The Morality of Disney Films through the Years

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Nineteen of Disney’s animated feature films were randomly selected to be viewed and coded using the Moral Media Messages (MMM) scale. The scale includes ten moral messages: six positive messages and four negative messages. Paired observers were used for coding and reliability was confirmed. Based on previous research regarding prosocial and negative behaviors, it was hypothesized that Disney characters before 1990 would have a higher negative moral count than characters in after 1990 Disney films. Furthermore, the researchers proposed other hypotheses including differences among more negative and positive morals according to gender and SES. An additional hypothesis included that characters who are considered the protagonist would show more positive morals, whereas the antagonist would show more negative morals. The following results were obtained in the study: negative messages deception/ego and dissing/prejudice scores were significantly higher in films after 1990 than before. Upon examining genders, males were significantly higher in “threatening” messages than females. However, females were found to be significantly higher in “forgiving” messages than males. The following messages were found significant when looking at the character’s SES: perspective taking, nurture/affection, “kindness,” deception/ego, and dissing/prejudice. When examining the roles as a function of the ten messages, the following were found significant: perspective taking, “apology,” “forgiveness,” nurture/affection, “kindness,” “anger,” deception/ego, dissing/prejudice, and “threats.” Future research will address some of the limitations mentioned in the discussion.