Children aspiring to be like their favourite Disney character or insensitive mockery of culture?

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For anyone who hasn’t yet heard of the movie ‘Moana’, it is a popular Disney movie which was released in in 2016. The story follows a young Polynesian girl who befriends Maui, a rather large, tattooed demigod whose voice is played by Dwayne Johnston. They then go on to return the heart of the ocean etc etc. (I have a three-year-old so I have only seen it 64,296 times.) ‘Moana’ was a massive hit with children everywhere. And therefore, without any hesitation the Disney store, designed costumes to replicate the characters from the movie. (I will be honest I may have purchased the over-price tiny piece of material for my daughter.)

All was well until Halloween last year, when it emerged in the newspapers that parents should not dress their children as a different race from their own as it could be deemed racist. This statement was specifically aimed at The Moana, Maui and the movie Frozens’ character Elsa’s costumes.

 

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It was suggested that Disney’s Moana who is seen as a Polynesian warrior should not be replicated unless the person dressing up is actually Polynesian. The same was suggested for Elsa from the Disney movie frozen, as dressing like her was seen to be promoting ‘white beauty’. So, do we now have to be dead to dress as a ghost? Or from Egypt to be a mummy at Halloween?

The initial blog actually suggested that dressing your children as though from a culture other than your own was ‘cultural appropriation’. In more understandable terms, this suggests that you are taking something from a culture which you don’t belong to and using it for a purpose it wasn’t meant for. Surely dressing as a fictional movie character cannot fall into this category, and is being blown way out of proportion?

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I believed that dressing children up as a character from their favourite movie, whether they are of a different race or not can cause no harm? WRONG, according to activists it is insensitive and can be seen as ‘making fun’ of someone else’s culture. I know I found this incredibly shocking as harming anyone’s feelings while watching my daughter prance around the living room singing ‘see the line where the sky meets the sea’ did not even cross my mind.

Surely, we should let children be children and if they like a movie they should be able to rein act it by dressing in a costume without being deemed as racist? I can definitely understand how we should be respectful of other people’s cultures and ethnicity but I’m pretty sure my three-year-old daughter does not care about race. All she cares about is looking like a strong-willed Polynesian princess or queen Elsa from Frozen and I most definitely am not going to stand in her way.

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On Halloween night, there were plenty of small children in masks at my door. Who knows whether under the masks if they were Black, White, Asian, Indian or any other race. It was Halloween and that is not what we should be thinking about. As long as the children get into a fun costume and go out and have a good time is what’s important. So, we should embrace our children’s innocence, let them wear the costumes, let them watch the movies, let them sing the songs. There is plenty of time to discuss race, power and privilege with them in the future.

Georgia McCalmont is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University.  She can be contacted on Twitter @04Georgia or Instagram @Georgiamac26

 

Once upon a placement…

In June 2016 I began my placement in The Walt Disney Company EMEA in London as Regional Communications intern for Disney Channels.

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Writing this now it is hard to believe that it has been four months since I have finished my year-long (AMAZING) placement with Disney and as this is my first ever blog post I thought that an insight into the best year and experience of my life would be a great place to start.

This was my first job in PR and in the beginning I had zero confidence and like most people beginning their placement journey I did doubt my ability and was hyper conscious of doing a good job and completing every task to the very best of my ability. I also had the added worry of moving to London, a city where I didn’t have a network of family or friends. Daunted about the prospect of tubes and the size of London when I first arrived I can honestly say it is an amazing city and living in London has made me more independent person. It is a city I am very glad to have called home for a year.

Looking back I am very proud of myself for taking the plunge as it was the best decision I have ever made.

My role was Regional Communication Intern for Disney Channels and I was across franchises such as Star Wars and Marvel.

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The Regional Communications team supports campaigns in Europe, Middle East and Africa. On a day-to-day basis I liaised with PR managers across EMEA – this involved ad hoc requests, distributing assets, setting up phone opportunities with talent, playing a key role in organising asset creation days and talent tours and EMEA coverage reporting.

I was extremely lucky to have such a wonderful team who encouraged me and gave me roles of responsibility throughout my time as an intern. In addition the strong network of interns enhanced the experience even more.

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As the only Irish girl in my department there was a slight language barrier in the beginning and the spelling of my name confused 99.9% of the people I worked with, experiencing more variations on the pronunciation of my name than I can even remember! But my Irish brogue and slang did provide many entertaining moments and laughs I still look back on – explaining an appropriate response to “what’s the craic” being a highlight!

The PR department in Disney is very busy but it is best just to dive right in and learn as much as possible by absorbing all the information you hear and by taking advantage of every experience there is too offer.

My top five placement tips from my time with Disney:disney5

  • Communication

Obvious to start with I know, but good and continuous communication with your managers and supervisors is key to ensure that you complete every task to the best of your ability and to manage your work load.

It is also vital, especially in PR to make contacts and the best way to start that is through effective communication, taking note of who you are communicating with and what you want to achieve.

Throughout this experience I have relied strongly on the ability to communicate effectively whether it be through good interpersonal skills or clarity, focus and accuracy in my writing skills which are the foundations of effective communication in PR.

  • Organisation is key

Without sounding too like Monica in Friends, organisation is Vital. I had my trusty diary and my daily to do list by my side at all times to ensure that I kept up with deadlines and important dates and embargoes. By keeping a diary of key dates and events this ensures that you have a more informed view of what’s happening around you. A placement student that is highly organised with key information on hand stands out.

  • Participate

No idea is ever too small or too silly, as Walt Disney once said, “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing, that it was all started by a mouse.”disney3

In the beginning I was hesitant to put forward ideas especially in a group context but as the year progressed I began to understand that no idea is a silly idea and that your managers are eager to hear what we as placement students think. Don’t forget we are the social media generation: we are a useful tool to PR practitioners.

  • It is ok to make mistakes

The age old mantra “you learn from your mistakes”. I found this to be very true. Everyone makes mistakes as long as your correct your mistake and learn from it, as one wise person in Disney once said to me, “its PR not ER”.

  • Lots of tea and treats

My wonderful managers had a slight addiction to tea and throughout my year on placement I found that a cup of tea and a biscuit goes a long way especially on a busy day!

New experiences can be daunting and at times quite beastly but just remember, the beauty is that you get out what you put in.

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Caoimhe Fitzpatrick is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @caoimhef_95