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Huey, Dewey, and Louie's pivotal role in modern Family Planning
August 1, 2013 7:33 AM   Subscribe

In 1968, well loved cartoon character Donald Duck continued his educational film career by appearing in a Disney-produced short for the Population Council, called Family Planning.

Made for the now 60-year-old NGO, the U.S. Population Council, and distributed by Chilean Planned Parenthood affiliate, Asociación Chilena de Protección de la Familia, the ten minute film has the normally crotchety duck introducing the concept of family planning to a composite couple of the world, made up of a skeptical, somewhat resigned husband and a demure but curious wife.

The Population Council is not without controversy. Like other advocates for family planning and birth control of the time, it was influenced by the earlier eugenics movement, and had appointed for its first president, Major General Frederick Osborn. A respected eugenicist of the time, and one of the founding directors of the Pioneer Fund, an organization that continues to wade into the waters of seeking links between race, IQ, and heritability.

For good measure, here's a clip from Louis Malle's 1969 documentary series, L’Inde fantôme, featuring a family planning campaign in India with a curiously Disney-like logo.
posted by 2N2222 (17 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

With an increasing number of children in the family, there is an increasing scarcity of resources, until the tipping point is reached where you get your own reality TV show and book deal
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:01 AM on August 1, 2013

This made me crack, if only because it seems to describe their "religious beliefs":

The Duggars are devout fundamentalist Christians. In accordance with their beliefs, they only watch wholesome family television on DVD, and various historical events. They have filtered Internet service.

I saw the show where they go to Japan. They reminded me of the folks from the Midwest I worked with nearly 20 years ago.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:05 AM on August 1, 2013

If you don't have time to watch the whole Family Planning video, which I think you should, I recommend skipping to about here when the couple starts asking questions about how to family plan and the narrator talks about 'pills and devices' and things take all kind of weird turns with regards to culture and gender and it's almost funny if it wasn't from 6 years before I was born.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:21 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Donald Duck: Simultaneously rehabilitating and reinforcing stereotypes about American sailors since 1934.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:26 AM on August 1, 2013 [6 favorites]

The eugenics program isn't even hidden. "Every Man" is represented by a vaguely Mexican looking man wearing an Oriental sash and speaking with a comical Italian immigrant accent. And the woman is a good wife, never speaking directly, only talking through her husband. This is 1968, people.

I believe family planning is one of the best tools there is for helping populations lift themselves out of poverty. But watching something as patrician and condescending as this really creeps me out.
posted by Nelson at 8:28 AM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

A chapter title in P.J. O'Rourke's comical look at population control is "Just Enough of Me, Way Too Much of You." Funny because it's true...
posted by resurrexit at 8:39 AM on August 1, 2013

The eugenics program isn't even hidden. "Every Man" is represented by a vaguely Mexican looking man wearing an Oriental sash and speaking with a comical Italian immigrant accent.

I'm not quite clear how this convicts them of a clear eugenicist intention. The figure is meant to be a composite of all the races of the world; if you're going to make such a figure he's obviously going to end up "vaguely Mexican looking" (i.e., brown without being obviously "caucasian" or obviously "african") and he's also obviously going to end up wearing a mixed costume. I mean, if they'd gone with Mr. and Mrs. Average White Suburban American Couple wouldn't we growl about how disgusting it was that they were using Normative White People to lecture to people all over the world about birth control?

The relationship of family planning to eugenicist movements is undeniable but complex and by 1968 was pretty tenuous. More interesting to me is that as whitebread and conservative a company as Disney saw nothing at all controversial about lending their brand to this message at that time. It's an interesting reminder of how radically the politics around family planning shifted in the wake of Roe v. Wade and the Republican Party's Southern shift. Jill Lepore wrote a terrific piece about the history of family planning in the US for the New Yorker a year or two back which traces this movement. In 1968 family planning was heavily supported by the Republican establishment.
posted by yoink at 8:46 AM on August 1, 2013 [7 favorites]

The funny thing about using birth control for eugenics is that the kind of people who like eugenics are often the kind of people who don't like the idea of women having independence, something birth control unequivocally gives them.

Which leads to weird realities where certain groups (very poor, prisoners, mentally ill or handicapped) can find themselves sterilized or ordered to use birth control by a system that is also working very hard to make simply purchasing and using birth control/abortion nearly impossible for those women and many others.

