Saturday, October 19, 2013

Deciphering the Hidden Messages in Cartoons with Christensen

You were tricked into believing that everyone could have a happy ending....

Linda Christensen author of  Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us, discusses how cartoons and children's literature unknowingly create stereotypes within children from a very early age. We have all grown up watching Saturday morning cartoons, and Disney stories and we probable enjoyed them, and some of us still enjoy them. So how do these cartoons, fairy tales, and animations create stereotypes?

"Our society's culture industry colonizes their minds and teaches them how to act, live, and dream".

The culture of our society relishes" feel good stories" and happy endings because the world in which we live can be  a challenging and scary place, and this is a way to escape our everyday lives and enter a world of magic. However, what we are unaware of is that the "magic" is designed to only depict one certain way of happiness. For fairy tales, it is always a beautiful young, white princess who meets her prince charming and they live happily ever after. you might be asking your self " What's wrong with that"? Well, what about the young girls who are not White, are viewed as " pretty" by the standards that society has set; where are they represented? How can a young African American girls or Latina girls relate to the story of Cinderella for example. We[ society], have created a world in which only "whiteness" is represented in the mainstream media. The media and the entertainment industry think they are doing a good thing by promoting stories of "happily ever" after scenarios, which  is a great image, yet they marginalized the rest of our diverse society. 

~The "Secret Education" is a concept by Chilean writer Ariel    Dorfman depicts " the domination of one sex, one race, one class,               or one country over a weaker counterpart"~

When I was reading this article I  kept thinking about Peggy McIntosh and her article, and SCWAAMP, and how our  culture is defined by the people of "privilege".  I think  this is absolutely true, unfortunately. We have segregated ourselves into categories and unrealistic ideals regarding our culture. As another source within Linda Christensen's article is Beverly Tatum who writes about race and children. She says " the impact of race begins early. Even in our preschool years, we are exposed to misinformation about people different from ourselves.... Consequently, most of the early information we receive about " others"-people racially,religiously, or socioeconomically different from ourselves- does not come as a result of first hand experience" We are TAUGHT our prejudices and beliefs from society, parents, and our friends. We are molded into thinking, believing, and acting the way that we have been taught. So how do cartoons and the media promote this theory? Well, first they exploit the marginalized by placing them in a "less important" or a having a mainstream stereotypical role within the cartoon or story. For example:
Tom Lu King, South Park

Clancy Wiggum, The Simpsons

Apu, The Simpsons

Consula, Family Guy

                      Peter stereotyping that all Asians are good at math
Family Guy

As we can see our modern day culture reinforces the stereotypical roles in which certain characters play, of course there are many more of these types of examples, and we can see them everywhere as long as we are willing to look for them. Using these examples how can these stereotypes mold the minds of young impressionable children?

                         ~Fairy Tales Fail Women ~

Disney movies are made for young children. There are animated, clever, and amazing to watch. However, Disney movies promote and underlying theme of alienating  those that do not fit a certain mold within society.  As illustrated in  Linda Christensen's article, " Women who aren't white begin to feel left out and  ugly because they never get to play the princess". For many years Disney only has white princesses, therefore showing little girls of color that being a princess is something that they were unable to achieve. Not only do the princesses lack diversity but they are also depicted as objects for men. I found this image that shows precisely what I am talking about.....

Beauty and sexuality are defining characteristics of the Disney Princesses, as you can see the timeline shows decades of princesses that fit a certain mold. In 1992, Princess Jasmine was introduced, at this time she is the only one represented women of color. It took years for Disney to finally create a princesses that every little girl could identify with....

Hooray!! All women are represented equally, or are they? Look at the positioning of the princesses, notice anything? The original princesses are in the forefront while the princesses of color are in the background... Interesting, don't you think??

To learn more about how our culture influences are ideas, opinions and values check out this website about Pop culture.... The more that we become aware of the negative effects that it can have on our youth, the faster we are able to move forward in equal representation for everyone in our society.


  1. Karen,

    I really like that you showed us stereotypical pictures of cartoons that we all watch and enjoy. The fact that they can come to your mind so easily is disappointing. What's worse is that these characters are portrayed this way for optimum laughs.

    I do find it very interesting how you noticed that the white princesses are all in from of the ethnic and diversified ones. It just proves McIntosh and Christensen's points. The comments for each princess are also illuminating. When you boil down what their story is, there's not much to look up too and that is why fairy tales are misleading.

    Comparing the quote about how these movies focus on one race, sex and class to S.C.W.A.A.M.P. is so fitting because that is exactly what they are doing. Keeping everyone else who doesn't fit into the categories of racial dominance that they are projecting.

  2. Hi Karen,

    Growing up I remember sitting down with my friends or cousins and gushing at the story of Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast. We used to love playing "Princess" and feeling so important and "pretty." We never thought about the deeper meaning of the stories..I mean come one-it was MAGICAL! Not very magical, though. Now, looking back, I can't believe the hidden education found in these "magical" fairytales.

    As I read the picture you shared with the descriptions of the princesses I wanted to yell at the computer screen. This got me so angry. THIS is what we're teaching our children? The society we live in has only a one track mind: SCWAAMP. This is revealed, especially in children's movies and toys. No wonder why children become so "spoiled"-they've got Disney and other cartoons telling them it's OK, they deserve it.