Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Stereotyping in children's media.

“Ethnic characters still appeal in Hollywood, but critics argue that they color a child's perceptions.”
What are children really learning when you sit them down to watch movies such as Shark Tale, Aladdin, Snow White and many more children’s classics? Stereotypes are everywhere in children’s movies, or even children’s shows such as Sesame Street, Fairly Odd Parents or even Mr. Rogers.

"I come from a land.... where they cut off your ears if they don't like your face. It's barbaric, but hey, it's home."
- Lyrics from one of the many songs in Aladdin.
Is this what you really want children to learn about Arab’s, that if they don’t like you; they will just cut off your ears?Aladdin, the ‘hero,’ who is Arabic, asks people to call him ‘Al’ which is not Arabic at all, but more Americanized. Also, the ‘bad’ guy Jafar looks very Arabic and is dressed in all black clothes making him look ‘bad.’ Aladdin looks right for a good guy, and Jafar looks right for a bad guy but, how do we know the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad?’ It’s all stereotypical, bad – dressed in black with darker skin, and good – dressed in white clothing, with lighter skin. Is this really how we want children to portray the difference between good and bad?
"May whoever did this die a thousand deaths," says Giuseppe, a
hammerhead – taken from the animated film Shark Tale, after two of his friends have been killed. Sharks bow down to the ‘codfather,’ Don Lino with the voice of Robert De Niro. This movie is based around the Italian mafia, "It's negative stereotyping at its worst; the sharks all have Italian names. They use Italian expressions and they are violent, criminal, and racist." says Lawrence Auriana. This movie leads many to believe that Italians are or have had something to do with the mafia, but a recent poll by the Reasearch Analysis Corporation of New Jersey ‘found that 74% of all Americans link Italian surnames with crime. Yet, according to the FBI, even at the height of the Mafia's power, no more than 5,000 out of the 15 million Italian-Americans have ever been associated with the Mafia or any other crime group.’ Then why does Shark Tale relate all the sharks, which have Italian accents, to crime, and revenge? Mother of eight year old Jacob Cantretras stated, “You can't take all those Mafia references too seriously, if you can't laugh at that 'Don' culture, you're in trouble.” Sure, it is just an animated film, and many young kids will not completely understand all of the stereotypes in this film, but how do you think the Italian children feel, when they see ‘Italian sharks’ killing, and hurting others do they consider themselves bad people?

Of course, you wouldn’t think of it, but Snow White is very stereotypical. Women cook, and clean all day, and need to wait for a man to come sweep them of their feet and give them life! Snow White doesn’t ‘mind’ doing house work because she is positive a man will come and save her, when she is scared – she cries, and when she finds a little house in the woods (where the seven dwarfs live) she immediately cleans the whole house acting as a ‘mother.’ Is this true though, all women wait for men to save them? Lots of women work in normal business’, do what they want, and don’t have a broom in there hand every minute of the day. As of 2004 - 72 million women age 15 and older worked and 59% worked all round, full time. Not all women are set out to be house wives/stay at home moms.

Goodale, Gloria. The Christian Science Monitor. 01 Oct. 2004. 15 Apr. 2008 http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1001/p12s01-almo.html.
Elliot, J. Associated Content. 19 Apr. 2007. 15 Apr. 2008 http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/211826/the_importance_of_avoiding_stereotypes.html?page=4&cat=4.
Maio, Kathy. New Internationalist. 03 June 2002. 15 Apr. 2008 http://www.newint.org/easier-english/Disney/diswomen.html.


Sonya!AtTheDisco said...

after reading this i realized that there are a couple of stereotypes in these movies, children's movies. I wouldnt have caught on until i read this. I dont think its such a problem because the children will probably not understand most, if not all, the stereotypes. Aladdin and Snow White are pretty old and i think the children would rather be watching more of the newer movies.

Matt Dean said...