Like so many things, who is allowed to consent or not consent is the real battleground.
posted by emjaybee at 8:51 AM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

On a related note, the adventures of Huey, Dewey, and Louie have also made me expectant that my son might solve a mystery or rewrite history.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:56 AM on August 1, 2013 [9 favorites]

In 1968 family planning was heavily supported by the Republican establishment.

Interesting. That's also the year Humanae Vitae (the encyclical restating the Catholic Church's position on artificial contraceptives) came out. By then, most of the mainline Protestant denominations and even many evangelical movements had loosened their prohibitions on contraception (it started with the Anglicans in 1930).

In the purely political realm, the Supreme Court had just struck down all state laws banning artificial contraception in Griswold in 1965.

In America at least, the development of views on artificial contraception is a very complicated issue. The change of viewpoints was incredibly rapid.
posted by resurrexit at 9:13 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

In 1968 family planning was heavily supported by the Republican establishment.

Presumably because it was anti-Catholic? cf. Who Gets The Drumstick?

Religion and politics are not only strange bedfellows, but there seems to be a lot of bed-hopping going on.
posted by GuyZero at 10:57 AM on August 1, 2013

Hey there. Long time listener, first time caller here. Mega dittos from Gomorrah-By-The-Bay... Oops, wrong show. Anyway...

yoink: In 1968 family planning was heavily supported by the Republican establishment.

ressurexit: That's also the year Humanae Vitae (the encyclical restating the Catholic Church's position on artificial contraceptives) came out.

So what I'm gathering here is that this would be an obvious counterpoint to that Donald Duck vid? (Admittedly, this is more recent.)
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 11:36 AM on August 1, 2013

If you've never seen this Memorandum to Bernard Berelson (President, Population Council) with proposed measures to reduce U.S. fertility from 1969, please do. It's quite disturbing as it's all been carried out. Successfully.
posted by NakedShorted at 12:43 PM on August 1, 2013

nakedshort --


These things have not been carried out:

a) Substantial marriage tax
b) Child Tax
c) Tax married more than single
d) Remove parents tax exemption
d) Additional taxes on parents with more
than I or 2 children in school
Reduce/eliminate paid maternity leave or
Reduce/eliminate children's or family
Bonuses for delayed marriage and greater
Pensions for women of 45 with less than
N children
Eliminate Welfare payemnts after first 2
Limit/eliminate public-financed medical
care, scholarships, housing, loans and
subsidies to families with more than N
Compulsory abortion of
Compulsory sterilization
of all who have two
children except for a few
who would be allowed
Confine childbearing to
only a limited number of
Stock certificate type
permits for children
Housing Policies:
a) Discouragement of
private home
b) Stop awarding public
housing based on
family size
Payments to encourage
Abortion and
sterilization on demand

About half the remaining items could only be characterized as half carried out. And a minority of these items have been carried out at all.
posted by jclarkin at 1:15 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

NakedShorted: " Memorandum ..., please do. It's quite disturbing as it's all been carried out. Successfully."

I was so shocked by this that I checked it out. Apparently, so have a lot of other people.

Short version: the memo is being quoted wildly out of context. It was never a proposal, but a list of population control measures that had been proposed in history.

You'll also note that many of the 'proposals' in the memo are supported by American left-wingers and opposed by the right, many others implemented by right-wingers over the opposition of the left, and many others have never been, and are never likely to be, implemented.
posted by Dreadnought at 1:15 PM on August 1, 2013

What I find really interesting about all these things is how none of the modern narratives regarding birth control and eugenics dovetail very cleanly with how they were regarded just 45 years ago. Whatever eugenic tendencies that may have existed in the production of the Family Planning film, birth control seemed to take off dramatically in first world nations among largely white, largely female individuals who increasingly enjoyed autonomy, education, and reproductive freedom, and limited their fertility through their own choice. Perhaps not coincidentally these places also have the greatest levels of prosperity on the globe. Contrast to places where fertility (along with just about everything else) was made the absolute purview of the state, like population limiting China and population expanding Romania, experiencing a dreadful spiral into a pit of inhumanity from which they're still scrambling to climb out. Or no less dehumanizing, the places where religion and/or culture conspired to keep such freedoms from being enjoyed.

Perhaps the old school eugenicist, and modern day racialist (à la Pioneer Fund) is appalled by who took the lessons of Family Planning to heart and put them to practice. But the result seems largely the same wherever individuals, most notably women, are increasingly educated and free to determine their own fertility: lower rates of fertility by choice and increasing prosperity.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:40 PM on August 1, 2013

I refuse to take family-planning advice from someone who never wears pants.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:48 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

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