Scholarly article on topic 'The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Teaching Critical Media Literacy with Disney'

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Teaching Critical Media Literacy with Disney Academic research paper on "Media and communications"

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Abstract of research paper on Media and communications, author of scientific article — Michelle Garofalo

Abstract This research uses a qualitative approach to studying Critical Media Literacy (CML) with young girls by collaboratively analyzing Disney animated films with young girls age seven to eleven. The Ontario Curriculum in Canada has recently introduced CML as a new implementation to aid children in becoming active agents in interpreting media images. Using Disney as an educational tool, two focus groups were used in order for the girls in this study to analyse ideologies present in Disney animated films for the purposes of opening up dialogue surrounding CML and Disney female characters. This paper is based on a larger graduate project which I conducted at Brock University, and focuses only on one topic of powerful Disney female characters.

Academic research paper on topic "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Teaching Critical Media Literacy with Disney"

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Social and Behavioral Sciences

Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 106 (2013) 2822 - 2831

4th International Conference on New Horizons in Education

Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Teaching Critical Media Literacy with Disney

Michelle Garofalo*

_Brock University, 500 Glenridge Ave, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, L2S 3A1_


This research uses a qualitative approach to studying Critical Media Literacy (CML) with young girls by collaboratively analyzing Disney animated films with young girls age seven to eleven. The Ontario Curriculum in Canada has recently introduced CML as a new implementation to aid children in becoming active agents in interpreting media images. Using Disney as an educational tool, two focus groups were used in order for the girls in this study to analyse ideologies present in Disney animated films for the purposes of opening up dialogue surrounding CML and Disney female characters. This paper is based on a larger graduate project which I conducted at Brock University, and focuses only on one topic of powerful Disney female characters.


Selectionandpeer-reviewunderresponsibilityofThe AssociationofScience,EducationandTechnology-TASET,SakaryaUniversitesi, Turkey.

Keywords:Crtical Media Literacy; Disney; Femininity; Female Power; Animated Films

1. Introduction

This research engages young girls in critical media literacy (CML) in order to become active agents in consuming media. Children are being bombarded with invasive media images multiple times a day. It is vital that children become active agents by being able to critically interpret media images and in-turn use education to have control over their culture. Therefore, the Ontario Curriculum (2009) introduced the importance of CML so that children will be able to differentiate between "fact and opinion; evaluate the credibility of sources; recognize bias; be attuned to discriminatory portrayals of individuals and groups, including women and minorities; and question depictions of violence and crime" (p. 13).

In turn this research will provide a platform for young girls to contribute to the existing information about Disney in relation to young girls. Using Disney as an educational tool and conveyor of femininity, the girls in this

* Corresponding author

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1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of The Association of Science, Education and Technology-TASET, Sakarya Universitesi, Turkey. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.12.325

study analyze ideologies present in particular animated films for the purposes ofopening up dialogue about what CML is, how it can be used, and why it is an important skill to acquire, particularly in relation to girls' viewing of Disney films. CML skills can provide the opportunity for girls to assess texts and images in relation to understanding "relationships between power and domination" that underlie and form texts (Gainer, 2007, p. 107). Therefore, CML enables girls to understand immediate images while simultaneously reading between the lines and beyond the screen (Gainer, 2007).

The larger portion ofthis study includes several different topics in both the literature review and the analysis including the physical appearance ofthe Princesses, gender conformity in Disney female characters and heterosexuality between characters. However, for the purpose ofthis paper only one section will be the main focus. The area ofanalysis is centred on powerful female Disney characters and the young girls' interpretations ofthese characters. Cinderella (1950) and The Little Mermaid (1989) are two films that were used for this specific area ofthe study and allowed the participants to participate in critical media literacy and in turn become critical viewers ofmedia.

1.1. Research question

This study explored the following question: How might critical media literacy skills create a space for discussion and promote awareness ofideologies in Disney films for girls?

