“How does the use of cultural language impact the authenticity and realism of children’s movies?”

disney

Everyone has watched a children’s movie at some point in their life. In a lot of these movies, people of different culture are represented, which makes each one worth appreciating and acknowledging. At the beginning of my ZIP, I struggled with deciding on which area to do my research project on. Last year, my chosen topic was focused around slam poetry and how it is written and performed. This year, I thought about going further with poems and possibly writing a book of poetry; however, I also wanted to experience something completely different from last year. I decided to direct my learning towards something else I am deeply interested in: children’s movies. Animated movies are a big part of my life, and I have always enjoyed watching them. Now the only question is, how do I incorporate my interest in children’s movies into ZIP? There are many sections I could focus on, such as scriptwriting, story plotlines, character development, etc. In the end, I chose to look at the cultural perspectives that are presented in some Disney movies. Throughout the course of this project, my inquiry question did change a bit. The initial question still remained, however, I also looked into the topic of cultural appropriation. Overall, I just analyzed the cultural behavior and language represented in a few Disney movies.

During this inquiry process, I was able to take something that I love to do and make it useful in my school learnings. I think that this is very important for me not only as a student but also as a learner in general. It’s important to be able to take something that is enjoyable for me and turn it into something that can help me with other successes. Another specific skill that I expanded on was researching and gaining a greater understanding of cultures and languages. When people watch Disney movies, we mostly focus on the characters themselves or the story that it is telling. Although, how often do we truly look at the cultural background that is shown? A deeper meaning is integrated within the exciting stories and unique songs. This inquiry process has taught me to appreciate the multiple cultures represented in Disney movies, and how to use my curiosity when watching new movies.

cocoThe inquiry question that I proposed has no specifically correct answer, although there are many points that I found which are related and similar to an answer I was looking for. As an overview, I can say that characters of a different culture who speak some of their cultural dialects add a lot to a movie. Without any representation of cultural behavior, the movie seems less authentic and, in some cases, stereotypical and inaccurate. One of the movies that are used in my project (that I have just recently watched), Coco, is a wonderful example of cultural representation in children’s movies. The characters speak quite a great amount of Spanish since the setting is in Mexico. All of the characters refer to each other in common Spanish terms. For example, Miguel, who is the main character in the movie, is referred to as “chico” by his family, meaning “boy” or “son”. Words such as “alebrijes” (spirit animals) and “ofrendas” (altars, used to honor the dead) are also commonly heard. Many of the songs are in Spanish, and it really makes the storyline more realistic and authentic. On another note, this movie is specially produced to educate and display a real Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos (also known as Day of the Dead). This holiday is all about honoring the dead. In every home, an “ofrenda” is set up with the family ancestor’s pictures to ensure they are not forgotten. Since Dia de los Muertos is an authentic holiday that is celebrated, it makes complete sense to portray the links between the dead and the alive, the “ofrendas”, and the characters the way they would be in reality. There are also other movies that are similar to Coco that I will be explaining in depth during my presentation.

My final learning artifact is a Pecha Kucha presentation. I understand that our presentation is not supposed to be a lesson; however, I believe that this is the best way to demonstrate my learning because I will be able to verbally explain my findings with a slideshow as a visual aid. For my ZIP project, it is a little difficult to show my learning with a single, physical artifact. Unlike other areas of interest such as scriptwriting or trailer-making, a project solely based on research and perspective cannot be simply demonstrated with an object. Since my Pecha Kucha will definitely not take up 5-6 minutes, I am hoping to have an interactive portion with my audience member. I will have a few cards face down on the desk, each with a character from a movie on it. My audience member will choose a card, and I will then talk specifically about that movie and its cultural references. If there is time, the audience member can also ask questions regarding my project.

These are the core competencies I have chosen:

  • Recognize how language constructs personal, social, and cultural identity.

The language that is spoken in the films I have researched shape the characters and society portrayed by that culture. It demonstrates how much the words and language we speak construct our identity.

  • Apply appropriate strategies to comprehend written, oral, and visual texts, guide inquiry, and extend thinking.

My Pecha Kucha provides visual texts and photos which I will be further explaining verbally. The second part of my presentation will include more interaction between me and the audience member, which will challenge my understanding of my topic.

  • Recognize and identify the role of personal, social, and cultural contexts, values, and perspectives in texts.

In all the movies I have chosen, cultural values, perspectives, and beliefs are present. Most of these ideas impact the entire plotline. I will do my best to identify and explain how these roles affect our view of the movies.

Helpful sources:

https://www.k-international.com/blog/the-languages-of-moana/

This website includes the description of the Polynesian languages spoken in the movie Moana. It tells us how the soundtrack includes both the languages Samoan and Tokelauan. It also mentions that “one common challenge with language preservation is making the language seem relevant and attractive to children”. In general, most of the cultural language used in the movie is shown on this website.

https://slate.com/culture/2017/11/alebrijes-ofrendas-and-more-mexican-cultural-traditions-in-coco-explained.html

This is one of my favorite websites, mainly because Coco is currently one of my favorite Disney movies. The site gives an insightful definition of certain Spanish terms that are not commonly known. It also gives a nice description of the correct use of Dia de Muertos vs. Dia de los Muertos.

https://lakotachildren.org/2015/09/reservations-about-films-disneys-pocahontas/

This was an interesting read. The website provided me with a long and in-depth history lesson of the movie Pocahontas, and the origin of the story. This website also showed what the filmmaker did to “morph” the story into a fictional love story that did not actually occur in the past.

https://themagicofreligionindisney.weebly.com/mulan.html

This website gave a brief but informative outlook on the movie Mulan. The film reflects the nature of the Chinese religion and culture by making many references to and emphasizing “upholding the family honor”. In general, it describes the cultural (and religious) practices and values from the movie.

While researching my inquiry question, I often run into websites that don’t necessarily talk about the answer I am looking for, but the content interests me. The subject of cultural appropriation and misrepresentation popped up a lot, and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go too far down that path for research. It does spark my interest in how a lot of these movie producers and directors are not actually from the place they are basing the movie off of. This causes me to wonder if they have a deep enough understanding of the culture, or if some parts are based on stereotypes. For the future, I would like to have more time to explore that subject.

This concludes my inquiry project. Goodbye, ZIP 2019!

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