Disney is Yours

By: Zac H.

Actress Jessica Biel as Disney's Pocahontas

The image I am using is from an ad where Disney had professional photographer Annie Leibovitz take pictures of celebrities posing as their famous cartoon characters as a campaign for their parks. The particular ad I am using is one of Jessica Biel portraying Pocahontas running barefoot through the woods near a bay while the scenery implies it is fall. The entirety of the picture is a carefully constructed image that really tells us a story about American ideals.

First, we can talk about the apparent use of a lighter-skinned woman. Like was discussed in Practices of Looking by Strurken and Cartwright, its been made clear that those with darker skin have connotations of being bad and those with lighter skin are associated with good (24-25). Therefore the attempt is not to distance the image from us, we love Pocahontas so it should be clear in photograph that this is an approachable young woman. She is beautiful and good; therefore she needs to have white skin. Nonetheless, I’ve also heard before that most often women are to look directly into the camera and either play innocent or seductive. Here she looks away from the camera and ahead of her. Although she has light skin in order to remain approachable she is supposed to be re-associated with the other by not making direct eye contact, making her not woman, nor man, simply the other.

She’s the other in respects to the fact that she is also in the company of the deer. She wears the same color as the fur on the deer; she is supposed to be just as the deer is, an animal. As Jean Kilbourne would say, she’s been made an object; she is human.Since she looks like the animal, she is wild, untamed and unruly. Nevertheless, she doesn’t sport any unsightly body hair, so she’s still supposed to remain beautiful according to American ideals. The entirety of this image is very carefully put together in order to remain relevant to the American population and at the same time be true to Disney’s Pocahontas.

Furthermore, the copy reads, “Where dreams run free.” With the open expanse of land and the bountiful nature that surrounds her, we have this impression that there truly is room to roam, to live, to breathe, to be alive and feel whole. In spite of that, this is still an ad for the Disney Parks. It’s not trying to make us feel that we can go to the middle of nowhere in the fall and run around barefoot, this is not readily available to all of us, but Disney is advocating that you don’t get to run free like this in the modern day. In order to do this you have to leave the real life, enter Disney’s fabricated version of life and acquire the pleasure of freedom. According to this ad you could run around Disneyland/world and never run into another person or building, just be prepared to be followed by the occasional deer.

Obviously we know this isn’t true. Good luck even trying to get up to the pace of a fast walk in a Disney Park, but that’s not the point. The point is that they are trying to package the U.S. ideal of freedom and give you a place to express it. By selling you the thing that you have grown up believing to be your right, you have this automatic draw to it. It gives you exactly what you believe you need; they have subconsciously immersed you into this belief that it is your place because it’s part of your rights. Unknowingly you are going to go to Disney because, as was implied, it belongs to you.

Ultimately the picture is there to sell you a vacation. However it still uses the norms of our society to sell them to you. It uses an attractive woman, who we have seen before, to play a key figure in our popular culture and American history. They exaggerate her difference by comparing her to a deer also pictured in the shot, or a man by not enforcing the rules of eye contact. They use the word freedom to sell you an old American ideal alongside an image of a woman who predates the notion. They reinforce her beauty by keeping her clean and light skinned. Most importantly they make her a desirable object by using an already desirable actress to play this part in turn making you want to spend money on Disney products in any way possible.

I would guess that I am aware of ideologies; I’ve just never really seen what they mean to me. I like to shop for name brands but I am particular mostly to my own aesthetic or brands based in the Northwest. I like to wear color, loud graphic t-shirts or stripes, but at the same time I enjoy a good-looking sweater and jeans. I have a fairly clean personality and with that I enjoy clothes and products that reflect that while still being cool and modern. I like popular music, but at the same times I like the gems of singer/songwriter mixed with country and classics/staples. Ultimately I pay attention to them and they are a part of my life, but I don’t believe that they solely inform my identity. I’ve learned things from beyond movies and television; I have personal opinions not usually present to those who are brainwashed by popular culture. I’ve had the privileges of having experiences from several different worlds, I’ve been learning Spanish since I was five picking up a second culture as I continued, have family who live in the country giving me life experiences with horses and real county fairs along with family on the east coast providing me with the experiences of what feels like a different America. In the end I feel individual even with pop culture and it’s produced ideologies breathing down my neck.

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