2. Critical Media Literacy

Critical theory promotes examining and critiquing society as a whole by unearthing the underlying ideologies by which society is governed. CML grew out ofcritical theory as this critique ofsociety often included more specific components, such as media and popular culture. CML is a branch ofcritical theory and comprises my theoretical framework for this research. CML can be defined as, "a pedagogy that positions students to analyze relations among media, audiences, information, and power to produce alternative media texts that challenge messages in dominant discourse" (Kellner & Share, 2007, p.62). Moreover, CML encourages viewers to draw "on their cultural resources and life experience as they deconstruct, debate, resist, and reimagine dominant narratives" (Kellner & Share, 2007, p.63).

Kellner and Share (2007) use the metaphor of an iceberg to further explain CML. Many students have the ability to analyze the obvious parts ofmedia, the part ofthe iceberg that is exposed atop the water. However, CML allows students to not only analyze the exposed iceberg, but also the entirety ofthe iceberg that is submerged underwater. This will allow students to see beyond the immediately visible aspects ofDisney films and explore below the surface ofDisney characters, which may contain the "embedded ideological notions of white supremacy, capitalist patriarchy, classism, homophobia, and other oppressive forces" (Kellner & Share, 2007, p.8).

Kellner and Share (2005) advocate for CML as it not only teaches students to learn from and constructively use media, as well as resist its manipulation forces, but also to develop skills that will "help create good citizens and that will make individuals more motivated and competent participants in social life" (p.372). The use of CML allows viewers to become agents in the construction oftheir own interpretations ofmedia texts. The importance ofthis theoretical framework is that it enables children to gain power over and knowledge from their culture rather than being passive recipients ofmedia, thus enabling them to create personal meanings and identities that may result in transforming the world around them. The understanding ofthe social construction of knowledge through media interpretations enables students to expand critical inquiry into all outlets of information and communication. Children become active agents in the process ofmedia interpretation, allowing them to deconstruct injustices, express their own voice, and in turn create a better society.

2.1 Critical media literacy and Disney

Giroux and Pollock (2010) suggest "animated films operate on many registers; one ofthe most persuasive is the role they play as the new 'teaching machines' as producers ofculture" (p. 164). Therefore, films can be learning tools for children, especially because "film discourses engage viewers not simply in the active construction ofknowledge but also in the construction of knowledge from a particular point of view" (Gainer, 2007, p.365). The Disney Corporation own the majority ofmedia that children consume, allowing Disney to provide children with a limited worldview, skewed and dominated by corporate interests. Often children and parents alike do not have the tools necessary to critically analyze the images provided by Disney.

More importantly, Disney is a "global cultural institution that fiercely struggles to protect its mythical status as purveyor of moral virtue" (Giroux & Pollock, 2010, p.93). Disney is one ofthe primary institutions constructing childhood culture around the globe; Giroux and Pollock (2010) suggest that Disney warrants healthy suspicion and critical debate. Giroux and Pollock (2010) also advocate that "Disney films will have better educational and entertainment value the more young people think about the conscious and unconscious messages and effects the films promote while resisting the temptation to view them as non-ideological" (p.99). Furthermore, Disney films resonate powerfully with dominant perceptions and meanings because ofthe context in which they are situated. This critique suggests the need to critically analyze how the "privileged dominant readings ofDisney's animated films work to generate and affirm particular pleasures, desires, and subject positions that define for young people specific notions ofagency and social possibility" (Giroux & Pollock, 2010, p.103). This analysis can be accomplished with the use ofcritical media literacy, which allows children and others to read films "within, against, and outside the dominant codes" (Giroux & Pollock, 2010, p.103).