I never thought about stereotypes in childrens movies until i read this and made me think about this and re-watch a few of the kids movies and realize that there are alot of stereotypes in there..i don't know if there intentional or not?

Brandon said...

I've seen all three of those movies, but have never really thought that they were being stereotypical. It definitely seems like they are intentional Matt. The Aladdin and Shark Tale stereotypes are pretty bad. It's really easy to tell that Jafar is the bad guy. Most villains wear darker clothes than the good guys. Aladdin really makes Arabs seem like violent people. People think that Disney is childish and couldn't possibly harm children. They're wrong. This is teaching people from a young age to be fearful of Arabs.

I never noticed the Italian stereotypes in Shark Tale until now. If the sharks represent the Italians then kids might think that all Italians are part of the Mafia. It's a bad representation. The sharks are really violent until the end of the movie. A variety of names, accents and behaviours should have been used instead of focusing on one group.

Snow White has a kind of obvious stereotype, but in my opinion, it's not nearly as bad as the previous two. I believe that the statistics for women working in 2004 are totally useless (I don't mean to be offensive). Snow White was made in 1937. At that time there weren't as many women working as there are now. So, I don't think it was much of a stereotype back then. Things have changed a lot. Now everything's almost equal.

Anonymous said...

lol. I think it's rediculious how people take life and movies so seriously. If your looking to get offended, you will. As for kids learning bad steriotypes from movies, if we worried about every single thing our kids watc, we'll have them sitting on a cliff watching water hit the rocks below, and even then someone will more than likely find a problem with it.
People take too much stuff to heart.

Kayce said...

Honestly, I've seen all those movies and have completely missed those lines. And with Aladdin, I don't even know how many times I've seen it, and never knew what they were saying in the beginning. So as a kid, I didn't really listen too much to it, however many other kids may. But to even think that Disney would put those words in a children's movie, kind of just blows me away.

As I had gotten older, I had started to hear stories that Disney was putting perverted scenes in all their movies but kinda hid them all, almost like the Ikea catalogue. I had never noticed them mind you I haven't watched majority of those movies since then, but I have read an article on a website all about it. Bottom line, I think that Disney shouldn't be putting words into kids movie's like that have and still are. It's not right.

Article found as this site:

And another article here:

forbzy said...

I think these movies were not made to intentionally stereotype anyone but to appeal to children. I agree with Jane that if you look for something to offend you you'll always find something.

kelsey =] said...

I never really realized how all basically Disney movies have stereotypes in them. Aladdin, Shark Tale and Snow White are all really good examples and i never even noticed the stereotypes until i read this article and actually thought about it.

What is this teaching children?! They are going to get bad impressions of Arabs because of this movie and they are going to think that all Arabs are like that. They're going to think that all Italians are bad or "mobsters" and they're going to think that all women are supposed to do is cook and clean. It won't influence every child to think like that but I'm sure lots of them will.

I agree with Kayce, Disney shouldn't be putting those words in their characters mouths and they should watch what they stereotype because people could get offended.

Here's an article i found on stereotyping in movies: http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/parents/movies/concerns/stereotyping_movies.cfm

and here's another one: http://www.units.muohio.edu/psybersite/disney/disneyculture.shtml

tanja said...

Well i have mixed opinions on this.. i think the alladdin issue is definitely a little ridiculous

but did you know that they changed the lyrics? The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee protested to change the words from the original, "Where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face. It's barbaric, but, hey, it's home," to "Where it's flat and immense and the heat is intense, It's barbaric, but, hey, it's home."

so basically, the people they sell their products to have the ability to change what they're getting. obvsiously, people who had watched this movie found it disturbing so they argued to change it. so can we teach the people who sell us these items how to better target to the market? if we're correcting their mistakes then we definitely do.

and with shark tale.. well nicole said it herself, the information isn't represented correctly.. its just a bunch of stereotyping and nothing can really defend disney in that case. however, some protests were done and some small parts were removed

however, on the snow white issue i don't really find it a big deal. it was released in 1937. at this time, women were basically housewives who cooked, cleaned.. and waited for a husband to come and better their lives. so we can't be mad that the video has all these stereotypes if at the time they weren't stereotypes, but reality. i think it'd be awesome if disney did like, a new rendition of the snow whites showing a modern day snow white or sometinhg.. that'd be a pretty good idea i think.

