Disney and the End Innocence
Orientalism is another problem that pulses through all Disney films. Orientalsim is a Western style for dominating, restructuring and having authority over the orient. Disney has the ability to manipulate histories and cultures and we can see this comprehensively in Aladdin. We see how the Arabs are depicted as being barbaric and uncultured as well as violent, thus young children may form an unfavorable opinion of Arabs.
We are constantly made aware of the fact that America is superior to all other countries through the various forms of ethnic stereotyping in Disney films and because Disney is popular all over the world, America has become powerfully dominant. We can see this dominance in the following examples in Aladdin: The Princess, Prince and Sultan all have American accents whereas all of the other characters have oriental accents. This forms the perception that America is superior because it is the Americans who hold the highest positions in the films.
Both Jasmine and Aladdin do not have oriental features but their physical appearances appeal to Western standards. The fact that Jasmine only wants to marry for love is a Western belief whereas in Arabia arranged marriages are the norm. Also, folklore has a great deal to do with religion and the teaching thereof and the original Aladdin makes continuous reference to the Arabic religion. In Disney’s Aladdin however, there is no mention of religion whatsoever.
Western ideas are constantly pressed upon the rest of the world and Disney most certainly has no regard for cultural traditions. Aladdin is brimming full of negative depictions of ethnic backgrounds that are extremely detrimental to naive and inexperienced children. Disney’s capabilities run far and wide and probably the most damaging of all its abilities is its ability to disparage. Disney is so successful because it unconsciously manipulates its viewers into believing that they are not good enough.
By offering a particular lifestyle such as in Aladdin where riches and gold are plentiful and can be granted by the mere click of a genies fingers puts across the impression to youngsters that riches are essential to being loved and are vital for happiness. One of the most profound scenes in the entire film is when Aladdin says to his friend that one day things will change, he will be rich and happy and then everything will be ok. I believe that it is narrative such as this that is the cause of many problems in the world to day.
Disney creates a false sense of hope in both young and old, making the lifestyle seem so accessible when in reality it is not. Disney makes one feel as if they should not be satisfied with their lives. People thus feel that just watching Disney films is not enough. They feel the need to buy into the theme parks, lunch boxes, toys etc. Disney instills the sense of always wanting more and it is this very ploy that enables Disney to sell its cinema products so successfully. The viewer is passive and sheep like and thus open to these manipulations.
The extent to which all of Disney’s exploitations are problematic are highlighted by Giroux(1999). He proposes that Disney plays an integral part in shaping public memory, national identity and childhood values. He believes that we should question this popular culture and teach our children to question it as well. The fact that Disney creates a sense of National, unified culture deprives children of learning the genuineness regarding folklore and cultures and instead of being educated they are being brainwashed into a particular way of thinking.
As Giroux(1999) says, ” the strategies of escapism, historical forgetting, and repressive pedagogy in Disney’s movies… produce identifications that define United States as white, suburban, middle class and heterosexual. ” By adapting folklore into an American culture we have arrived at a truly universal philosophy. All convention and inviolability of original cultures has been lost. Disney’s victory is based on the conception of an image of innocence, magic and fun. It is however this conception that is corrupting our world, allowing for the creation of a future generation of power hungry inhabitants.
Stories that are told are the best indicators of the kind of society we live in, its standards, values and morals as well as its prejudices. We can accordingly conclude that through Disney, America has become a superior state who’s morals, standards and values leave nothing to be desired.
Henry A Giroux (1999) The Mouse that Roared:Disney and the End 0f Innocence. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield. Linda Nochlin(1989) The Imaginery Orient:The Politics of Vision, New York