued, etc.), for some women the messages might never stop if their infatuation with the Disney empire never stops.  Many Disney fans outgrow the obsession in their teens, but if the obsession never stops, the messages are perpetuated throughout their lives, and their parents probably won’t be there to help block some of those messages.  At that point the children are no longer children, and they are responsible for seeing and interpreting messages.  And, if Disney-obsessed adults start having kids, what will the effect be on their children?  The amount of Disney in their children’s lives will probably increase tenfold, and their bedrooms might end up looking like this:

(3)

So these “Princesszilla’s,” an evil combination of bridezilla and princess, will continue to impose their Disney righteousness on others until they teach their children to do the same.  Although, the princess lifestyle doesn’t seem as glamorous when you look at it this way:

Is this what they're really trying to tell us? (4)

(1) Setoodeh, R., & Yabroff, J. (2007). Princess Power. Newsweek150(22), 66-67. Retrieved from Business Source Premier database.

(2) Cliff1066. (2008, December 19). Look Mickey, 1961, oil on canvas by Roy Lichtenstein. Image posted to http://www.flickr.com/photos/nostri-imago/3137425672/
(3) Orlando vacation home rental. Image posted to http://www.squidoo.com/orlandovacationhomerental
(4) Jardin, X. (2010, May 24). What Disney princesses teach girls. Image posted to http://www.boingboing.net/2010/05/24/what-disney-princess.html

How Disney remains Disney

15 Nov

One of my initial questions when beginning the process of debunking the Disney empire was to find out – how did Disney achieve this?  How did Disney become Disney?  Why can every child recognize a Disney princess, or sing the lyrics by heart to songs from “The Lion King,” or recognize an evil step-mother?  How did Disney do that?!  Although that still remains somewhat of a mystery, how they maintain that position is through a strategic business plan.  Not only does Disney know how to gain new customers, but they know how to continue pleasing repeat customers.  Their target audience may be children, but everyone knows that most of the money funneled into Disney comes straight from the pockets of those children’s parents.

(1)

So, how does Disney target those parents to make sure they’ll see them a second, third, fourth…time?  According to Carmine Gallo, a writer for BusinessWeek.com, it’s done by following these 5 steps  (2):

1. Employees should be respectful of all customers, including children.  Reach out to the kids, it may make the parent more inclined to stay in the store.

2. Nobody likes to wait in line, so make it entertaining.  Employees should strike up conversations with customers in line, tell them about upcoming events and new products (essentially: sell, sell, sell).

3. Keep up the appearance of your store, venue or website.  Whether you’re the CEO or the janitor, if you see a piece of trash on the ground, pick it up!  If you don’t have a store or physical location, your website becomes your location.  Make sure it’s aesthetically pleasing, easy to use and functional.

4. Differentiate between public space and private employee space.  Off-duty employee activities should be done out of view from customers.

5. Be “assertively friendly.”  Disney wants employees to seek contact with guests.  If someone looks confused or unhappy, approach them and ask how you can help.  Offer assistance until a solution is found.

Businesses that are a fraction of the size of Disney are implementing these tactics and finding huge success.  The fact that Disney does it on such an enormous scale explains at least some of the success they have in continuing to please children and their families.  So, instead of wondering how Disney casts this magical spell on you every time you walk into a store or theme park, snap back to reality and realize that no one is waving a wand in front of your face, the employees are simply taught exceptional customer service and selling techniques.  Doesn’t sound so magical when you put it like that, does it?

(1) Barker, Jeremy. Popped Culture. Image posted to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuUTdaJ_Obw&NR=1

(2) Gallo, C. (2009). How Disney Works to Win Repeat Customers. BusinessWeek.com, 20. Retrieved from Business Source Premier database.

Disney’s Beauty Ideal

14 Nov

Disney Stars

Carol Lieber and Temple Northup wrote a very insightful summary of their research on Disney Channel programming, titled, “The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful: Beauty Ideals on Disney and Nickelodeon.” They gathered information on the characters starring in these shows, and what types of messages they are sending to young children –girls in particular. The ways that most of the popular shows are set up reiterate the “beauty is good” ideal. To begin, they found that most characters were white and thin. They did not report even one overweight white character. The creators of the show did not hold African-Americans to the same ideal. (1) Lieber and Northup write, “An exception to this ‘thin ideal’ is found in portrayals of African Americans, with television characters revealing a much larger range in body sizes.” Reflecting on the Disney shows I used to watch, this is completely true. Raven-Simone in the television program, “That’s So Raven” represented a larger African-American teen girl. Aside from this, most of the main characters were roles played by thin, white teens.

Another division of their research included breaking down the characters on these shows into different categories like valley girl, girl next door, brainiac, athletic and classic beauty. Most of the characters fell under the categories classic beauty and girl next door. Both of these categories do not have any valuable positive traits. They are both sort of average, pretty girls. On the other hand, brainiac attributes the person with intelligence and athletic attributes the person with talented physical ability, agility and fitness. These were the two least rewarded categories through the lens of the show.

