Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Disney Elevates Heterosexuality To Powerful, Magical Heights

It's common to think of "the media" as providing a window on the "real world" that's imaginative and metaphorical – ostensibly to make it more "entertaining" – yet nevertheless essentially accurate.

At some level people also know and, to an extent, understand and even approve that mass media are distinctly slanted to celebrating and inculcating the majority ideology and values of the society in which they are embedded.

What doesn't seem to be generally understood, though, is how distorted the resulting picture of the "real world" can be, in order to reinforce the fortuitous ideology and values prevailing in any given society.

Here's research demonstrating how extreme the distortion can become. And the focus on Disney is so appropriate. It is so exquisitely fitting that a place called "Fantasyland" is found at the heart of Disney's theme parks Disneyworld/Disneyland. It's a metaphor for what is to be found at the heart of "real world" societies.

Disney Elevates Heterosexuality To Powerful, Magical Heights (6/22/09)
Martin and Kazyak analyzed all G-rated movies released, or rereleased, between 1990 and 2005 that grossed more than $100 million in the United States (see Supplemental Materials). Three trained research assistants extracted story lines, images, scenes, songs and dialogue that addressed anything about sexuality, including depictions of bodies, kissing, jokes, romance, weddings, dating, love, where babies come from, and pregnancy. The text describing this material was inductively coded using a qualitative software program.

The analysis found the films "depict a rich and pervasive heterosexual landscape," despite the assumption that children's media are free of sexual content. The movies repeatedly mark relationships between opposite sex lead characters as special and magical.

Research article abstract:

Hetero-Romantic Love and Heterosexiness in Children's G-Rated Films
In this article, the authors examine accounts of heterosexuality in media for children. The authors analyze all the G-rated films grossing $100 million dollars or more between 1990 and 2005 and find two main accounts of heterosexuality. First, heterosexuality is constructed through hetero-romantic love relationships as exceptional, powerful, magical, and transformative. Second, heterosexuality outside of relationships is constructed through portrayals of men gazing desirously at women's bodies. Both of these findings have implications for our understanding of heteronormativity. The first is seemingly at odds with theories that claim that heterosexuality's mundane, assumed, everyday ordinariness lends heteronormativity its power. In fact, the authors suggest heterosexual exceptionalism may extend the pervasiveness of heterosexuality and serve as a means of inviting investment in it. The second offers ways to begin to think about how heteronormativity is gendered and racialized.

Tags: , , social conditioning, social construction of reality

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