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The Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence (Culture and Education Series)

3.4 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0847691098
ISBN-10: 0847691098
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

To many people, the name Disney has become synonymous with childhood innocence and squeaky-clean fantasy. But in this polemical, didactic work, Penn State education professor Giroux (Channel Surfing) charges that Disney is in fact a powerful corporation whose ideologyAlargely predicated on getting the consumer to buy Disney productsAis far from innocent. Giroux tackles Disney's theme parks, its recent forays into education and its movies in an attempt to expose how Uncle Walt's legacy is eroding democracy and endangering our nation's youth. He disparages Disneyland and Disney World for whitewashing history and casting America's past in a nostalgic light, excluding any mention of slavery, civil unrest, racial tension or war. In keeping with this practice of regulation and homogenization, employees are required to dress a certain way, to have their hair a certain length and to adhere to the "Disney philosophy." Disney's movies, argues Giroux, promote sexism and racism ("bad" characters speak with thick foreign accents, or in inner-city jive; female characters, however strong, depend on the men around them for identity) and encourage massive consumer spending while assuming the guise of innocuous family fun. But because children learn increasingly from popular culture, Giroux warns that it is dangerous to ignore the influence of a corporation whose private town, Celebration, dictates the color of its residents' window shades and house paint. The notion of Disney as a corporate, market-obsessed monolith was hilariously expounded last year in Team Rodent, Carl Hiassen's contribution to Ballantine's Library of Contemporary Thought series. In contrast, Giroux's sustained shock and outrage, buried in thickets of dense, academic prose, quickly wear thin. (June)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The average fan of Mickey and Donald or Simba and Nala won't notice, but readers awed by the broad power of the Disney Company should read this critical examination by an education professor at Pennsylvania State University. The basic complaint about Disney has always been just what makes Wall Street love it: Disney's "imagineers" are so very good at convincing customers they need to see, visit, and own as much Disney product as possible. But Giroux goes beyond this concern (that the entertainment Disney cloaks in innocence and good fun is a constant sales pitch) to examine the varied messages of Disney's films for children and adults; for example, the racial coding in Aladdin and The Lion King and the positions, roles, and values of specific characters in Good Morning, Vietnam and Pretty Woman. Although Giroux charges no conspiracy, he maintains that "challenging the ideological underpinnings of Disney's construction of common sense" is a vital step in understanding corporate infotainment media and in empowering citizens to demand something better and more democratic. Mary Carroll

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Product Details

  • Series: Culture and Education Series
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. (April 28, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0847691098
  • ISBN-13: 978-0847691098
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,104,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The negative reviews of this book here have been fairly typical: It's apparently enough to call Giroux "leftist" and to point out his concern with class, race, and gender inequality. That alone completely impugns his work for many people. If you are one of those people, don't pick up this book. But if you're not, you've got to read this. The book is academic, and is written that way: Giroux packs the ideas in, especially in the beginning. But it is also the best piece of cultural criticism I've yet read.

Contrary to what people have been saying here, Giroux does not simply scream "race class gender inequality" over and over again. In fact I was impressed by how seldom he did make direct appeal to those issues. Instead, he focuses largely on the "public pedagogy" (I love that phrase) at work behind a company like Disney (if in fact there is any other company like Disney). Giroux's central idea is that we need an intelligent, critical populace in order to have a true democracy, and his central claim is that Disney actively works against both intelligence and critical thinking in the populace at large. His claim is well argued, and well substantiated. The consistent move towards "security" in our society is a troubling symptom of the kind of worldview that Giroux ascribes to Disney. And if he's right, it is imperative that we all start to think a lot more critically about Disney and other, similar societal influences.
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Format: Hardcover
In this collection of essays, Giroux provides readers a good introduction to Disney Studies. Essentially, Giroux's concerns focus on Disney's power to shape the public's understanding of itself, children , and American culture. His main point is that the public altogether too willingly accepts Disney as purveyor and protector of innocence. People allow themselves to be lulled to sleep by a hypnotic Disney whose products are, underneath it all, as dangerous as Malicient and her spinning wheel. Giroux's primarily explores the connection between Disney and families, especially children. He also considers Disney's representations of gender, race, sexuality, and so forth (fairly standard fair for academic critique). His book is supposed to be an activist statement--it offers readers ways with which to think about Disney critically. For those unfamiliar with his work or those just being exposed to Disney criticism, this book is a good and lively introduction. Giroux's examples are brief but numerous and he provides just enough scholarly material to ground his book. In many ways, it provides a representative perspective on most academics' view on Disney, a sort of mini-history of the discipline.
However, the book is is flawed in at least two areas. First, those familiar with Giroux's work will find nothing new here. Much of the material seems rather hastily compiled and updated for a book publication. I much prefer his individual essays on the subject. Second, and this is at the heart of many critiques, I question whether Giroux's portrayal of the public. He claims that the public is an active audience, one which is capable of producing several "readings" that complicate issues of Disney's reception.
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Format: Hardcover
Once I read my daughter a book. At age 3, she turned to me and said "buy me the movie of that."

There was no movie of that book, but at age three, my child had already learned that a book means a movie, slippers, pajamas, and action figures. Instead of asking me about the book, or commenting upon the character, the only way she expressed her pleasure was in thinking about what we would buy as a result.

Say what you want about leftism and ivory tower this and that. Then look in your childrens' room, and their mountain of toys, and try to pick out which ones emphasize creative activity, and which are needlessly emblazoned with Disney and other characters. Buying is replacing creativity, in all of us. My child has learned this despite my best efforts. This book confirms what I didn't want to know.
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Format: Hardcover
Giroux takes a look at the sinister, insidious side of the Disney conglomerate, and articulates (in his usual wordy, passive voice fashion) what many progressives are fighting against in our age of corporate oligarchy--the sacrifice of democracy and the public good at the altar of corporate profit. While he makes many pronouncements of how to correct these evils and bring discourse back into the schools and society, I'm afraid it's too little, too late. He doesn't offer any suggestions for assisting the general adult population in gaining the critical thinking skills necessary to combat corporate hegemony. That is one of the downfalls of the book. He also is pretty merciless in his attacks on Disney films. Sure, Mulan breaks role stereotypes, but she does so in a militaristic fashion, he complains. Well, heck, this is a traditional folktale from China and Disney is true to the story here. What does Giroux want Mulan to do? Go join the Peace Corps? Aside from these qualms, I think the book is well worth the read.
1 Comment 14 of 18 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
You don't have to read this book to know how Disney capitalizes on it's image to sell, sell, sell to children and their parents. But if you think Disney's animated films are innocent fantasies, and Disney's non-animated features display what is "best" about America, read this, and think again. Giroux reveals how Disney hides behind it's image of innocent family oriented fun, while fighting to shape the minds of our children with a sexist, racist and anti-democratic ideology that is far from innocent. Micky Mouse meets 1984 as the Disney propaganda machine teaches us that women are less than men, the white shall inherit the earth, and history can be effectively re-written, packaged and sold, not just to children, but to adults as well. Giroux shows how a politically reactionary message escapes critical notice under the guise of children's entertainment because, "everyone knows" that Disney is "wholesome." Unfortunately, Giroux's message will never escape the white tower and reach the people who most need to hear it -the parents of the world- because of it's tortured, academic prose. If you use the word "pedagogy" in your daily conversation you may find this book readable. If you're like me you'll wish he would write it over in english.
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