The development of CML provides a space for children to question images and ideologies presented in Disney films. Children may not have definite answers to questions, but the questions are asked in order for children to critically think about the entertainment to which they are exposed. The notion ofhidden ideologies is "not necessarily invented by Disney, but what they do with these notions is caricature them, wrap them up in magic kingdom wrapper and sell them to children; that is the power ofDisney" (Sun & Picker, 2002). CML will allow children to critique these wrapped up notions and in turn create a space to challenge the information provided by Disney. The importance ofCML is that it does not force a child to choose whether Disney is good or bad; instead it allows space for questioning. Children may not be aware ofthe hidden ideologies that have been referred to as "oppressive forces," however, CML will enable children to become active agents in the construction oftheir own media interpretations, thus providing a safe space to discuss injustices, personal opinions, and hidden themes in Disney films.

2.2 Feminist views

The notion ofthe feminine beauty ideal, defined as "the socially constructed notion that physical attractiveness is one ofwomen's most important assets, and something all women should strive to achieve and maintain" is ofparticular interest to feminist scholars (Baker-Sperry & Grauerholz, 2003, p.711). The feminine beauty ideal idealizes the attractiveness of a female which in turn reaps social and psychological rewards. The perception is that physically attractive individuals possess more positive qualities, thus making them more relatable and likeable opposed to the unattractive individuals. Baker-Sperry and Grauerholz, (2003) argue the feminine beauty ideal is often viewed in a negative light as an oppressive force in which patriarchal power objectifies, devalues, and subordinates women. However, it is widely accepted that females understand and perceive beauty or becoming beautiful as an empowering force, rather than oppressive (Baker-Sperry & Grauerholz, 2003). It is interesting to note a paradox ofthe feminine beauty ideal is that "in a patriarchal system,

those women who seek to gain power through their attractiveness are often those who are the most dependent on men's resources" (Baker-Sperry & Grauerholz, 2003, p.712). Unquestionably, Baker-Sperry and Grauerholz (2003) claim the group which benefits the most from this ideal is white, heterosexual, middle- and upper-class women; and in turn, this group ofwomen to whom the feminine beauty ideal is directed is the majority depicted in children's fairy tales. Baker-Sperry and Grauerholz (2003) concluded from their study that young women are often described as "beautiful," "pretty," or "fair" compared to older women or men in children's fairy tales. More importantly, the authors concluded media, including children's media, often conveys the message ofhigh importance of feminine beauty by not only having beautiful characters in main roles, but also demonstrating how beauty results in gaining rewards (2003). Bazzini, Curtan, Joslin, Regan, and Martz (2010) further support the feminine beauty ideal in children's media by suggesting the "heroic prince and virtuous princess are attractive, but the wicked witch and evil giant are ugly" (p.2688). The implications and significance ofthis ideal is further asserted by Myers (2002) who emphasizes that, "children learn the stereotype quite early; Snow White and Cinderella are beautiful and kind, the witch and the step-sisters are ugly and wicked" (p.248). Baker-Sperry and Grauerholz (2003) suggested past and recent Disney animated films often alter retellings ofpopular fairy tales by changing previous female characters in aspects of "ingenuity, activity, and independence but not physical attractiveness" (p.722). It is evident that Disney may be attempting to put a positive spin on outdated female characters by possibly adopting different gendered behaviours, however the attractiveness ofthe female characters remain untouched.

2.3 Relevance

CML is important in order to deconstruct images that construct knowledge in childhood. Disney produces specific ideologies through its characters, which young children may internalize as norms or specific ideals that must be attained. CML can empower children to actively challenge, question, and critique images found in the media. But while Disney is a multi-national corporation whose goal is to make money, its films can also be used as educational tools. Disney characters have the potential to become role models for young children, thereby emphasizing the importance for CML. Considering Disney's control over childhood culture, it is imperative to understand the influence it can have on young children.

