Beauty and the Very Good Looking Man

Beast: I THOUGHT I TOLD YOU TO COME DOWN TO DINNER!
Belle: I’M NOT HUNGRY!
Beast: YOU COME OUT, OR I’LL… I’LL BREAK DOWN THE DOOR!!!

This is dialoged from the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. Everybody most likely knows the story well but as a refresher- the Beast was originally a handsome prince, but a curse was put on him by a witch (the witch was an ugly women) for mistreating people, and he was turned into a beast. The only way the curse could be broken was to have a true loves kiss by his 21st birthday. Belle was the outcast of her town because she was a book worm; in fact Gaston (a townsman who loved Belle) said to her “It’s not right for a woman to read. Soon she starts getting ideas, and thinking…”
So it was natural Belle and the Beast fell in love, and lived happily ever after, because they were both different. Though this story is a fairytale, the idea of the movie seems natural, obvious, and sensical. This is how ideological criticism works. In American culture, the ideology is for a man and woman to get married, have jobs, be educated, and live in the suburbs happily ever after. Ideological criticism examines how these ideas get embedded in and circulated through texts. It also looks at how these ideologies reflect and serve the interests of the dominant elites. The dominant elites are the people in charge of government and media corporations.
Their idea of how our society should be gets trickled through media and messages that seem to us to be normal, natural, unnoticed, and unchallenged. So why does this matter? Because the American ideology or the “American Dream” could be considered and ideographic term, which is a deeply valued language term, used to represent a particular normative goal found in our culture. The use of ideographic terms can help guide behavior in our society. Now political economists are concerned with ownership roles in the media industry (or in other words, profiting a ton of money) and how production and distribution practices shape a media text, in a form of hegemonic power of conglomerates. Conglomerates are multi-million dollar companies, who own a lot of the media, and therefore have tremendous influence on pop culture, for example Disney is a conglomerate. So, hegemonic power is the process of a dominant culture maintaining its dominant position, also known as an elite group. The elites want to keep a similar embedded message in media texts that reach a mass audience (aka through conglomerates) the embedded message of the “American Dream.” Going against the “American Dream” would be somewhat similar to being called a communist in America, an ideographic term that could leave one shunned or outcasts from their own society. “In a traditional patriarchal American family, the father is the protector and breadwinner, and the mother is the nurturer and caregiver. Consequently, classic Disney male heroes fight for survival and success, while the female protagonist is preoccupied with love and marriage. If she has a job, it is usually babysitting or teaching. This division explains the gender distinction between Dumbo’s flight and Cinderella’s fantasy. Beneath Cinderella is the domestication of women-girls being socialized by their stories to wait in their tower, like Rapunzel for Prince Charming.” http://cinemaroll.com/animation/the-ideology-of-disney/#ixzz1Pko9Bx8x
So how do we learn this stuff growing up? When looking at the documentary Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood, & Corporate Power, http://www.mediaed.org/cgi-bin/commerce.cgi?preadd=action&key=112 many social issues are cultural faces were addressed such as race, gender, and even self-image. Now since Disney is such a huge conglomerate, political economists want to work with them in order for themselves and Disney to make more money. They do this through making blockbuster films, cross-promotion, and cross-advertising. These films are watched by millions of children all over the world and help shape the imagination of the world and their own personal world. Since Disney is an American based company it incorporates the American ideology in its films and uses hegemony to keep the dominant cultural dominant and the subculture lesser. For example, all women are portrayed in Disney movies as beautiful and sexualized. The female image has barely changed over the years in Disney films. Women usually tend to be the villains in Disney films as well, and are portrayed as ugly when villainess. http://www.angelfire.com/wizard/putimlia/literature.html
Beauty and the Beast in particular differs from most of the typical Disney trends of the princess meeting her handsome prince. In Belle’s case her prince was an scary beast with an attitude problem, but Belle put up with the Beast’s suggestive abusive ways and he finally became the prince she had always dreamed of. This message suggests two things, first that the only way to have a happy ending in life is to end up in a relationship with someone. Second, is that woman should “reinterpret” rage or abuse from a man just as Belle did and stick beside him because he needs you (a woman) to help him change. This also allows for men to believe its ok to treat a woman poorly because she will always be there. This is a scary message to be sending to children, but since this abusive behavior is coming from a “Beast” it is to be almost expected because it’s hard to see the true meaning of a message when it’s disguised, just like the beast. This is a good example of ideological criticism because this message goes unnoticed and unchallenged. It would be interesting to remake Beauty and the Beast, using the exact same dialogue only different looks of the characters. If the beast were a really attractive man, his behavior could have actually been considered abusive and unacceptable, rather than ok because he is a beast. The audience would have then seen the light and felt Belle should have run away and never went back to the beast. They might even think she would be an idiot to stay with a man like that. This clip could be an example of a remake (from The Bachelorette).
Now logically we could develop a theory based on a correlation between Beauty and the Beast and the likely hood of a child (particularly a girl) being involved in some kind of abusive relationship. (Future research)
Ideological criticism is important because it deals with what is there but hard. The ideological meaning is still inherited but without notice. Sometimes what we thought were innocent sources, like Disney, can be the most embedded with ideologies. By political economists conveying these underlying meanings in mass media texts it keeps a sense of status quo in our culture.

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About bchuck1

I am a super senior at Towson University. I am majoring in Communications with a minor in Art History. My future goals are in advertising, commercial or text, and I am hoping to receive a job at Ocean Spray. My hobbies are running and tennis.

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