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Racism in Disney Films Essay

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What images come to mind as one reflects upon his or her childhood? Playgrounds, blackboards, and soccer balls may be among the fondest of memories. Yet, for many, mermaids swim their thoughts, princesses get swept off their feet, and lions roar to their royal place in the animal kingdom. Disney films have captivated the American culture for years and have become a pivotal part of popular culture as well as a form of education. However, these films have devoured the youth of America and, in the process; have perpetuated an institutionally racist society based on harsh stereotypes. Minorities are often underrepresented, and even completely left out, of many Disney films such as Dumbo (1941), The Lion King (1994), Aladdin (1992), and Pocahontas (1995). As students enter the doors of schools, they bring with them the notion that white characters and people are superior to blacks or other minorities because that is how they are depicted in Disney films. However, is the “magical world of Disney” a true depiction of the world? Or is it more of an extremely limited perception?
In a time ravaged by war and depression, the great Walt Disney created a fairy tale world in which Americans could escape the disheartening truth. What started out as a mouse frolicking across a screen, has become a corporate giant steamrolling across America, consuming children’s imaginations and belief systems along the way. In the movie Mickey Mouse Monopoly (2001), it is stated that Disney controls a majority of America’s media, and because of this, the public suffers because they are presented with an extremely limited worldview. On the surface, Disney appears to be a wonderful, innocent form of entertainment appropriate for the entire family. Disney’s simp...


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...lt Disney Pictures.
Pocahontas. Dirs. Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg. 1995. Videocassette. Walt Disney Pictures.

Ringgold, Faith. The Invisible Princess. New York: Dragonfly Boooks, 1999.

Schor, Juliet B. Born to Buy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.

Strong, Pauline T. “Animated Indians: Critique and Contradiction in Commodified Children’s Culture.” Cultural Anthropology 11.3 (1996): 405-424. JSTOR. University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.11 Nov. 2006 http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0886-7356%28199608%2911%3C405%3AAICI%3E2.0.CO%3B2-0.html

San Souci, Robert D. Talking Eggs. New York: Dial Books, 1989.

Tarzan. Dirs. Chris Buck and Kevin Lima. 1999. Videocassette. Walt Disney Pictures.
The Jungle Book. Dir. Wolfgang Reitherman. 1967. Videocassette. Walt Disney Pictures.

The Lion King. Dirs. Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff. 1994. DVD. Walt Disney Pictures.


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