Disney… what a wonderful world?

I have a teenage daughter. Like many girls of the same age, she likes to watch Disney Channel’s TV series: High School Musical, Zack & Cody, Waverly Place, Lizzie McGuire, Hannah Montana, Raven, Camp Rock, just to mention fews. Since she watches the tube in the dining room where I often work with my laptop, I had the possibility to gain some experience about those serials.

I have no idea of what is really the lifestyle of teenagers in USA since I live in Italy, but what really impressed me is the superficiality and lack of culture of most of the characters in those series. In a world were millions people are fighting for survival against real problems, these girls and boys are worried by nonsense and waste time and money in useless and frivolous activities.

Of course, nobody pretends that our children be always worried about famine, Aids, global warming, poverty, and many other problems involving billions of people in the planet, nor we expect that they be only committed to humanitarian initiatives. Children have the right to have a good time, since once they are adults they will have little chances to enjoy life. However, I wonder which values our children might learn watching at those TV series.

Furthermore, those characters are not only quite childish, but they live in a dream false world. Their families have few or no economical problems, live in wonderful houses, and they have whatever they want. Practically, they are beautiful and rich: the traditional American model of the winner. The reality is that 37 millions people in USA are extremely poor, that is, 12.7% of the total population, the higher percentage among industrialized countries. Furthermore 45.8 millions people, 15.8% of the total population, have no health insurance coverage at all.

For many years the Disney Corporation defined very severe policies to ensure that their movies would be ethically and politically correct. In fact you can see in those series children belonging to different ethnic groups being friends and playing together, you never hear swearwords, you see no violence at all, and sex is limited to very harmless kisses. But is it really ethically correct to show to children a world where the major problem a teenager may have is to decide which prom dresses he or she might like?

I will not ask my daughter to stop watching at those series. I want that she develop a good critical ability. So I let her to watch them but when I can, I draw her attention to any inconsistency, nonsense, stereotype, prejudice, and unrealistic behaviour existing in those television programs. And sometimes, at the end of the show, we debate about what happened and why, and what it would really happen in the real world. Nevertheless, from this point of view, those series are absolutely instructive, but probably not for the same reasons the Disney’s scriptwriters intended them.

Comments (2) to «Disney… what a wonderful world?»

  1. utente anonimo says:

    Disney modern products have disgraced the legacy of Walt Disney. Disney didn’t believe in treating young people as “delicate flowers that could be torn apart by the wind” and didn’t believe in talking down to kids. He had a problematic relationship with his father and didn’t attempt to hide that in his animated features. There was no shallowness or hypocrisy in those cartoons and life problems were portraied honestly although with humor and magic.

    The modern Disney has a long history that should be examined thoroughly.

    Since Eisner became chief at Disney, the whole company has been contaminated by Eisner’s capitalist view of mass market cheap low quality products.

    Eisney already did that to Anna-Barbera cartoons, by producing cheap awful and distasteful shorts of Tom and Jerry, once a very high quality artistic animated series.

    We must remember that Disney’s shorts used to be shown on cinema not on television, Walt was quite wary of the televisium medium. Eisner on the other hand wanted to exploit the television potential for quick bucks for little work. The first Disney’s products for television were still high quality enough (Duck Tales, Little Mermaid, Gummies Bears, Goof Troops)

    Eventually the whole approach was pushed to the limit by the company and an awful lot of cheap terrible animated and live action product for television were being produced.

    That coincided with the appearance of low quality hideous direct-to-video “sequels” of well known Disney classics.

    Then came the new Disney Channel and the shallow pop-culture sit-coms and eventually Eisner ill-conceived decision to stop hand-drawn animated features in favour of CG features alone. That was a pretty sad day for the whole day of animation, with all the desks and tool of glorious drawers and animators being sold.

    American teens know well that Disney Channel’s pop-culture is not for real and a product of shallow einterteinment. American culture (even on television) still produce heaps of quality products and still portrays the depth, insight and humanity of young people and children faithfully.

    I would be more worried about Italian kids since they are more likely to believe that the real life of American teens is like that (something american kids don’t believe for a second) hence feeling more like hemulating of believing in the concreteness of such fictionary way of life.

    The point is that since american teens know the pop-culture of Disney’s sit-coms is not for real, they take it lightly and with irony, as something surreal and out of this world. That makes the whole thing quite harmless, not taken seriously and just for unreal fun.

  2. Good comment, anonymous #1, and thank you for sharing interesting info about Walt Disney and his modern company. If it is not a problem for you, anyway, I would appreciate if you may sign your comment by your name or even an alias, so that other readers can refer to you and to your comment in some way. Anonymous comments are accepted, but some signature of sort is always appreciated. Thank you in advance.

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