Lauren's Blog

“A Whole New World of Consumerism”

Posted on: June 20, 2011

Ever wonder what political economists are thinking about? Mainly focusing on the role of ownership in the media industry, but they’re increasingly concerned about the topic of commercialization and advertising to children. Through synergistic practices such as cross-promotion, cross-advertising, and blockbusters, the Disney Corporation promotes this topic the best!

In order to fully understand how political economists analyze this topic, the concept of ideological criticism must be explained. Ideological criticism explains how ideas are embedded in and circulated through texts. Also, how they reflect the interests of dominant elites and how ideas become accepted as normal and natural while remaining unnoticed and unchallenged.

There is value in the assumptions associated with ideological criticism. First, there is value in understanding how media institutions, texts, and practices establish and sustain existing power relations. Second, informing and empowering the oppressed to strive for material changes to improve quality is ultimately important. Third, exposing and challenging dominant and often taken-for-granted ideas and values are necessary and confrontational.

So What Does All This Mean?

Political economists examine how production and distribution practices shape media texts through ideas embedded and circulated throughout various media texts. Furthermore, political economists focus on the issues of ideology of materialism or “consumerism” and its influence on our consumer culture.

As stated earlier, the Disney Corporation is a prime example of how the growing power and reach of global media conglomerates dominate the culture of consumption and advertising to children.

Who Owns What?

The Walt Disney Company is the largest media conglomerate in the world in terms of revenue. This huge conglomerate is divided into theatre, radio, publishing, and online media. Disney owns and operates the ABC broadcast television network; cable television networks such as Disney Channel, ESPN, and ABC Family.  Disney operates four primary divisions: The Walt Disney Studio, Parks and Resorts, Disney Consumer Products, and Media Networks.

Institutional Level of Disney

Disney can be analyzed through the institutional level of ideological criticism. The institutional level focuses on language, words, and symbols of media texts through political economy, social/institutional power analysis, and multicultural ideological critique.

As seen in the film Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood & Corporate Power, there are hidden signs and symbols in the Disney films. Disney films demonstrate these symbols and words through its characters. For example, Disney creates its childhood culture through innocence, magic, and fun. Children are taught to act and dress like the characters they see through the films they watch.

The Disney Princess’s include: Snow White, Pocahontas, Aurora, Ariel, Tiana, Cinderella, Jasmine, Belle, and Mulan. An example of hidden signs and symbols can be seen in the film Aladdin. Jasmine the princess, seduces Jafar and distracts him away from Aladdin. Jasmine is dressed in a revealing red low cut top and flowing pants with her hair up and make-up on. She slyly walks toward Jafar and tells him he is “handsome” and that his beard is “twisted”.  This erotic behavior from the Princess displays the attitude that you can use your body to get what you want from men.  The deeper meaning of this clip should ask the question, “What is this teaching young children and how are they interpreting the way that Jasmine acts?” Because it is a Disney film and innocence and fun is the motto, they replicate what they see through the main characters and think it is the proper way to act.

Social/Institutional Power

Disney can also be analyzed through social/institutional power. This uses the critical theory of structuralism and the study of a whole text. We create wholeness or structure using various levels of perception. The perception that Disney wants to create is a fantasy world for children. Disney creates this structuralism and wholeness through its multiple medias: Film, Television, Disney parks and attractions, and Online media. This can come as a concern because Disney portrays “innocence” and “fun” to children, but in various films there is violence, sexuality, and language that are unsuitable for young children. Disney is so prominent in our society that children are raised on the culture of Disney and everything that comes with it.

Multicultural Ideology

Multicultural ideology refers to how these factors shape representations of gender, race, class, and sexuality to study ideologies embedded in texts. Disney uses a variety of characters from different races and class. For example, in the 2009 film titled The Princess and the Frog, the main character and princess Tiana is the first black princess to be in a Disney film. This shows that Disney is expanding in multiculturalism through its characters. Also, in the film Aladdin, Aladdin comes from a low-class as a street urchin and meets the princess Jasmine. Jasmine comes from a high-class background and is required to marry a prince. This example shows children that someone from another class and culture can show you a different perspective of the world. In the end, Aladdin and Jasmine fall in love and leave all differences of culture and class aside and share “A Whole New World” together.

From Cradle To Grave

Why is it important to examine media through the lens of a political economist? Well, from cradle to grave, children are being marketed and advertised to through the media. According to the film, Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood, children spend 40 billion dollars a year on products. They have power in the economy and are a huge component in brand marketing and product placement in the media. Children are being convinced every day that life is about buying and what you wear represents who you are as a person. Parents, as well as children, think that if they don’t buy the latest gadgets and clothes that they will be left behind.  This is a concern for political economists because they know the importance of selling and promoting products to children and therefore hold the power position.

It is clear that what children watch, shapes their world around them. There is an increasing dominance of advertising and marketing to children through synergistic practices.  As the largest media conglomerate in the world, Disney works its way up the corporate ladder in ownership, and there is increasing concerns for how its commercialization influences children’s lives. From cradle to grave, Disney will be a huge influence on children’s lives. From a political economists perspective, the children hold the future to the economy and promotion of consumption and materialism will continue to increase.

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2 Responses to "“A Whole New World of Consumerism”"

Lauren,
I very much enjoyed reading your blog. The short paragraphs and subheadings make it very easy to read through. Pictures placed throughout your blog posts make it eye catching as well. The links placed within the blog were very helpful to find more information on the topics. You had a very interesting take on the movie Aladdin, in terms of showing a princess marring beneath her social status. This shows young girls a positive message that can be extracted from the film. From your blog I learned the companies that Disney has stake in. It was important to see the break down of what exactly they own in order to be aware of the media messages being sent through their outlets. It may have also been beneficial to give number of the amount of money Disney spends on advertising for what they make in profits in order to give the reader a better grasp on how big of a company they really are. A site, such as this one could allow the reader to learn more about the earnings of the Disney company; http://finapps.forbes.com/finapps/jsp/finance/compinfo/CIAtAGlance.jsp?tkr=DIS. I like how you used an example with Absolut Vodka because it appeals to the college age audience that is reading your blog. This example draws the reader in. Your first post had an insight to you as a writer. It would be nice to see that personal touch throughout your other posts as well. Overall this was an interesting and informative blog.

Lauren, I read your title and immediately heard the “A Whole New World” song playing in my head. The close proximity of your picture also aided this. So from the beginning my hearing is being artificially stimulated (because of the music in my head), and my eyes are drawn in on the words and images. Two out of five senses isn’t bad. I must say your writing style is very professional and polished. This is the type of writing I would expect to see in print media or even on a company’s website. I never thought about formatting my blog in the manner that you do by using titles of the topics to be discussed below. When you use Aladdin to discuss class and multicultural ideology you say Aladdin and Jasmine leave there differences and begin “A Whole New World” together. I would disagree. There may be a new world for Aladdin but in terms of class it stays the same for Jasmine. So I would insist that the message is if you want to be with someone from a higher class you must conform to their lifestyle. You did a wonderful job at embedding images and wrapping the text around them. Also you provide your readers with an abundance of links to further develop an understanding. Congratulations on a job well done!

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