By Joseph Piccolo
Every kid in America grows up in a culture that is saturated with the works of the Walt Disney Company. I still have fond memories from when I was young, watching movies like The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Lilo & Stitch, and Mulan, and instantly recognizing them as classics. These titles, however, hardly scratch the surface of Disney’s catalogue, one that seems to be ever-expanding.
Although Disney was important to me during my childhood, it has recently become even more influential in my adult life. I have always been a huge fan of the Star Wars franchise, and the stories told within that universe have been my favorite media to consume for as long as I can remember. Now Disney’s recent acquisition of Lucasfilm Ltd. and with it all things Star Wars, although cause for excitement for some, has been nothing short of sheer panic for many. This acquisition is merely the latest in what seems to be a massive power grab for Disney. At this point, we have to wonder; how did Disney achieve its current status, and what impact is that status having on our country?
Starting with their first major purchase of Marvel Studios in 2009 and then followed by the 2012 purchase of Lucasfilm Ltd., Disney has effectively secured its position atop the cinematic market. In the past year alone, Disney has dominated the box office, with six of the top ten domestic gross films being from Disney-owned studios. These numbers will undoubtedly shift once Star Wars: The Last Jedi releases in December, as the Star Wars franchise has been at the top of the leaderboards for domestic gross for the past two years since its revival.
Disney’s prevalence in our lives is quite clear, which begs the question; does this domination have a negative impact on our youth? If you look at the Walt Disney Company’s website, you’ll find that their goal, as listed in their mission statement, is not to educate or entertain children, but to be “one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information.”
Disney is clearly only interested in money and power, and has no regard for the impact it has on the minds of our youth.
If you look at some of Disney’s older works, many of them are found to be riddled with racist undertones. Some simply write this off as the movies being a product of their times, as many releases date to as far back as the 1940’s and predate the Civil Rights Movement, but this argument cannot be accepted. Disney movies from the late 1990’s to as recently as 2011 have been criticized for indirectly pushing racist agendas, and the trend will not likely end anytime soon.
If Disney continues to allow these messages to be present in their works, we have to wonder how it will affect children in America. With so many children seeing Disney movies every year, and Disney’s plans to acquire even more intellectual properties in the future, it is more than likely that these negative messages will start to surface in the actions of those who watch and appreciate Disney’s content. Television and film have been used countless times over the years to change the way people think about certain social issues, and the present is no exception.
I believe Disney’s negligence, although cause for concern, can be countered. If we continue to educate ourselves and others on the importance of recognizing and rejecting the insulting and inappropriate messages provided by the Walt Disney Company, our country’s youth will be able to avoid the negative impacts that can arise. This media literacy will allow us to enjoy Disney’s content while simultaneously preserving the good nature of our values.