Altogether, the Walt Disney Corporation is the world's largest media conglomerate in terms of revenue. The Walt Disney Corporation earned approximately $40.8 billion US dollars in revenue in 2011, emphasising the power ofDisney as a corporate giant. According to data dating back to 1995, Disney is consumed by millions of people. For example: approximately 200 million people watch a Disney film per year, 395 million people watch a Disney-produced television show each week, 212 million people listen to Disney produced music each week, 50 million people visit a Disney Theme park per year, and 42 million people per year make a purchase at a Disney store (Giroux, 1995). With the construction ofnew parks and the addition ofmultiple films since the mid 1990's, one can only imagine the increase of visits and purchases that contribute to the Disney Corporation. With such an enormous fan base, it is evident that the Disney Corporation is well respected and highly valued by families. The enormity ofthe Disney Corporation and its control over children's media is what provokes me to further explore how girls can engage with CML to think critically about Disney films.

This research is also relevant as it contributes to the field of Child and Youth Studies in several ways. This study is focused on doing research with children and allowing children to share their opinions, instead of professionals or parents speaking on their behalf. Furthermore, CML is a great strategy that is being implemented into the elementary grades ofthe Ontario Curriculum. My study adds to this body ofresearch on why CML is crucial to the intellectual lives ofchildren. Child and Youth studies is a growing field and much research has been done on the Disney Corporation, however most research takes a stand on Disney as being either beneficial or detrimental to children. My research contributes to the field as it shares the opinions, concerns, and voices of young girls, without forcing children to choose whether or not Disney is beneficial or damaging to their lives.

3. Literature Review

Disney's binary colour symbolism often associates white with goodness and black with evil (Hurley, 2005). This binary leaves little leeway for alternate personalities to be displayed other than "good" and "evil." In relation to this colour schema, Disney solidifies a dichotomy within femininity through the portrayal of certain female characters. The dichotomy constructs feminine roles as either powerful or passive. Power, in Disney, is represented in a negative light, whereas, passivity is associated with the positive. The colour symbolism supports this dichotomy by associating black with power and evil and white with goodness and passivity. The powerful characters are portrayed as independent, unattractive, mean, hated, single and represented and associated with the colour black; whereas, the passive characters are associated with the colour white, and are portrayed as dependent, nice, pretty, and often, eventually become coupled or married. The dichotomy between the powerful and passive characters is emphasized through their physical appearance. Ursula, Maleficent, and Cruella de Ville are described as mistresses ofall evil, and are thus represented as unattractive, loud, bawdy, and inappropriate women (Zarranz, 2007)

Ursula, the wicked sea witch from The Little Mermaid (1989) is the very essence ofthe evil-but-powerful woman who does not fit the stereotypical body image ofthe Disney Princesses. Ursula, is halfhuman, half octopus, and is portrayed as an obese black and purple squid that "oozes with evil and irony" (Giroux & Pollock, 2012, p.101). She is composed ofsix octopus tentacles and two human arms. Her resemblance to a non-human, monster-like creature further dehumanizes her and emphasizes her ugliness. Her body's physical presence emphasizes her dominance in the sea world. This physical presence diminishes the spotlight from other characters, which stresses the evil power she possesses to overcome anyone in her wake. Do Rozario (2004) describe Ursula as a "grotesque parody, who expands, suffocates, and overwhelms as an overweight, ugly woman" (p.44). Ursula also has an army ofblack eels that she uses to spy on and sabotage other characters.

Ursula's true evilness is expressed by her actions. Her manipulative nature negatively affects other characters. Ursula's desire to dominate the underwater kingdom can only be achieved by destroying King Triton's rule. She chooses to do so through the manipulation ofhis daughter, Ariel. Ursula takes advantage ofAriel's desire to be a human, and Ariel exchanges her voice for three days of human life. Ursula's manipulation and disregard for others displays her selfish actions, reinforcing her unattractive and evil character. Through Ursula, Disney constructs a deeply damaging view of female power. Ursula can be regarded as a powerful woman in a Disney film; however she uses her power for evil, and not for good. The depiction ofpowerful females is thus associated with evil, suggesting that power and kindness/beauty are mutually exclusive in women (Do Rosario, 2004).

