Reflections on Disney’s Recent Acquisition of LucasFilm (1)

Mass media exerts a powerful influence on our lives. There are many instances where the media’s stereotypical portrayal of certain people, places or things can influence whole demographics sometimes times for the betters other times more often than not for the worse. To give an example: The Yale Political Quarterly published an article by Stephen Balkaran called “Mass Media and Racism. His opens his article with the following words:

Mass media have played and will continue to play a crucial role in the way white Americans perceive African-Americans. As a result of the overwhelming media focus on crime, drug use, gang violence, and other forms of anti-social behavior among African-Americans, the media have fostered a distorted and pernicious public perception of African-Americans. The history of African-Americans is a centuries old struggle against oppression and discrimination. The media have played a key role in perpetuating the effects of this historical oppression and in contributing to African-Americans’ continuing status as second-class citizens.

With that said I have been thinking about Walt Disney‘s acquisition of many iconic companies: Marvel Comics, Pixar and most recently LucasFilms. To me this acquisition paints a very scary prospect.

More Reflections on Mass Media

As it stands now five major companies (Time Warner, VIACOM, Vivendi Universal, Walt Disney and News Corp) own about 95% of all mass media including theme parks, movie studios, television and radio broadcast networks and programming, video news, sports entertainment, telecommunications, wireless phones, video games software, electronic media and music companies. What we see everyday through the media channels doesn’t happen by accident. There are board rooms plastered with statistics telling compiled for the record executives telling them what is “in”, telling them what is popular and ultimately what will make them the most money.

I often ask myself what fraction of what I perceive and how I act a product of the constant and nearly ubiquitous subliminal advertising of mass media? How many real moments are there today – now before we receive any information, it is teased, shaped and presented to us a certain way. How the media choses to report on the news as the recent Presidential debates illustrated is just as important and in some cases maybe more important than the debates themselves. Jean Baudrillard in describing the current post-modern state has said:

“The real is produced from miniaturized cells, matrices, and memory banks, models of control — and it can be reproduced an indefinite number of times from these. It no longer needs to be rational, because it no longer measures itself against either an ideal or negative instance. It is no longer anything but operational.”

This means that at some point in the past there were real moments and they happened when people “real” moment occurred when:

  1. A person experienced another person’s presence and speech, or
  2. Observed something that was happening in the neighborhood or across the street.

Today what we experience belongs increasing, almost asymptotically, to borrow a term from mathematics, falls under the realm  spectacles, images, symbols, signs.  We have become really dependent on technology. For many people I know it would be very stressful to not have access to TV, Internet, lap-top or personal computer, radio, tablet, smart phone.  I think for many of us myself included without this we would feel cut off and disconnected which is ironic. I say it is ironic because there is still life outside of technology. How many of the 6 billion people in the world have access to the internet and smart phones and tablets etc? Yeah they don’t feel divorced from life or living. While technology can open humanity up to new unexplored worlds and experiences it can be a tool of oppression and disenfranchisement.

But it is important to realize that technology carries with it culture. Langdon Winner has illustrated in his writings that as technology becomes more and more woven into the texture of everyday existence the device, techniques and systems we adopt shed their tool like qualities to become part of humanity. The very act of using the kinds of machines, techniques, and systems available to use generates patterns of activities and expectations that soon become “second nature”. I remember the philosopher Karl Jaspers had a fear that we were inching closer towards a technocracy which meant for him that human beings were gradually being reduced to tools of scientific or ideological goals. Sometimes I wonder if this to an extent hasn’t already happened?

” as we compare our own mind and operation of a computer, we acknowledge  that an understanding of technical devices has somehow merged with the most intimate level of self-understanding.”
-Landgon Winner , PReface of the Whale and the Reactor


When Disney comes up I think of

The crows in Dumbo,(Get the Jim CROW reference)

Dumbo is a 1941 American animated film produced by Walt Disney and released on October 23, 1941


Uncle Remus

Walt Disney‘s Song of the South, released in 1946. The film was a combination of live action and animation


There are many Disney Heroines who have no mother and are raised by father alone. There are the native Americans depicted in an stereotypical way in Peter Pan.  King Louie in the Jungle Book, a book written by Kipling, the same author who wrote the White Man’s burden. Finally who can forget the barbaric portrayal of “Agraba” in Aladin: “Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face, it’s barbaric but hey it’s home” I wonder what this all means for us as a nation that supposed to be a cultural melting pot, I wonder what I means for our democracy.

I have more to say but I’m sleepy, cya tomorrow



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