Sunday, February 2, 2014

L. Christensen, Unlearning the Myths That Bind Us

This author (Linda Christensen) argues that children's cartoon, movies and literature impose a "secret education" on our children about society by portraying stereotypes that influence how children view cultural issues and gender roles in our society. 
       The author does an amazing job with providing examples of various types of stereotypes noted in children's cartoons.  The author uses examples from students in her own class who are asked to analyze various children's cartoons.  Evidence of stereotypes she lists are of the following:  lead roles, servants, race, body types, what the characters are trying to get out of life, what children learn about roles of women in society, etc.  First example is from a Popeye cartoon.  The stereotype of race is illustrated in a scene whee people from the Arabic Nation are illustrated to all have the same face, turbans and body.  Also, they are thieves and act violently attacking people with swords. Another example the author uses is in Daffy Duck, there is an absence of female characters in the cartoons.  If they do appear, according to the author, the female ducks look like Playboy centerfolds.  Perhaps the most important aspect of the authors main point about children shaping their sociological beliefs through cartoons is the significance of gender roles in our society.  The author uses Cinderella as an example.  The author poses the question, "What are the characters trying to get out of life?  Christensen suggests there is a theme in a lot of children's movies and that is the girl must transform and be beautiful in order to win the man.  She mentions that in Cinderella, she becomes beautiful by getting new clothes and having a new hair style and then wins the man.  The author argues that this is sending the wrong message our youth that, "Happiness means getting a man, and transformation from wretched conditions can be achieved through consumption."  The author fears that girls will think that if change is made on the outside, they will find happiness.  It is clear the author made some valid points in this section and we must question the "secret education" our children are receiving as it shapes their personal values and beliefs about what makes a male a male, and what makes a female female.  

Personally, this argument left me torn.  I understand and agree with the author that our children's stories are composed of stereotypes not doubt, but I feel it is just a small portion of how children develop their gender roles.  I believe it is about what takes place in the home.  For example, the student sees how his/her mom acts ans behaves as a female in society and how their father acts and behaves as a male in society.  In addition, the child learns his/her gender role from day one.  Girls get pink rooms, dolls and kitchen sets. Boys get blue bedrooms, trucks and workshop sets, etc.  I don't think it is just the cartoons it is society as a whole.  If more Disney movies came out with more non-traditional characters that would be a start, but I believe it would be minute compared to what society has stacked against our youth.  


  1. I too believe that Disney movies only play a small role in what children learn. Children learn at home, at school, from their environment, etc... As I stated in my blog, I asked my mom why I looked different because it was what I was seeing in my environment. The Disney movies brought questions too but, I was exposed to these thoughts elsewhere.

  2. I also believe that media is not the entire problem. Other contributing factors are how we are brought up, where we are brought up and who we hang out with and what we get involved with. In our home's we do see the roles that our parents have and the woman is usually the homemaker and takes care of children and the men make most of the money. Obviously this is not always the case. I remember when i was younger, i loved playing with my brothers toys more than my own, but my mom would continue to buy me girly toys and dolls. One year i remember getting an easy bake oven for christmas while my brother got the creepy crawlers oven thing. well, i always used his creepy crawlers and never even touched my easy bake over. Even when we would play outside i would play with my brother and get dirty and climb trees. My mom would constantly make fun of me, and call me a little boy. I know she didnt mean any harm, she was just teasing, and she was just brought up to be a "girl" and like girl things. This type of thing really affects some children though and its sad that people are so ignorant.