Maleficent, from Sleeping Beauty, is one ofthe most dark and intense characters ever produced by Disney (Hurley, 2005). Her evil character is reinforced through her gloomy, unsightly appearance. She is a tall, thin, pale-green skinned woman with yellow eyes. Her facial characteristics have sharp definition. She is dressed in an oversized, black, and purple robe, which hides her true body shape. Maleficent is accented with a horned headdress, which symbolizes her dark, evil magic. Her wickedness is further heightened by her ability to shape-shift. Shape shifting deviates her character from being human; allowing her to change her physical form so her victims are unaware ofher presence (Hurley, 2005). By doing so, Maleficent is displaying extreme power, which is only used for selfish and evil ends.

Female power is repeatedly shown in a negative light in Disney animated films. The evil characters are arguably the most powerful female characters in the films; however this representation ofpower is controversial, as they are purely evil. Disney lacks a positive powerful female character for young girls to observe. Discussion around what it means to be a powerful woman will take place in my focus groups. I am interested in learning how young girls perceive these powerful women and how their representation as evil and ugly factor into their perceptions.

4. Methods

The focus ofmy research was to provide a space for young girls to share their opinions and make their voices heard, all of which was possible through qualitative research. I recruited four girls between the ages of 7 and 11 and two focus groups were used in order to collect data. Each participant has a pseudonym in this paper to protect her confidentiality. The same four participants partook in two separate focus groups. The participants were encouraged to provide answers and opinions to critical, thought provoking questions, and were encouraged to ask their own questions, as well. The focus groups lasted 60 minutes each

A semi-structured question guide was followed in order to create open discussion with the participants. The second focus group included media analysis ofDisney animated films. The participants were asked to voice their opinions on the female characters featured in each clip and provide insight on topics that included: After discussion of each film clip, wrap up questions were asked in order to collect an overall understanding and connect all the clips together. This wrap up also provided a chance for the participants to share any final thoughts which they may not have had the chance to throughout the focus group.

4.1 Focus group one

The first focus group allowed for a general discussion ofDisney and displayed the participants' interest and broad opinions ofDisney films. The first focus groups was intended for me to gain a basic understanding ofthe child's position on Disney by exploring topics such as favourite movie, favourite character, and any other stories the participants wanted to share. Some example questions included: Why do you like Disney? Is Disney educational or only entertainment and why? The questions moved into a more specific focus of female Disney characters with questions such as: Does anyone have a favourite female Disney character? Why is that particular character your favourite? This focus group was intended to set the foundation that would lead to more specific questions of female characters in the follow-up focus group. The first focus group was intended to explore how much understanding the participant's showed in relation to female Disney characters. Questions were also asked that might provide an understanding ofthe participants' engagement with critically analyzing media through an inquisitive approach. Questions to evaluate critical thinking included: Who creates the Disney movies? Ifyou could change one thing about the princesses what would you change? The participants also discussed which films they preferred to watch in the second focus group, which allowed them to have a voice in the research process as these films were selected for critical analysis.

4.2 Focus group two

The second focus group consisted of watching clips from Disney films, followed by asking the participants questions that opened a critical discussion offemale characters. The first film clip that was shown was from the film Cinderella (1950). The clip included the part when Cinderella's stepsisters were about to leave for the ball to meet the prince. Cinderella's animal friends had just collected scrap material from the stepsisters and sewed a brand new dress for Cinderella to wear so she also had a chance to go to the ball. Cinderella walked down the stairs to join her stepsisters, until they became aware that Cinderella's wardrobe was made up oftheir belongings. The stepsisters proceeded to rip and tear Cinderella's dress until it was completely spoiled so that she could no longer attend the ball. The stepmother was present for the whole scene, which ended with Cinderella running up the stairs to her room crying, while the stepsisters continued on their way to the ball.

