Edited By Julie C. Garlen and Jennifer A. Sandlin
Part Two: Teaching Race
Teaching Race p a r t t w o Disney’s films have been subject to multiple political critiques over the past 40 years, while The Walt Disney Company itself has been enmeshed in politics since at least the 1930s. Budd and Kirsch (2005), for example, document the cor- poration’s historical alignment with right-wing ideologies, from the 1941 car- toonists’ strike brought on by charges of labor exploitation, to Walt Disney’s own reactionary McCarthyism. While Disney animated films are renowned for their Technicolor visual pleasures and nostalgia-inducing depictions of childhood inno- cence, the viewing public has become increasingly aware that “behind all those cute characters, that family fun, and that nearly impenetrable aura is another avaricious multinational corporation” (Budd & Kirsch, 2005, p. 3). While the Disney brand persists as a pervasive and ubiquitous force in children’s visual cultures around the world, it has recently come under fire for the conservative and reactionary subtexts of its films and products (Byrne & McQuillan, 1999; Giroux & Pollock, 2010). Critics and social theorists have also described Disney films as racially prob- lematic, working as visual texts to both mask and to reinforce institutional White hegemony (Benhamou, 2014; Byrne & McQuillan, 1999; Giroux & Pollock, 2010; King, Lugo-Lugo, & Bloodsworth-Lugo, 2010; Tavin & Anderson, 2003; Willetts, 2013). In this chapter, we address and extend these critiques while also suggesting that Disney’s animated films remain complex discursive spaces pro- viding openings for alternative and oppositional pedagogies due to their ability to be read through—and complicated by—multiple racial gazes. We ask...
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