Ally's Blog

The Price of a Diminishing Childhood

Posted on: June 19, 2011

Ideological criticism is best defined as examining how a text is produced and structured, how it interacts with our life experiences, and helps us to understand the dominant ideas and values circulating in our social world.  There is value in informing and empowering those who are oppressed to strive for material changes in order to improve equality; this is known as counter-hegemony.

This approach to analyzing the media is different from those mentioned in my past blogs entries because it focuses more on the production of a text and the power of the media.

Ideology is a set of ideas that gives some account of the world, usually used to maintain hegemonic power (a type of power elites can maintain over masses, which is enabled by the consent of the dominated).  Some forms of ideology include patriarchy, capitalism, and materialism.

Political economy, a form of ideological criticism, then focuses more on how media institutions, texts, and practices establish and sustain existing power relations.  In other words, political economy is more specific to the ideology and power of media institutions.

Political economists examine the role of ownership in the media industry, the production and distribution of products, the trend of deregulation, and the hegemonic power of conglomerates like Disney.

Today, many political economists are concerned about the amount of commercialization aimed at children.  You can buy your children all the products in the world, but you can’t buy back their childhood!

Friendly Disney Mouse or Economic Power House?

The documentary “Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood, and Corporate Power” discusses how many children are raised on Disney movies but how that could be a bad thing.  Did you know that Disney owns most of the media we consume? TV stations, magazines, movies, radio stations, and amusement parks to name a few.

The fact that Disney controls that much media means that viewers and consumers of their products are getting a limited view of the world, only seeing what Disney wants them to see.  Think about it.

The film also reminds viewers of the messages Disney sends through their movies.  For example, if a girl was to kiss a beast, it will become a prince.  This is in turn saying to young boys that they can be the beast or be mean to girls because in the end they will still get the girl so what is the point of being nice and respectful?

Disney is also telling young girls that they will always need a prince to save them.  Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White were all saved by a prince.

This demonstrates the ideology of patriarchy, when we are in a time when women are seeking equality in all aspects of life.  Although they create strong female characters, Disney movies may never give girls the motivation to pursue dreams outside of the role of housewife while they are young.

A Must Watch For Parents.

Another documentary that demonstrates the concerns of political economists is “Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood.”  Some words that came to mind while watching this: sad, pathetic, worrisome.  This film made me really think about how to raise my future children.

The film states that “kids are getting older, younger.”  Advertisers are attempting to create cradle to grave brand loyalty, and the scary thing is, they are succeeding.

Imagination is gone, imitation is the new form of entertainment.

My mom always tells this really embarrassing story about how I used to ride my bike around our house and talk to myself.  Don’t judge me.  I didn’t live in a neighborhood and my sister always wanted to play army men or something that didn’t interest me.  I would pretend my bike was a car and I was picking my kids up from school and all kinds of different scenarios.

Today, if kids don’t have the Harry Potter wand, Star Wars lightsaber, or a fully functioning cell phone, they are completely lost as to how to play without those things.  What ever happened to sticks for swords and your thumb and pinky to your face as a fake phone?

There is “a brand in front of the child’s face every second of everyday.”  I didn’t believe this statement but after watching this film I began to pay much more attention to toys, advertisements, and other products.  Everything is plastered with cartoon characters and incentives for kids.  These products are also being sold to parents’ insecurities.

The ideology identified in this film is materialism, the need for products and things in order to have a happy and successful life.

I believe it is important for us to examine a culture that is commercialized because products now consume our lives, advertising is everywhere!  We endorse products without even knowing it.

When cartoon characters, such as those from “Finding Nemo,” are on kid’s cups, diapers, and clothing, we think we are just buying a shirt but we are really advertising and endorsing the film and the company.

It is important to learn and understand these things because then we can learn how to distance ourselves and get back to the way our culture used to be without so much materialism.  This would allow people to use their imagination, which in turn can help ourselves and the planet.  An example of this comes from General Electric’s “ecomagination” campaign.

Creativity allows people to think outside the box and allows kids to learn more.  For example, are kids are not just memorizing information for a test, or do they really learn and remember what they have been taught?

