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Rethinking Giroux’s Disney Essay

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In Henry Giroux’s book, “The Mouse that Roared” he argues that Disney animated movies lead to the end of innocence in children. He focuses mainly on the images that Disney portrays towards gender roles and gender stereotyping. He primarily targets the issues that women are portrayed as being subordinate to men and are viewed as property and objects of desire instead of as human beings. Giroux is unconvincing in his argument because he writes above the level of thinking and comprehension that most children who are exposed to Disney films would posses; by focusing on specific scenes, while ignoring the overall morals throughout the rest of the movies, he takes the message Disney is trying to illustrate out of context.

Since Giroux’s argument is directed to the effect Disney animated movies have on the innocence of children, he discusses what images are portrayed and are picked up by children who view the films. He mainly explains that Disney movies teach young girls that men are dominate over women, and that men care more about a woman’s image rather than what a woman has to say. Giroux fails to consider that the children exposed to Disney films would not comprehend the message in the same way he does.

The images that Giroux discusses such as; “Ursula’s disclosure to Ariel that having her voice taken away is not so bad because men do not like women who talk is dramatized when the prince attempts to bestow the kiss of true love on Ariel even though she has never spoken to him. Within this rigid narrative, Ariel’s maturity and identity are limited to her feminine attractability and embodied by heterosexual marriage,” children from the ages of 5-13 are not able to comprehend the analogies and imagery that he points out. Children at that age are more interested in the whimsical entertainment of the films and are too innocent and oblivious to any of the symbolism that Giroux maybe trying to insinuate are present in the films.

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In the Little Mermaid children are more captivated by the singing sea creatures and the wonderful colors of the ocean than by storyteller’s views on women having a voice in society. Giroux argues that in Beauty and the Beast, Belle teaches young women that they are responsible for controlling a man’s anger and violence, and that any woman can change an abusive man into a Prince. However many children are going to be focused on the dancing, singing furniture rather than analyzing the message Giroux interprets; that Belle is just a prop used to solve the beast’s dilemma. The age of children that will be most influenced by Disney films, are at a level of thinking where they have not begun to recognize and understand the images that Giroux describes are embedded in the Disney films.

Giroux supports his claims by dissecting various scenes from Disney animations to better describe his insinuations on what Disney films teach children. However Giroux tends to over analyze and take certain criteria out of context, and disregards other parts of the movies that would cause some of his analysis to be incorrect. For example he states that “in Aladdin the issues of agency and power center primarily on the young street tramp Aladdin. Jasmine, the princess he falls in love with, appears as an object of his desire as well as a social stepping-stone.” In the movie however, Aladdin is not in search of power and does not view Jasmine as a social-stepping stone, instead he wishes to be a prince in order to be allowed to marry Jasmine, the woman he loves. However in the end he chooses not to be a prince even if it means losing Jasmine, in order to help his friend and to be true to who he really is.

Giroux fails to examine the rest of the movie which in result supports that Jasmine is not a social-stepping stone to Aladdin, since he only wanted to be a prince in order to be with her and then gave up his standing in the end. For those in Giroux’s audience who have seen the entire movie, the ending contradicts Giroux’s argument which then weakens it. Giroux argues that in the movie The Little Mermaid, Ariel giving up her voice for a pair of legs so she can go above the sea to be with her prince, illustrates that men do not care about what women have to say, but instead are more interested in their looks. Giroux doesn’t take into account that Prince Eric didn’t truly fall in love with Ariel until she got her voice back and he realized she was the one he was looking all over town for.

Ursula also used Ariel’s voice in order to hypnotize Eric in to loving her, since she knew Eric was in love mainly with Ariel’s voice. This supports that Ariel’s voice matters immensely to Prince Eric, not just her looks, which highly contradicts Giroux’s argument. Without analyzing the full movie, Giroux fails to provide strong supporting evidence, because he does not realize that scenes from the rest of the movie contradict the image he feels Disney is insinuating to children. Many who have seen the full movies he uses as examples will see how other scenes in the film disprove his argument, causing him to become less convincing to his audience.

Giroux may be right that Disney can have a negative effect on the innocence of children, and that parents should be cautious when showing Disney movies to their children. When discussing the movie Mulan Giroux presents a strong argument when he states that Mulan has to hide who she is in order to enter the war and help her father. He claims that she is a strong, independent, and bold female, but must change herself into one of the boys so as to help her country and family. In this example he uses the full movie as an example instead of focusing on one scene of the movie. In his example of The Lion King Giroux argues of when Mufasa dies and Scar takes over pride rock, the lionesses stay and do his bidding.

He suggests that Disney is insinuating women are dependent on men to lead them. Instead of taking one particular scene out of context he uses the entire movie as an example, as well as insinuates a message that may not be out of comprehensible reach for children who watch this particular Disney movie. Throughout the film the lionesses rely on a man to lead their “pack” and to help them make decisions. Even at the end of the movie the lionesses did not rebel and fight back towards Scar until Simba returned and lead them into a revolt against Scar and the hyenas; making Giroux successful in presenting a strong argument to his audience.

Giroux discusses certain images that he feels Disney portrays to children and assumes that the children viewing the films will see the same illustrations, or comprehend the embedded stereotypes in the same way he does. However he does not take into account that the target audience that Disney attracts is at too young of an age to comprehend the morals he insinuates Disney is communicating, mainly because those morals have not been taught to children, or have not been exposed to such life experiences, therefore are ignorant to the stereotypes in the films. Many of the scenes that Giroux discusses are accurate in plot, but he seems to take certain parts of the films out of context and dramatizes the morals that Disney is trying to communicate to its audience. Instead of looking at the overall moral of the story he tends to focus on the scenes that enhance his argument, rather than include all scenes in which could begin to discredit his point of view, causing his writing to lack strong supporting evidence.

Giroux, Henry. The Mouse that Roares. Lanham: The Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group, 2010. Print.

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