After reading only a little bit into some of the books Amanda Richey suggested to me, I continued to be more and more appalled by popular media, more specifically Disney. Walt Disney himself once said, “I think of a child’s mind as a blank book. During the first years of his life, much will be written on the pages. The quality of that writing will affect his life profoundly.” Even the Disney Corporation is aware of how much of an impact they are making on millions of children every day. I realize that Disney is not the ultimate evil and that they aren’t the only ones playing this dangerous game of conditioning impressionable children, but that does not give them an excuss to get by with it. Personally, my first thoughts were that I never wanted to let my children watch TV or anything related to Disney. However, once I got over the shock of the realization of how prominate Disney and popular media is in our society, I remembered that trying to completely shelter children also comes with its own set of consequences.
When I continued my researching, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many solutions were being proposed by teachers, parents, and others involved in this problem. Well, before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s define the problem in this case. The problem is the popular media is conditioning children with prejudiced ideas. (In my paper I will be focusing specifically on Orientalist ideas.) Clearly, children should not be raised in a society which is crippled by biased, prejudiced, and/or racist ideas. The first and best solution would be to make the media accountable to the public for the culture it is helping to create. However, the media is a pretty big monster to take on, so this prospect is not very feasible right now.
Something that everyone can do right now is become aware of this problem – admitting it is the first step. Once people start to see this problem and how prevalent it is in our society, they can begin to educate others, especially parents and teachers. Once parents and teachers realize the effect that TV and movies and other forms of popular media are having on children, we can begin to undermine its force. If the media and corporate giants are not going to change their ways, the least we can do is prepare children to recognize and move past their pit-falls. This is best done through education. Examples of questions to ask pupils to think about when viewing things in popular media such as commercials include the following: Who is the author? What is his purpose? Who is he targeting? What feelings do you walk away with after viewing this scene? What exactly is the evidence being presented to back up these claims? In the book Rethinking Popular Culture and Media, the editors (Elizabeth Marshall and Ozlem Sensoy) emphasize the idea of critical media literacy. They say that we not only need to critique the ideas that are continually being shoved down our throats by popular media, but we also need to take action and protest against it in order to reconstruct the ideas that are reaching us and our children.
If we successfully teach our youth to think critically for themselves, the media will have much less power, our youth will grow into much more self-aware adults, and our culture will be much less dominated by the popular media. Although this seems very cheery, no generation has had the goal of raising children to turn into mindless adults. This will definitely be a large task for our entire generation once we start having families of our own. The ultimate solution is to step away from the culture that is mindlessly led by the media and into a culture of free thinkers that make their own decisions.