Honors College Thesis


Neocolonialism in Disney's Renaissance: Analyzing Portrayals of Race and Gender in Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire Public Deposited

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  • The Walt Disney Company is one of the most recognizable and pervasive sources of children’s entertainment worldwide and has carefully crafted an image of childhood innocence. This wholesome image is contradicted by Disney’s consistent use of racist and sexist tropes, as well as its record of covertly using political themes in its media. Disney has a history of using its animated films to further a neocolonial ideology – an ideology that describes how current global superpowers continue to control the natural and capital resources of underdeveloped countries and to profit off of the unequal trading of these resources. The period of Disney’s history known as its animated Renaissance marked a clear return to the brand’s championing of American interventionism abroad. Pocahontas (1995), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), and Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) all utilize the same gendered and racialized tropes to present parallel stories of American exceptionalism and white benevolence toward communities of color. Through the stereotypes of the violent white colonizer, the white male savior, and the sexualized woman of color, these three films implicitly justify in the minds of the public the neocolonial project as a preferred alternative to colonization. When it is reproduced so heavily in children’s media, this neocolonial ideology may influence how generations who grew up with these films interact with communities of color and broader political and economic issues into adulthood.
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