The second film clip was from the movie The Little Mermaid (1989) with a main emphasis placed on Ursula, the evil sea witch. The clip featured the song "Poor Unfortunate Souls" in which Ursula explains and demonstrates her powers to Ariel, who is passively watching her sing. The scene begins with Ursula explaining the potions she has used and the people she has cast spells on in the past, whom are all now trapped and under Ursula's control. Ursula explains to Ariel that in order for Ariel to be granted her wish to have feet, Ariel must

give up her voice to Ursula. The only way for Ariel to get her voice back is that if she shares a true love kiss with the Prince above the sea on land. Ifthe kiss does not happen, then Ursula makes it clear that she will have control ofAriel for eternity, and she will become Ursula's minion. The clip ends with Ariel being granted feet.

5. Analysis and Discussion

"I think they made Ursula look like that because she's mean, and usually mean people look bad" - Cayley, age 7

The goal ofthis research was to open a discussion around ideologies that can be noted in Disney animated films, especially with regards to female characters. One ofthe main themes in my literature review covered existing literature on powerful female characters which are notoriously the evil characters in Disney. Power, in Disney, is represented in a negative light and I was looking to understand ifyoung girls' grasp this ideology on their own. The feminine beauty ideal is ofparticular concern as Disney seems to adopt this notion, constructing the villains in an unattractive manor.

During the first focus group, the participants did not focus much attention to power from female characters. However, a main character that was briefly focused on for this section was Ursula from The Little Mermaid (1989). As stated in the literature review, Ursula's physical presence diminished the spotlight from other characters, as her large body and negative actions dominate throughout the film. It is interesting to note that Cayley was elaborating on her favourite character Ariel, which led her into a discussion about the "bad person" in The Little Mermaid (1989). It is fascinating that Cayley extended the discussion from Ariel as a favourite character, to Ursula who was disliked. This example creates a link to how Ursula is a dominating character in the film. At the first mention ofUrsula, she was referred to as "this mean bad person in [The Little Mermaid.]" Upon the mention ofUrsula, an overwhelming uniform response from all participants was that she was "mean and evil." The participants repeatedly referred to Ursula as "that mean person" or the "evil person" instead ofusing her characters' name throughout the discussion in the first focus group. The participants gave simplistic reasons for disliking Ursula which connected directly to the plot ofthe film, mainly Ursula's power to take away Ariel's voice. I was surprised that the participants did not elaborate or divulge deeper into reasons for disliking Ursula because ofher evil ways in the film.

Brittney veered away from Ursula and shared that a character that she did not like in Disney films was "the evil person in Snow White, because she gave Snow White the poison apple." Jade interjected and added that it was the "Evil Queen" who was trying to poison Snow White, and that she was disguised as "old and ugly." Although in the first focus group the participants did not connect the evil characters to be powerful, there was overwhelming response to referring to these characters as mean and ugly, and this was the main reason for disliking them. I recognized the participants picked up on the unattractiveness of specific characters and connected it to these characters being disliked.

The second focus group rendered much deeper critical discussion about Ursula specifically, as well as the step sisters and step mother from Cinderella (1950). The second focus group included viewing film clips which created a deeper discussion and allowed for more critical thinking because the images were so fresh in their minds. I realized there were clearly much deeper and stronger connections in the second focus group and I attributed the deeper criticality to the inquisitive approach of CML.

The first clip the participants watched was a scene from Cinderella (1950). The clip centered around Cinderella's step sisters spoiling Cinderella's dress and destroying her outfit so that she could not attend the ball. Cayley, Kara, Brittney and Jade all simply referred to the step sisters as "mean" for spoiling Cinderella's dress, but did not go into more detail. I further encouraged the participants to discuss the scene in terms of how the sisters treated Cinderella but the descriptor word remained as "mean." I suggested to the participants to try and

connect the actions ofthe step sisters to something in their own lives. An automatic and very quick response was given that paralleled the steps sisters' actions to "bullies." The participants were able to recognize the power imbalance between the step sisters and step mother compared to Cinderella, by paralleling the scene to a victim and a bully, Cinderella being the victim. The consensus for this happening was because Cinderella was younger than the step sisters, so the participants believed the power imbalance was due to a hierarchy, similar to older children bullying younger children. I argue this as all four participants displaying critical thinking as they were able to make a connection between the film and their personal experiences as this demonstrated how the participants were able to make connections that went beyond the film. By discussing the behaviours ofbullies, it raised a conversation surrounding people's actions and how we are all responsible for our own actions. The participants collectively agreed that they would not enjoy to be treated the same way Cinderella was, and in turn it would not feel good if they treated anyone the same way.