Sonya!AtTheDisco said...

i saw kayce's second post about the "HIDDEN PENIS" omg i that was so stupid it didnt look like anything..just a tower. i think now they are just looking for ways to make Disney look bad. Its people's different perceptions on things they see or hear that differ from everyone elses.
Like Brandon said "Snow White was made in 1937. At that time there weren't as many women working as there are now." I think its a very good point. Think of when they made it...i dont think it was intended for us. It was about 50 years later.

Taylor mac said...

yes there is definitly a problem with stereotyping in childrens media, becouse as a child you understand very simple concepts and it sticks with them, so for example alladin little kids will look at that and see the arabs with there headress on and think they are all bad, they cant see the diffreence from t.v show and reality

Anonymous said...

20 years ago, this wasn't a problem, untill someone made it a problem and told the word, causing a chain of negative response.
It's pathetic how we get effended by every little thing, now we're going as low as childrens cartoons? come on people, grow up and see the light.

tanja said...

this IS a problem.. a little personal experience i had

when i was younger, i LOVEDDDDD cinderella
i used to dress up in a dress with a little apron and clean up around the house, wash dishes etc...
i basically imitated what i saw on tv

little kids look up to these guys on tv... theyre the role models
and as time progresses, we should ahve better movoies for kids that aren't putting these ideas into their heads cause they sure put ideas into mine.. the ideas grew out for me, but they don't always for everyone

чℓℓzล said...

i totally agree with what taylor said children cant see the difference from tv shows and reality, they are always going to look up to characters as role models so basically if they looked up to Aladdin they would have the wrong perspection about arabs, but most parents dont know they think its educational and entertainment for their children to watch these kind of shows... its teaching them alright but the wrong things

jessica12312 said...

I agree with Jane on this one. Sure, the stereotyping in these Disney movie don't nessesarily send the right message to the children watching them, but I mean common, it's not a huge issue people. I mean, i've watched all of these accused movies as a child. Didn't notice the lyrics, didn't catch the subliminal messages didn't think anything of the stereotypes. And at the age of 17, I don't even remember what half these movies were about, let alone their stereotypes, I didn't even know what a stereotype was at that age and i don't believe that these videos influenced how stereotypical I am today. Children understand simple concepts and likely wouldn't catch any of these accusations. People are wasting too much time looking for flaws in these videos, and most of the time if you look hard and long enough, your will come up with some type of accusation that is so forced even if it's not really there, you'll convince yourself and others that it is. What do you expect Disney to do? Remake Alladin? or Snow White? These are the classics and do not contain life changing issues.

]ΛvΛЯіччΛ said...

I somewhat agree with Jane. This isn't a HUGE issue. However, it is somewhat an issue. Like Yllza said, parents put their kids in front of the TV to watch what they think of as “harmless” Disney classics and what they don't exactly know is the types of stereotypes they're kids are being exposed to. Of course kids aren't going to understand much of these stereotypes. However, like Taylor said, “as a child you understand very simple concepts.” So kids (or even some adults fr that matter) might not really hear or pay attention to the lyrics of the songs or even know that the characters in Aladdin are Arabs or some of the sharks in Shark tails are Italian, but what they will see are the images. If most kids saw someone in real life who looked like Jafar from Aladdin, they'd be prejudice. They would automatically associate what they saw in the movie to reality because like Taylor said, “they cant see the diffreence from t.v show and reality.” So by stereotyping characters in kids programs and movies, kids are being exposed to them at a very early age, which isn't such a great thing. If some of these kids were to never see someone who looked like Jafar in real life, some might actually believe the stereotype from the movie to be real even when they got older. Yes, once again, it's only a small dose of stereotypes, and I agree with the people in this blog who have said that you can always find the flaws in something if you look for them. However, if those flaws, which in this case are the stereotypes in children's programming, could be removed or changed, it would only be for the better, so why not? And, like Tanja said, people have taken actions to change some things in Disney movies. All I have to say is , tackling big problems only starts with tackling small problems first.

