Disney’s Power to Affect Molding Minds

It has been argued that Disney and its competitors, such as Pixar and DreamWorks, have used children’s movies to transmit subliminal messages to adolescent minds about various different topics.  In the past, I have studied how FDR, who when faced with the rapid spread of Nazism in the 1930s, created the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs within the Motion Picture section of the State department to promote the image of “the American way”.  The “American way” was used to promote the President’s Good Neighbor Policy, which reinforced the idea that the United States would be a “good neighbor” and engage in reciprocal exchanges with Latin American countries. FDR hired Hollywood to create propaganda, most notably in Disney films, to promote his policy, when in reality our country’s interest lied in being able to exploit the countries of Latin America in the wake of WWII.

The pro-Pan-America and the love thy neighbor propaganda campaign allowed the film industry to market the people of the “Americas” for US entertainment. With Europe shut off for business, America needed a look elsewhere for an economic partner. FDR wanted film studios to create movies about Latin Americas in order to bridge the cultural divide.  Instead, this resulted in film studios marketing a heightened stereotype of Latinos with pulsating music and oozing sexuality.  Most notably in Disney’s The Three Caballeros, the film studio portrayed the South of the Border as a thrilling, provocative, and intensely sexual culture, through characters such as Carmen Miranda.

The portrayal of Latinos in these films also reinforced the “typical” American social order.  In these movies, whoever came out on the top was a strong male who was civilized, ready to conquer, and play the roll as the savior in society.  Those who were often left behind were the females who were there to serve the sexual desires of men.  Latin men and women were shown as having hypersexual tendencies to the point of being flamboyant.  This goal was to show that this could in no way be a productive society, but rather a society that was dependent on the US to be civilized.

When I read in the article “School’s Out: Asexy teens” how Disney movies “feed the narratives that give [children] a narrow sense of their options when it comes to forming social, romantic, and sexual attachments,” I thought of Carmen Miranda.  Asexuality and “atypical” relations are rarely mentioned in children’s movies, as this is not perceived as ”normal”.  I would assume that if Disney marketed a movie where two princes fall in love, very few parents would be rushing to take their children to the movie theater to see it.  Not only do we see Disney highlight sexuality in American social policy, but also there are many other sexual references in the company’s movies.  There are countless examples of images and lyrics in Disney songs that have a sexual connotation.  The many hidden messages that Disney includes in its movies reinforces the notion that sex sells, and engrains in children’s minds that this is the “normal” lifestyle to lead.




Interesting Reads:

http://www.bgsu.edu/departments/tcom/faculty/ha/tcom103fall2003/gp13/gp13.pdf (about sexual images in Disney movies)

http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC39folder/3caballeros.html (about FDR’s Good neighbor policy and the sexualization of Latinos in Disney films)

3 thoughts on “Disney’s Power to Affect Molding Minds

  1. I agree fully that the media influences the way in which children form their interpretations of social norms. Its crazy to think of just how “in your face” a lot of these messages are and yet children continue to be fed the images of these characters that seem so innocent and yet are representations of sexuality, stereotypes, and lust.

  2. The block: As I was reading your post, I was wishing you had included images from The Three Caballeros or even a clip but I think that would be copyright infringement, so instead I offer this link to the imdb.com profile for the movie where readers can find links to clips of the film: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038166/

    Here is a link to an image of Carmen Miranda I found on Creative Commons (images that don’t need copyright) in case someone is not familiar with her image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/7477245@N05/6338215097/

    Help me to understand the link in your brain from the Disney discussion in our reading to Carmen Miranda. The connection is not clear to me.

  3. I feel that the image of Carmen Miranda reinforces the hypersexualized female in society. Carmen is designed to look how we as society characterize a normal “female”, granted an extremely sexy and provocative female, to be. Her enhanced beauty and sexuality are an inaccurate representation of Latin women and is purely designed so that she can seduce the Donald Duck character. It is ironic, though, that the Carmen Miranda character has become an icon in the gay community due to her flamboyant tendencies and elaborate costumes.

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