Of course it is difficult not to be influenced by the images that tweens are being bombarded with today. Lieber and Northup summarized this point perfectly, “in this media drenched world they are growing up in, it is difficult if not impossible to escape certain media messages”. The Disney franchise is especially persistent with cross-marketing and guerilla tactics which make their images of beauty far too available by the most vulnerable people in today’s society. Like everyone else, young girls develop values and ideas of the real world as they grow up. Looks are very important to most people today. It is reinforced by the media; then people internalize the values and spread them. It is a vicious cycle that can be very dangerous. Eating disorders and anti-social behavior can arise from these types of societal strains. For those being marketed to, these images can turn into serious problems because of the pressures to fit in. It is worthwhile to consider the beauty ideals promoted in th classic Disney movies: thin, primarily white, and lacking a dynamic personality. Disney’s beauty images are now being carried through to real, more relatable starlets. The photo featured left shows two of the most popular Disney stars – Miley Cyrus and Ashley Tisdale. They both represent the beauty ideal of being thin and white teens.

(1)   Lieber, C., & Northup, T. (2009). The Good, the Bad & the Beautiful: Beauty Ideals on Disney & Nickelodeon Channels. EMBSCO Host. Retrieved November 14, 2010, from http://web.ebscohost.com.silk.library.umass.edu:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=4&hid=107&sid=fb8508ac-f31b-4b60-89d7-17acec080af8%40sessionmgr104

Disney’s Influence on Young Kids

28 Oct

Initial research of the Disney influence on young girls made it clear that there is no shortage of information or opinions on the topic.  It is certainly a hot topic among parents and educators, despite its seemingly endless popularity.  Parents are aware of the messages being sent to their daughters; messages of powerlessness, the idea that your “Prince Charming” will save you, and body image standards.  The movies portray minorities in stereotypical roles, teaching children from a very young age what to expect of people who look a certain way or have a certain color skin.  Sure, parents are talking about these issues, but why not the viewers, the kids? They’re the ones watching and absorbing the information, but unfortunately, many aren’t consciously aware of the stereotypical and gendered messages being fed to them.

Devan, a mother who blogs on Accustomed Chaos, notes the lack of positive mother figures in Disney movies.  After watching “Chicken Little” one night with her husband and kids, Devan and her husband started thinking about how many movies lacked a mother – they came up with twelve just sitting there brainstorming on their own (1)!  It makes the involved fathers look good, but what does that lack of a mother teach young girls and boys? Perhaps that they can’t depend on their mother – she’ll either die, leave or end up evil?  Maybe the mother is left out of the story to force the main character into independence and maturity, but what’s the rush? It seems like a harsh theme to reoccur so often throughout Disney films.

A video on YouTube called, “Disney: Harmless Entertainment or Stereotype Perpetuators?” very clearly illustrates the racist characters in seven different Disney movies (2).  There’s Aladdin, the supposedly Saudi Arabian boy with white skin and a very non-Middle Eastern accent.  Sebastian, the Jamaican lobster who implies that under the sea is for lazy people who don’t like to work.  And the black crows in “Dumbo” who are experts on things that are “fly” and are led by the head of the group, “Jim Crow.”  Although subtle to young children, and even parents, when the stereotypes are pointed out, one wonders how they could have ever been overlooked.  The video goes on to show other characters created by a racist mindset in “The Jungle Book,” “Chip N’ Dale,” “Fantasia” and “Peter Pan.”

Pro-Disney parents and individuals claim that when you’re young you’re not picking up on these things, so it doesn’t matter that Disney portrays stereotypical and racist ideas in their films.  However, when young kids acknowledge that they’ve never seen an African-American character in a Disney movie, especially not in a positive light (until the most recent, “Princess and the Frog,” of course), there’s a problem.

Kids are proving to be more intuitive than some adults might believe, and Disney is directing them in the wrong direction.  Girls are taught to bat their eyelashes to get what they want; that big blue eyes, a tiny waist and voluptuous hips are standard and that no matter what, they will always live happily ever after.  On the contrary, young boys are taught to be macho, super-strong heroes waiting to rescue girls.  Disney instilling such extreme gender roles in children can assure us that no progress will be made in the future towards equal living for men and women.

Check out this video for a further explanation on racial stereotypes in Disney films.

 

(1) Devan. (2010, March 18). Disney Movies and Lack of Positive Female Influence. Message posted to http://www.accustomedchaos.com/2010/03/disney- movies-and-lack-of-positive.html

(2) Chapstick82591. (2009, December 7). Disney: Harmless entertainment or stereotype perpetuators? Video posted to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuUTdaJ_Obw&NR=1

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