As the calls to boycott Disney grow ever stronger, many young parents are no doubt worried that this might be too great a sacrifice for their children. It’s one thing for adults to give up something we enjoy for the sake of sending a message, but how can we ask our young children to throw out their favorite princess or toy space man, especially when they do not even know about those issues that have sparked the boycott? Disney is so iconic that, at times, it feels like the only real option in children’s entertainment. Is there any alternative for families who are repulsed by the corporate media that delivers their children’s entertainment?
Boycotting Disney will only be a great burden on young children and their families if viewed strictly as a sacrifice. Instead, we should view the boycott as a great good in itself. Breaking up with Disney can afford families the opportunity to cultivate richer forms of entertainment and storytelling that are not simply enjoyable, but soul-crafting.
Disney has been providing our children with shoddy entertainment for decades. The entire Disney model revolves around capturing impressionable children’s tastes for the sake of advertising—in both the moral and material realms. You cannot buy bananas from the grocery store without encountering Disney character product placement geared to young shoppers, never mind lunch boxes, shirts, sneakers, bedspreads, and bike helmets. This is one of the great dangers of Disney’s merchandised model of children’s entertainment: it is explicitly designed to stimulate the twin vices of consumerism and materialism in very young children.
Another evil lurking in this corporate model of children’s entertainment is that it breeds conformity. Beneath the glitz, Disney cultivates an underlying bland cultural uniformity that limits creativity and diversity in taste or attitudes. Disney’s monopoly on child entertainment demands children’s attention and participation. As the father of media studies (and devout Catholic) Marshall McLuhan asserted, “Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit by taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don’t really have any rights left.”
Naturally, it is more difficult to find alternative children’s programs. While Disney offers the easy, prepackaged options, finding the healthy options requires a bit of leg work. A good rule of thumb? Avoid any children’s program that has a lot of accompanying merchandise.
Boycotting Disney can revolutionize a family’s entire approach to children’s entertainment. It can become an opportunity to introduce our children to a greater wealth of stories. As part of this push for better entertainment, we should also remember that some of the most memorable and soul-crafting activities for our children can only occur when we unplug and move away from the screens.
Full story at Crisis Magazine.