“Disney, Casino Capitalism and the Exploitation of Young Boys: Beyond the Politics of Innocence”
by Henry A. Giroux, t r u t h o u t | Perspective
[…] As a group, young people are vulnerable to corporate giants such as Disney, who make every effort “to expand inwardly into the psyche and emotional life of the individual in order to utilize human potential” in the service of a market society. Since children’s identities have to be actively directed toward the role of consumers, knowledge, information, entertainment and cultural pedagogy become central in shaping and influencing every waking moment of children’s daily lives. In this instance, Disney, with its legion of media holdings, armies of marketers and omnipresent advertisers, set out not to just exploit young boys and other youth for profit; they are actually constructing them as commodities and promoting the concept of childhood as a saleable commodity.
[…] Children are increasingly exposed to a marketing and advertising pedagogical machinery eager and ready to transform them into full-fledged members of the consumer society. And the amount of time they spend in this commercial world defined by Disney and a few other corporations is as breathtaking as it is disturbing. […]
Given its powerful role in monopolizing all modes of communication, especially those that are media driven, Disney exercises a highly disproportionate concentration of control over the means of producing, circulating and exchanging information, especially to kids. By spreading its ideology all over the globe through film, television, satellite broadcasting technologies, the Internet, posters, magazines, billboards, newspapers, videos, and other media forms and technologies, Disney has transformed culture into a pivotal educational force. Through this insidious form of public pedagogy, Disney not only commercializes and infantilizes most of what it touches, it also shuts down those public spaces where kids can learn noncommodified values. Pixie-dust magic may appeal to the world of fantasy, but it offers no language for defining vital social institutions as a public good, links all dreams to the logic of the market and harnesses the imagination to forces of unfettered consumerism. Whether talking about United States or other parts of the globe, it is fair to argue that for the first time in human history, centralized commercially-driven conglomerates hold sway over the stories and narratives that shape children’s lives. Unfortunately, this rather sublime education often derived from unethical modes of research is absorbed by kids as entertainment and often escapes any critical or self-reflection.
The disconnect between market values and ethical considerations is on full display in Disney’s almost boastful use of research to mine the inner lives and experiences of young children. […]
As citizenship becomes increasingly privatized and youth are increasingly educated to become consuming subjects rather than civic minded and critical citizens, it becomes all the more imperative for people everywhere to develop a critical language in which notions of the public good, public issues and public life become central to overcoming the privatizing and depoliticizing language of the market. Disney, like many corporations, trades in sound bytes and the result is that the choices, exclusions and values that inform its narratives about joy, pleasure, living and existing in a global world are often difficult to discern. Disney needs to be addressed within a widening circle of awareness, so we can place the history, meaning and influence of the Disney empire outside of enforced horizons and confinements that often shut down critique and critical engagement with Disney’s commercial carpet bombing of children.
All of us who participate in the Disneyfication of culture need to excavate the silences, memories and exclusions that challenge the identities offered to young people by Disney under the name of the innocence, nationalism and entertainment. As one of the most influential corporations in the world, Disney does more than provide entertainment, it also shapes in very powerful ways how young people understand themselves, relate to others and experience the larger society. It is not difficult to recognize a certain tragedy in the fact that because of a lack of resources, kids disappear literally in foster care institutions, teachers are overwhelmed in overcrowded classrooms, state services drained of funds cannot provide basic food and shelter to a growing army of kids who now inhabit rapidly emerging tent cities. Yet, corporations such as Disney have ample funds to hire a battalion of highly educated and specialized experts to infiltrate the most intimate spaces of children and family life. All the better to colonize and commodify the netherworld of childhood, their fears, aspirations and their future. Disney’s commodification of childhood is neither innocent nor simply entertaining and the values it produces, as it attempts to commandeer children’s desires and hopes, may offer us one of the most important clues about the nature and destructive forces behind the current economic and financial crisis. […]