Furthermore, a key component ofCML is encouraging children to become critical viewers of media, which is supported by raising ideas that challenge children to begin to ask their own questions. Interestingly, during the second focus group, the participants began to critically assess Ursula's intentions and in turn began asking questions that lead to a group discussion. For example, when discussing Ursula's plan to take Ariel's voice, Cayley raised an interesting question, stating "I don't really get it, when [Ursula] takes away [Ariel's] voice and she gets feet, if [the prince does not fall in love with Ariel] will she get her voice back?" Kara interjected, and further inquired, "If she has to live with Ursula, does she get her voice back?" Brittney answered her peer's question by suggesting that she does not think Ariel would get her voice back, because "Ursula's mean and she might not give it back." Therefore, this dialogue shown between the participants demonstrates critical thinking by engaging in a dialogue assessing potential outcomes that were not provided directly in the film. The participants had to extrapolate their understanding ofUrsula's behaviours and use their own ideas to arrive at an outcome for what would happen to Ariel's voice.

The participants' observations and paralleling to the film clips to bulling reiterates Gainer's (2007) understanding that CML allows children to understand immediate images in films while simultaneously reading beyond the screen. The way the participants stated they would feel unhappy to be treated or treat someone similar to the experience in the Cinderella (1950) clip, the participants gained an understanding of apower imbalance and in turn challenged the media image by disagreeing with it, which is a key component that makes up the definition of CML (Kellner & Share, 2007). Kellner and Share (2007) also suggest CML encourages viewers to utilize personal life experiences to debate dominant narratives, something which the participants were able to do a greatjob disagreeing with the actions performed by the "evil characters." Overall, based on the existing literature on powerful female characters in Disney films, I argue that my focus group data suggests that although young girls are able to identify evil characters and describe them as being unattractive, I do not believe young girls' grasped the essence offemale power necessarily equating evilness. I do not believe the participants made a clear link or understanding that emphasized Disney's use of female power to be negative. I do believe the participants were able to observe females as having power and simultaneously described them as "ugly" however I argue the participants did not have a comprehensive understanding ofDisney's use ofunattractive female's that uses power in a negative light.

6. Con elusion

A particular focus of this study was to provide a platform which allowed the voices and opinions of young girls to be shared with regards to their understanding and interpretation of Disney female characters through the use of CML. After collaboratively viewing animated Disney films, it is evident that the young girls in this study were able to be critical viewers by answering questions with relation to specific films. Disney is an enormous corporation which holds immense power over childhood culture worldwide and in turn makes Disney a very important aspect of many children's lives; and in turn, it is important that children are able to critically view

Disney to have power over their own culture. CML is an important tool which is being implemented into the Ontario curriculum in order to provide children with the means necessary to understand the abundance of media which bombards them daily. CML is implemented in schools Ontario wide, but it is also important that CML is also used in the daily lives of children. The benefits of CML is that children are able to become critical viewers ofmedia, without boycotting the media which brings them entertainment and happiness.

There are many suggestions for future directions in this research topic. There is limited research on CML and Disney that voices the opinions of children and therefore many gaps exist with the point of view from children themselves. Furthermore, the sample for this study was very limited and homogenous, so a larger and more diverse sample would be able to produce a richer discussion from different points of view. Overall, I strongly recommend that parents and/or guardians recognize the importance of CML, and understand that children's movies are a form of entertainment which can also be very educational simply by asking questions.

7. Acknowledgements

I would like to extend my gratitude to my advisor Dr. Shauna Pomerantz at Brock University for her unconditional support, continued assistance, and patience. Much appreciated!

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