But I also have to say, there's probably always gonna be some sort of stereotypes in shows and movies, whether it be kids' or adults' because like we learned in media class, one of the 5 concepts of media is that the points of view of the creators are always going to be embedded in their media products.

mal =) said...

To start, Walt Disney is just awsome.
If this was sucha HUGE issue..why are millions of Walt Disney movies/Dvd's sold? If many people were seriously and emotionally damaged by these stereotypes..why do SO many people still to this day have these movies and entertain their children with them? These movies are fairytales, make believe, and not supposed to be as educational, as it is to be more for entertainment purposes.

Sure, there are some stereotypes in them, but as brandon said..he did not even really think of these being stereotypical when he watched them. I agree. I did not notice them either. I was simply watching them because they were fun/exciting/cute etc. It was only now that i realized there were some bad sterotypes in them. As we grow up, we can learn to realize right from wrong.Please don't tell me that Walt Disney's famous classical movies are going to ruin a child,put bad ideas in their heads,and make them grow up to be bad people, because i don't buy that. Many people including myself grew up watching these movies, and it didn't transform us into being horrible people with stereotypical thoughts.

Brandon said...

Woah, Tanja made a huge point. She said that Disney was forced to change the lyrics to "Where it's flat and immense and the heat is intense". That must be why I never noticed. My family has the newer version of Aladdin. I think that's a really good thing Disney has done. Sure, it's because people wanted it to be changed, but they still changed it. I really disagree with Jane. All of these stereotypes will have some amount of influence on children. I don't like Jane's simile. It makes no sense. Children need to learn positives about every race, not negatives.

kelsey =] said...

I agree with what mallory said about Walt Disney. If he was so bad why has he sold millions of movies. Sure, stereotyping in these movies is definitely an issue, but if it was huge Walk Disney wouldn't have sold so many movies and he wouldn't' have been so successful.

I also did not notice these stereotypes when i was younger but i didn't even know what stereotypes were back then. I just watched these movies for entertainment. But I do remember always wanting to dress like the princesses in these movies and I wanted to be just like them, stereotypes and all. Yes I did grow out of it but not all people do.

So, I am on both sides of this. I don't think it it a HUGE issue but that doesn't mean it should be ignored either.

Nickie said...

Honestly, I agree with Jane. I remember when I was younger, I never even knew what a stereotype was, and I didnt even know Aladdin was arabic! I think that kids really only watch these movies for the stories, and I really dont think that they will catch on with the words, seeing as most kids who watch these movies are just learning what words mean. I really dont think this is something we should be worrying about, and if kids DO start with stereotyping, parents should be there to say 'Hey, thats not nice, and stop saying that.'



Stereotyping has become a very heated topic within today’s society because of various events which have led up to this point. For example, the first being the 9/11 attacks which took place several years back, and the underground terrorist activity which still takes place today. Many people are taking advantage of this opportunity and eyeing out certain faiths believed to be involved in terrorist activity when it is just a certain group of individuals out there in the world. That is how cartoon creators are believed to take advantage of these situations and relate them into their television shows, no matter what television rating the show may be. As we all know children grow up watching these shows, many children’s life are based upon watching cartoon shows, and if we take this away from them due to inappropriate dialogue within the show. As we know many parents leave their children unsupervised in front of the television, this leads to them getting exposed to such material at an infant age. This affects them significantly as they grow older, their behavioural characteristics change and they adapt to what they see as children whether it may be drugs or sex, in this case it would be stereotyping.

