Worldview Formation and the Disney Universe

A Case Study on Media Engagement in Youth Ministry

In: Journal of Youth and Theology

This interdisciplinary article argues that media messages play an important role in worldview formation across cultural contexts. Therefore, youth ministry needs to integrate media engagement in its reflection and practice. The article outlines a methodological approach for content analysis of media messages, with worldview theory as the key hermeneutical perspective. Classic Disney films are used as case study, as an influential tradition with its themes and values carried on into ever new formats. Finally, the article reflects missiologically on points of contact and points of tension in relation to the case study, and proposes “double listening” as a key practice in youth ministry, with hermeneutics, didactics, and formation as a threefold approach.

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  • 1

    Lövheim 2012: 151.

  • 4

    Sire 2015: 141. Naugle proposed that a proper understanding of worldview must include the intellectual ideas (the content) the spiritual-moral dimensions (the heart) and the semiotic signs (the carriers of meaning).

  • 5

    Gordon Lynch (2005) helpfully distinguishes between author-focused text-based and audience-focused approaches in theological engagements with popular culture. The third approach of his would add significant perspectives to the present study but is out of the scope of this article.

  • 12

     See esp. Ward 2002Pinsky 2004 Giroux / Pollock 2010 Wasko 2013 and Fruzinska 2014. It is worth noting that Ward uses the following definition in her analysis of Disney: “A worldview is the mean by which experience and belief are merged and organized and by which values are prioritized.” (p. x).

  • 24

    According to Fruzinska 2014the post 1989 animated Disney films express an “Emersonian individualism” with self-reliance as a key element.

  • 26

     Quoted in Pinsky 2004: 7–8. Pinsky follows on by stating that The Disney Gospel “is all about me. My dreams. My will. ‘When you wish upon a star your dreams come true.’ The Disney Bible has both one verse and that is it.” (2004: 10).

  • 27

     Quoted in Pinsky 2004: 9.

  • 29

     See L. Dahle 2014.

  • 31

     See Stott 1992 and McGrath 2014.

  • 33

     Cf. Smith & Denton 2005.

  • 34

     Cf. Savage et al. 2011.

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