Corporations like Disney and GE can be viewed as hegemonic forces that have an immense amount of power and control over what consumers view and buy.  If we do not learn how to be media literate and examine texts through the lens of a political economist, we will lose all imagination and self-control.

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5 Responses to "The Price of a Diminishing Childhood"

I love the use of the line “You can buy your children all the products in the world, but you can’t buy back their childhood!” It is 100% true and something I think you could have placed higher up in the post.

Giving readers definitions of terminology that you will be using is great, but I feel like you lost me a little. I am guilty of the same thing! I get so lost in informing my readers about every term and theory that it becomes monotonous. Throwing in some examples, in addition to the definitions, might have jazzed up the beginning a teeny bit more.

Great reference to patriarchy as far as the princesses go! It made me understand exactly what the term meant and laid it out in a way that was also easy to understand and follow.

You also gave really good references to how things were when we were younger. It is so true, the imaginations of children are slowly disappearing, and I cannot help but agree with you completely that without all the technological advancements we have today, they would be lost.

An outside source that I utilized so my readers could really understand the ideals that Disney teaches, was the scene where the Beast maliciously scolds Belle to come to dinner (it can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gG5ec92GMvo&feature=related). With this clip embedded, readers can make the direct connection between your argument and the ideals mentioned in Mickey Mouse Monopoly.

Ally,
I loved reading your blog. The short paragraphs made it very easy to read. Your personality came through in your blog. I felt as if it was an informative conversation, especially when you told a story that you heard from your mom. The visuals draw the viewer in and your cartoon in your last post was funny. There were many links throughout your blog that gave the reader more information on the topic that you were discussing. I watch many of the shows that you use as examples in your blog, such as Law and Order and Real Housewives. You did a great job defining concepts, such as ideology and political economy. When you were discussing the documentary Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood, and Corporate Power it would have been good to expand on an example from a Disney movie. For instance, when you were discussing a girl and a beast you could have been more specific with Belle and the Beast. By giving the reader this concrete example, they would be pulled further into the reading. This sight breaks down the messages presented by Disney for women; http://www.newint.org/easier-english/Disney/diswomen.html. You stated that by learning about the messages that are sent, it would help us to “get back to the way our culture used to be”. I think this would be great but is overly simplified. It is very difficult to find lower end products that do not have advertisement placement. Those who cannot afford anything else may have no other choice but to put “Nemo” in front of their child. Overall, you have written a great blog!

First off, I love the cartoon! I can’t believe you found one that incorporates hegemony!

You gave very informative definitions of ideological criticism, counter-hegemony and political economy, but maybe an example for each would help your readers understand the concepts a bit more.

You did a good job on letting your readers know what a huge conglomerate Disney is, and that it may not be such a good thing. You made a very good point that I have never thought of before. You said, “The fact that Disney controls that much media means that viewers and consumers of their products are getting a limited view of the world, only seeing what Disney wants them to see,” very insightful.

I love how you added a personal touch, talking about how you would ride your bike around your house. I played just like that as a kid too! You made a good point claiming how kid’s are lost if they don’t have the most up-to-date toys.

It’s pretty sad how kid’s don’t use their imaginations as much these days, and how engulfed they are in a materialistic culture. ☹

Your example of General Electric’s “ecomagination” campaign was great! I never saw that before.

Ally,

So being a guy, it is hard to admit, that yes I did watch Disney cartoons and reading this blog took me back to when I was younger. Thanks for the memories.

Your interpretation of Ideological Criticism and how it relates to the Disney characters was spot on!! Your paragraphs were short and easy to read. The visuals were also very enticing, like I said it reminded me of when I went to Disney World when I was six.

All of the hyperlinks throughout the blog were great too. Allowing the reading to explore a world beyond the writing is always a good and you hit a homerun.

Here is also a link to Ad Age about the amount of revenue being produced because of children television. These stats are enormously large. Even right it shocks me.

http://adage.com/article/news/revenue-building-disney-adds-ads-kids-cable-net/52711/

Overall, I thought the blog was great and you were able to indentify Ideological Criticism within a children’s product, and in my opinion, that is very difficult.

P.S. I love the cartoon about hegemony. That’s how you capture a reader at the very beginning of a blog.

[…] second blog I read was Ally’s and wrote her this […]

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