Mousetrapped: A Year and a Bit in Orlando
Web Watch has to admire people like Lisa Ray.
Lisa has strong convictions and a big stick-to-it attitude that isn’t often seen elsewhere. She really does mean what she says, and says what she means. Good for her.
Lisa, the founder of PARENTS FOR ETHICAL MARKETING, was upset at how the Disney corporation handled a refund request for the Baby Einstein line of early-learning DVDs. Her reaction to those events (already documented elsewhere) led her to comment to her family, “I wish we could boycott Disney. But I don’t think we can. They’re too big.”
This got her 12-year-old daughter thinking, and she suggested that maybe they could go a year without Disney.
Lisa liked this idea so much, she decided that was exactly what she and her family were going to do: go A YEAR WITHOUT DISNEY.
Lisa already had pretty strong feelings against Disney anyway:
- She doesn’t approve of the Disney Princesses franchise and the politically-incorrect messages it sends to young girls in terms of not growing up to be strong, independent women
- She doesn’t approve of Disney’s track record on race, gender, and history.
- She doesn’t like that there are six big media owners in the US, and that Disney is one of them
- She doesn’t like the number of Disney product recalls, as a family-centered company shouldn’t have as many as they do.
But the Baby Einstein item was really the last straw for Lisa. PARENTS FOR ETHICAL MARKETING believes that companies cater too much to children in order to build a brand identity at a young age, an identity that can be carried over into the teenage or adult years. Web Watch can’t find fault with this complaint, as we’ve mentioned in the past how hard it is to continue to embracing that Disney brand identity as one gets older.
Lisa isn’t above making assumptions to further her anti-Disney agenda, however. In one blog post, she comments on how POOH AND MICKEY ARE DESIGNED ON CLOTHING, and that the clothes must be boys clothing based on the characters’ poses. As Disney Consumer Products has mentioned, Disney has traditionally marketed the Pooh line primarily to mothers, with Tigger being the only one of the four major Pooh characters (Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore) to be marketed to boys and men, and the rest aimed at girls and women. That’s one reason that there’s a Tigger golf head cover at DisneyStore.com currently, but not a Pooh or Piglet one. While some Pooh-related clothing may be considered unisex – hey, it’s a sweatshirt, suitable for both boys and girls – we wouldn’t assume that it’s boy clothing just from lookng at it or strictly because the Bear of Little Brain is standing up with his arms folded. If it’s more positive, gender-empowering character clothing Lisa is looking for, then she should look at merchandise for Tinker Bell or The Evil Queen, or some of the more eclectic Princess-oriented items available at TrenD. Non-traditional messages in merchandising are available – she just has to be willing to look for it.
The LIVING WITHOUT DISNEY rules that Lisa has setup are fairly simple to follow:
- Pack away (or give away) any Disney products currently owned. – This makes sense. You can’t live a year without Disney if your home is filled with Disney-related items. No toys, games, books, clothing, etc.
- Do not spend any money on Disney products. – Again, if you’re going a Year without Disney, this is an obvious item. Shouldn’t be too difficult once you’ve purged your house of Disney stuff. (Unless you bring home items that have branded characters on them as a promotional gimmick.)
- Do not watch any Disney media or go to any Disney websites. – Here, things get a little more difficult. The Ray family enjoys sports, so how can you avoid ESPN-related items? Does this mean that they can’t watch any non-Disney channel for sports highlights, but not if those companies partner with ESPN to show clips of the latest Monday Night Football game? How does reporting on a MNF game fall into the picture when carried elsewhere?
- Disney products are allowed if part of the school’s curriculum. Certainly – you would not want the children to avoid any sort of educational opportunity that Disney may bring to the table.
- Do not borrow Disney products (for example, from the library). Of course not. If you can’t have it at the house, then you can’t borrow them from others.
- Use of Disney products is allowed in other people’s homes. And here’s the issue. Why allow this loophole to exist? We’ve seen other families with children that aren’t allowed to watch television at home go to their friends’ houses to watch ESPN over there. You can’t borrow Disney items, but you can play with them as long as you’re not doing so in your own home. To us, this one item invalidates the valiant attempt that the Rays are trying to accomplish. This last item really is a bit of a cop-out — either boycott Disney entirely, or don’t. There shouldn’t be any half-way option allowed.
Nobody said this was going to be easy for the Ray family. According to Lisa, Disney owns or are partners with a large number of synergistic companies, so their reach is pretty wide. Lisa has a more complete list posted on her site, but Web Watch wanted to share just a few of the more well-known companies that the Rays will be avoiding for the next year:
- Marvel Comics
- US Weekly
- Disney Music Publishing Worldwide
- Hollywood Records
- ABC Network
- Lifetime Network
- Military HistoryChannel
- Buena Vista
- Touchstone Pictures
- Walt Disney Pictures
- Disney Cruise Line
- Disneyland and Walt Disney World
- Baby Einstein Company
- Club Penguin
- Muppets Holding Company
The Ray family is already two months into the project, and it seems to be working for them so far. We wish them luck in making it through the whole year. We know that we wouldn’t be able to do it.
Who knows? Maybe when it’s all over, somebody will come up to them and say:
“Hey, Ray Family! You’ve gone a year without having a major media company contribute to or influence your life. What are you going to do next?” — “We’re going to Disney World!”
That really would be an awesome commercial, wouldn’t it?
2011 UPDATE: Web Watch wanted to be sure that we included an epilogue to the Ray family story, in how they fared with their YEAR WITHOUT DISNEY.
So after a full year of avoiding everything Disney, they ended up doing fairly well for themselves. They only “did Disney” twice in the year — once, to see the movie TOY STORY, and the second when they inadvertently bought a loaf of bread that contained Disney branding on it.
Not a bad effort.
One reply on “One family’s quest to go one year without Disney”
Terrific summary of our project — thanks! An explanation of the “other people’s home” rule: This was for our 8-year-old (not our 13-year-old). I just couldn’t bring myself to place her in the position of explaining to an adult that she couldn’t watch a certain movie or play a certain game. I didn’t want her to feel too much pressure or have to answer an adult’s questions about the project. I was just trying to protect her. What I’ve found, however, is that she hasn’t needed the protection. She’s perfectly comfortable standing up for herself. In fact, she’d agree with you — she told me yesterday that she rejected some Disney books in the school library (in favor of other choices) because “it wouldn’t make sense if we only did it at home!” Seems I did not give her enough credit. That rule may soon be rescinded.
My comment about the sweatshirts was less about Disney per se and more about the state of gendered-character clothing. It struck me as I took that photo. I hadn’t seen anything with a female character in a cross-armed, leaning back position — I can’t imagine a princess posed like that — but if they exist, that’s great. My older daughter wore that Pooh sweatshirt for at least two years — it was one of her favorites when she was younger. I still think it was probably first purchased in the boy’s department.
Thanks again for the kind post.