Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Disney Machine

When an institution gets too powerful, the normal economics of benefit to consumers=success don't always apply. The large corporation in American society often becomes more of a benefactor, a partner in the governing of society and the social dialogue. Case in point is the fight over Miley Cyrus's "slant eye" pose.
These corporations affect our kids. I am vigilant about what my son and daughter watch. As minorities who raise minority kids, we have additional responsibilities to teach them what is right, especially since large corporations like Disney don't always have our best interests in mind. Still somewhat angry at the Miley incident, I posted the following on my website today:

Everyone probably already knew this, but Disney has a research department aimed at finding out how to best ensnare young children's minds. One of their researchers is Kelly "the Kid Whisperer" Pena. The article says:

Her undercover mission: to unearth what makes him tick and use the findings to help the Walt Disney Company reassert itself as a cultural force among boys.

It's funny that they mention Anne Sweeney. I actually wrote to Anne Sweeney regarding Miley Cyrus's racism, along with many others. Of course she didn't respond. The entire Asian American blogosphere was up in arms over the racism, but Disney listened instead to the paid consultants who deliver the dollars vs. the millions of Asian Americans who have endured the violence accompanied by that racist gesture.

I believe that the stance (or lack of a stance) that Disney took with Miley Cyrus is morally wrong. It's racism supported by a large institution--Miley crossed from individual to brand a long time ago, and they failed to manage their brand. Disney has tons of money invested in how to best spread a particular message and capture the minds of a particular segment of the young population. I'm not blaming them for expansion--their primary responsibility is to their shareholders. Nor am I saying that we should go crazy over another slight. But it's clearly wrong, and I believe we should be aware. We're probably not going to win this battle, but let's set a foundation so that we can build and influence our young kids to move into a different direction.


thisislarry said...

While I agree with your sentiment, your proposition that Disney needs to take a moral stand is based on an assumption that corporations need to be moral. I think this isn't useful.

Corporations are amoral. Not immoral, and certainly not moral. To ascribe them some concept of human morality puts one at a disadvantage, like imagining that speaking logically will help stop a hungry bear from chewing one's face off.

Disney's a money-making entity, and amorally goes about that as efficiently as possible. What you call 'ensnaring young minds' i call market research, and the opposite of doing market research is putting out product that nobody wants, which = not making money as efficiently as possible.

As a consumer, the only language that you can speak to a corporation that they understand is $$. Vote with your wallet, and use your moral arguments to persuade others to do the same. Let that translate to $$.

bigWOWO said...

Hey Larry,

Thanks for your comment. I think we mostly agree on all points, but let me just clarify a bit.

I see what you're saying about corporations being amoral. As I mentioned in the original post, a corporation's primary responsibility is to the shareholders. It goes even further than that--they have a fiduciary responsibility to enrich the shareholders.

My argument is this--when a company gets sufficiently big, the normal rules of economics no longer apply in the same way. In standard economic theory, a company that doesn't provide what customers need goes bankrupt. If I sell widgets that don't work, you take your business elsewhere, and I lose a sale. If I keep losing sales, I'll eventually go under. The market is relatively perfect.

With large corporations, on the other hand, it doesn't work this way. If Bear Stearns goes down, the government bails 'em out because they're too big, and the people's assets are tied up with them. If I don't like Microsoft's buginess (not business), I may buy a Mac for home use (which I've done), but I'm going to use a PC at work because my industry specific software only works on the Windows platform.

It's similar with Disney. Through my local library's purchases, my tax dollars pay Disney and Miley. If I get cable with the Disney Channel, my cable bill pays Disney and Miley--I can't opt out of one channel. If I want to shift my dollars in protest, I can't.

In the end, my philosophy is the same as yours--vote with your wallet and persuade others to do the same. I'm just saying that it's complex since I can't always do that. I can stop buying their DVD's to reduce their profit, but they still profit off of me--a boycott threat would be meaningless. Because of Disney's size and reach, it becomes a moral issue--Disney itself is not immoral, but its action is, and we should call them out on it.

By the way, I do think that if we had more powerful social institutions, this wouldn't be as much of an issue. We wouldn't have to even think about boycotting because Disney would take action. Of course, these movements take time to build.

SoulSnax said...

"By the way, I do think that if we had more powerful social institutions, this wouldn't be as much of an issue. We wouldn't have to even think about boycotting because Disney would take action."

...I saw a really old guy on Baxter Street (Chinatown NYC) selling DVDs of Miley Cyrus' latest movie. He was also selling DVDs of the new Dragonball, and also that blackjack movie 21. I bet he'll have Airbender if/when it comes out.

I suggest we keep our $$ within the community, and encourage tourists to do their DVD shopping in Chinatown.

What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Jamie Foxx slams Miley Cyrus for Threatening to Ruin Radiohead's Career NSFWPoor Miley. First Radiohead snubs her, then Jamie Foxx skewers her on his show.

It's bad enough that she's ugly and has no talent. Too bad she's also a stupid dirty little C*NT. She deserves all the ridicule that she gets.

Anonymous said...

This is a call to everyone to please step outside the right vs. left paradigm. While there are important issues worth debating within this paradigm, all of them will be moot if we do not focus on a much greater issue outside this paradigm. Thomas Jefferson warned of wealth concentrating to such an extent that it threatened the state. Nowadays the media has taught us all very well to ridicule anyone who talks of central banks usurping the power of government. Well now I suppose the media will have to laugh at themselves, as many outlets from Newsweek to the Financial Times of London are openly discussing the creation of a "bank of the world" that will control economic policies of every nation. I invite you to watch this video, which details how this is currently taking place. While it focuses on our current officials' cooperation with these plans, it steps out of the typical political paradigm by highlighting the cooperation of both parties. Please do not look to politicians to protect us. Only we can protect us. And our first step must be to reach out to police and military. Without their cooperation, the global elite won't have the muscle to exercise their will of oppression. Please share this oath-keepers blog with them.

Anonymous said...

You are over reacting to the Miley Cyrus pic. Isn't there an Asian kid sitting right next to her? Did you ask him how he feels? No. She's 16 yrs old, ever been followed around with a camera your whole life?
I don't like racism of any kind but this is just a case of a silly immature kid.

bigWOWO said...

Anon:" Isn't there an Asian kid sitting right next to her? Did you ask him how he feels? "

He's not a kid; he's 24. I haven't personally asked him how he feels, but MTV did:

http://www.disgrasian.com/2009/02/silent-treatment-ie-last-word-well.html"When contacted by MTV News, Willis would neither confirm nor deny that it's him in the picture, saying that, due to the number of calls he's been receiving from media outlets, he's 'not going to talk about it.'"Anon: "She's 16 yrs old, ever been followed around with a camera your whole life?
I don't like racism of any kind but this is just a case of a silly immature kid."

No, I haven't, but I'm not one of Disney's biggest stars. She gets paid millions to represent Disney, and Disney has an entire company to manage her image. Is she racist? I think she is. But the real issue isn't the behavior or views of Miley Cyrus; the real issue is what Disney chooses to either do or not do.

In short, I don't expect much from a 16 year old, but I do think we have a right to demand social responsibility from Disney.