In "Children's Culture and Disney's Animated Films" Henry Giroux aims at refuting the assumption the Disney's animated films are wholesome and imagination stimulating entertainment for children. Giroux holds that Disney's films do more than just entertain, and that they compete with schools, the family and religious institutes as authorities on values, knowledge and ideas. As Giroux says "Disney films combine enchantment and innocence in narrating stories that help children understand who they are, what societies are about and what it means to construct a world of play and fantasy in an adult environment" (Giroux, 84).
Disney films, for Giroux is that "Disney now provides prototypes for families, schools and communities" (87) but they do this while indorsing a conservative view of the world and ideological texts ridden with sexism, racialism and anti-democratic messages. Disney's "wholesomeness" and 'harmlessness" serve to justify and support their ideology and therefore, for Giroux, must warrant pedagogical attention.
Giroux sees Disney is a widespread cultural institution which does not only manufacture fantasies but also shapes the cultural and social vista in accordance with its conservative, chauvinistic, racist and anti-democratic worldview. Following Jean Baudrillard, Giroux argues that "Disneyland is more "real" than fantasy because it now provides the image on which America constructs itself" (88). Disney's investment in social projects only serves to silence criticism and critical debate.
Disney films position "the other" as threatening and inferior to the white Americanized figure of even their non-white heroes. Disney, for Giroux, engages in an appropriation of the past in order to "sanitize" the present and future. Giroux illustrates how feminine roles in Disney films are always defined through their relation to male figures, and no matter how independent or advanced they are their fulfillment is always through men. Girls who watch Disney films are "strongly positioned to believe, in the end, that desire, choice and empowerment are closely linked to catching a handsome man" (99). In the case of The Little Mermaid, they even have to lose their voice in order to gain the prince. Giroux also note the erasure of history in Disney films, like the complete lack of reference to the fate of Native American at the hands of European settlers evident in Pocahontas. Racism is manifested in the stereotypical portrayal of Arabs in Aladdin (with the positive figures Americanized) and in The Lion King Disney justifies a hierarchic society of classes and power.
Henry, Giroux. "Children's Culture and Disney's animated Films".