]ΛvΛЯіччΛ said...

so nick, you're saying that just because kids will not "catch on with the words," it's ok to have negative stereotypes about certain groups of people in CHILDREN'S programs?

You have to remember that all kids are different and will all remember different things, so you can never say what things certain kids will pick up on. And "if kids DO start with stereotyping," do u actually think that their parents are going to be around 24/7 to tell them whether it's right or wrong?


After viewing what Jane has said from her perspective, I have come to a conclusion that this is really not a huge problem. This is because when children are young and they watch television shows words do not really mean much to them until they reach a certain age whereby they start to understand what they are hearing. Young kids that usually view such television shows, usually just watch the cartoons move around and watch their actions. Therefore what the cartoons are saying do not mean much to them until as I said they reach a age, whereby they become mature and start to understand everything around them.

]ΛvΛЯіччΛ said...

"In the last two decades, there has been a corporate effort to rid cartoons of stereotypes" Read the article at this site: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/211826/the_importance_of_avoiding_stereotypes.html

At least now we know that companies are aware that their stereotyping in kids programs isn't such a great thing and they HAVE made at least some effort to try to change some of that. It's a start.

jessica12312 said...

Very true to many people comments about Disney. If these issues about stereotypes and subliminal massages are such a problem then how does Walt Disney come about to be the most loved film maker of all kids worldwide and even by their parents as well. I'm sure some of the early Disney movies where some of these kids' parents's favorites when they were young. I agree with Mal, kida watch these videos for fun, and for stories that actually have some really good morals for children. There may be a small amount of stereotyping in these videos, but the more important thing to realize is that these movies teach sharing, friendship, love and the importance of family. Can't everyone just focus on the good these videos have been doing for children worldwide for many years.

DavidParker said...

well, I can see how people would be concerned about that line about the place being barbaric, especially during a time of conflict between America and the Middle East. But I don't think we're looking at the entire picture here, Aladdin is Arabic, but he's a good person, so is Jasmine, and basically everyone else aside from Jafar and his henchmen. So is it really a problem with stereotyping Arabs? or a problem with us letting one negative comment blind us from all the redeeming factors of the movie?

This still appears, though less apparent in Shark Tale, where Lenny is a "good" shark and doesn't like to eat other fish

In Snow White however, as Brandon said, the movie was made in 1937, back in a time before women were given equal rights, I'm not saying that fact justifies the scene, but you have to realize how differently people though back then, and by the time women were given equal rights, the movie was already a classic and couldn't be changed.


Harinder said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Harinder said...

Personally I have never thought about the stereotype mentioned above, until they were pointed out. Children would defiantly not realize the stereotypes in the movies because they would be so much more interested in the main story of the movie. However some stereotypes are noticeable such as Jafar, the “bad guy” dressed in black clothes. Children are learning that if an Arab does not like you, they will just cut your ears off? Children are also going to think that all Italians are “bad”, and for boys, they will start to get the image that girls are supposed to cook, clean, wash, etc. I believe it is not fair to stereotype a group of people because of few individual actions. Everyone is unique in their own way and being from the same race, religion, color or creed does not make them all one. They still hold their individual thoughts and act on those. Stereotypes judge people without knowing them or giving them a fair chance.

Here is an article on the way children’s movies present women, race, and other cultures.

lessinbeen said...

These stereotypes have been since before i can remember in children's movies go 90's go. Perceptions can always change with age, I doubt anyone who is posting to this can claim that they find the stereotypes in disney movies believable now that we have all had FAR MORE life experience than toddlers and young children.

I don't think alot of young children analyse these movies to the point where they conclude "this is what arabs are like " "this is what women are like"

lessinbeen said...

....and then i realize that it's quite obvious that these blogs are expired.....GODDAMN IT.