Vivid colors and happy endings usually fill my TV screen. Focusing on social issues can be exhausting, and somehow Friends and Ally McBeal don't quite afford me any escapism. So, I stick to cartoons. Naturally, the Disney Channel holds some of my favorite programming. I have an especially strong affinity for Winnie the Pooh. Maybe I interpret his love of sharing as some sort of Marxist statement. But when I turned to the station for some relaxation with my favorite Saturday morning buddies, I received a shock. Not only was my beloved bear nowhere to be seen, but Disney was showing an MTV Total Request Live knockoff. Annoyed by this cartoon deprivation, it took me a little while to notice that Disney wasn't exactly showing Barney videos. Stretched seductively across my screen at 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon was the ex-Mickey Mouse Clubber herself, Britney Spears. In her video "Stronger," Spears is seen walking half clothed in rainy weather and dancing exotically on, with and around a chair. Essentially, she looks like a stripper just about to start grabbing singles. While Spears has the right to produce whatever videos portray her oh-so-complex musical ideas, the Disney Channel should not be introducing this overtly sexual and anti-woman material to its target audience. Disney is guilty of polluting a time slot usually devoted towards children's programming with soft-core porn. To their credit, the Disney Channel advertises the Top 5 Video Poll -- which featured the Spears video -- as programming intended for "older kids." In 1996 Disney launched a campaign to expand programming and reach a wider variety viewers. According to Eleo Hensleigh, senior vice president of marketing at the Disney Channel, "What we're trying to do with the image is present our channel in the most active and contemporary way that we can." This new direction may seem to alleviate connections between Spears' video and children's programming. However, the Top 5 Video Poll's 1 p.m. time slot does not imply that the program is intended for adolescents. The show also shows "Zoogs," (little cartoon creatures) between videos. This presentation blurs the separation between Top 5 Video Poll and the Disney Channel's morning programs, which exist for very young children. The whole situation devalues Hensleigh's statement that "safety and trust issues [are still] a core component of the Disney brand." And this isn't Disney's only contradiction. In addition to the Disney Channel, the company funds the Disney Learning Partnership, an organization formed in order to help promote creative education for "all children." The Partnership currently shares a concern brought up in a report by the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century. In this report, the Commission discusses the "disturbing news that our young people are not performing well enough in mathematics and science." Disney's use of Spears' video directly opposes the promotion of this education. Why would any girl feel the need to excel in math or science when tiny halter tops and bare midriffs are the ideal? You don't need math or science to have a flat stomach or a tiny black tank top. Even worse, if you don't live up to that ideal, why bother trying to validate yourself through math or science? The Disney Channel programming explains that that's obviously what unattractive women have to do. Indoctrinating sexist ideas into children actively prohibits the development of self-confidence and the ability to learn. Instead of "enabling children to succeed," the Disney Channel's daytime programming helps female viewers to internalize certain forms of invalidation. I'm not saying that Disney seeks to create a bunch of Barbie-wannabes. It just seems that as long as money is pouring in, the company has no real problem if women suffer as a result of consuming a Disney product. I believe parents should monitor their children's television habits, but I also believe it is dangerous to allow Disney to continue marketing this afternoon program as something that coincides with a goal to "engage kids in learning." Perhaps the federal government should run a warning label across the screen. Mine would read as follows: "Warning: Your children are about to watch material that will aid in an oppressive society's ability to lie to them. If you value their ability to judge people on an individual basis and have self-esteem, change the channel."Comments powered by Disqus
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