animated films send mixed moral messages, according to Dr. Annalee Ward
in her new book published in November.
Mouse Morality: The Rhetoric
of Disney Animated Film analyzes some Disney values and life lessons
about the nature of human beings and their relationships, society, and
knowledge. The book emerges from Dr. Ward's research for her Ph.D. dissertation
"The book is a close textual
analysis of five Walt Disney films," Ward said. "I look at these films
from a rhetorical criticism standpoint and ask, 'What moral messages do
these films teach?' There are some obvious positive lessons taught as well
as sometimes contradictory messages that people need to be aware of."
"The Lion King" first triggered
Ward's curiosity after she watched it at home with her daughter. In her
book, she also examines "Pocahontas," "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," "Hercules,"
and "Mulan," and describes how easily children accept as truth the messages
conveyed in these films. She believes some of these messages become ingrained
over time and are difficult to overcome later in adolescence and adulthood.
"For some parents, Disney
videos are like baby-sitters," she said. "However, some of their messages
contradict the Christian worldview - messages such as 'follow your heart'
or 'what sells is what's important' or 'females can't find themselves without
a man in their lives.' These are dangerous, particularly for young girls."
Dr. Ward believes that these
films reinforce both positive and negative moral messages, and they need
to be viewed with discernment.
Mouse Morality was
published by the University of Texas Press. To read more about the book,
Dr. Ward is chair of the communication arts department at Trinity, and
will serve in 2003 as president of the Religious Communication Association,
which gives scholars interested in communication and religion an outlet
for support, encouragement, and ideas. She is also a member of the National
Communication Association and the Communication Ethics Commission.