Disney in the Classroom

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To assist my student in learning theories I incorporate Disney movies. Given their immense popularity it is likely that many students have seen the movies or at the very least know the premise of the movie. I am aware that my students are not taking an introductory class to learn about theories. Below I have outlined a few of the movies I use, their corresponding theories, and a link to videos/songs that are used.

Routine Activities Theory
Cohen and Felson (1979) suggest that three things must occur simultaneously in the same time and space for crime to occur. The three components of routine activities theory are a motivated offender, a suitable target, and the lack of a capable guardian. To illustrate routine activities theory I used Toy Story 2. More specifically I use the scene when Woody gets stolen. Let me set the scene for you. Woody has attempted to rescue Wheezy, a penguin squeaky toy, from the family yard sale. A toy collector named Al, from Al’s toy barn, has stopped by to look at some of the toys. Al is a collector of toys and has been searching for the missing piece of his prized collection, which just so happens to be the Woody doll.

Al notices Woody and immediately asks Andy’s mom about Woody and his price. Andy’s mom mentions that he is not for sale and moves him. With her back turned, Al steals Woody and gleefully returns to his car and heads for home. In this scene we have the motivated offender (Al), the suitable target (Woody) and the lack of a capable guardian (Andy’s mom). I then used this clip (here: Woody gets kidnapped ) to make sure students understand.

Anomie
I use The Little Mermaid to illustrate Merton’s anomie theory, more specifically the adaptation of rebellion. Ariel desperately wants to be human so she can be with Prince Eric and she is adamantly against living the mermaid lifestyle and refuses to participate in royal duties. Therefore she has rejected the mermaid lifestyle and substitutes the human lifestyle. In order to become human Ariel enlists the help of the sea witch Ursula who transforms her into a human even though she is repeatedly told not to interact with Ursula. I use two clips to show her rejection of being a mermaid (here: Ariel ) and substituting the need to be human and using Ursula’s assistance to achieve her goals (here: Ursula). Then we discuss how this adaptation occurs in everyday life.

Labeling Theory
Aladdin and the song “One Jump Ahead” which perfectly illustrates how labeling works and how labeling an individual as deviant can result in more deviance. We listen to the song (here: Aladdin: One Jump Ahead ) and then I highlight some of the more important lyrics in the song. We discuss the following lyrics, “I steal only what I can’t afford, that’s everything”, “Stop thief! Vandal! Outrange! Scandal! Let’s not be too hasty….gotta eat to live, gotta steal to eat, otherwise we’d get along” and finally “riff, raff, street rat, I don’t buy that, if only they’d look closer, would they see a poor boy? No-siree, they’d find out there’s so much more to me”.

I am also looking for new movies to incorporate and any suggestions for movies that could be used are welcomed.

Christle Rowe

Doctoral Student

Old Dominion University

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