The Disney Doctrine
May 23, 2003 7:42 PM   Subscribe

I just have to say that Beauty and the Beast is one of the most skin crawlingly creepy movies I've ever seen. At the time I saw it as a love story about Stockholm Syndrome. I'm uninclined to see it again to see if I'm right or just weird.
posted by wobh at 7:57 PM on May 23, 2003

Hmm. A couple small factual errors (Sebastian sings the song "Kiss the Girl" in The Little Mermaid, not Prince what's-his-name-- and I thought he was supposed to be Jamaican, not "Hispanic;" also, the crows in Dumbo make fun of Dumbo at first, but I'm not sure that it was specifically about his ears, and at any rate they were rather quickly shamed out of it by the mouse), and I'd say that many of the fairy tales Disney couldn't help but be rather sexist given the materials they were based on. Then again, considering how they mangled the few movies they made with strong female leads...

And Disney's "predators = bad" policy in cartoons and "nature" clips definitely drove me to turn to PBS and root for the carnivores. Wolves have to eat too, dammit! Disney World in Orlando is similarly creepy. Last time I went I saw lots of pudgy birds waddling around just begging to be picked off... the disquieting thing is that I saw hawks and other birds of prey everywhere in Orlando except above the park. You don't suppose Disney hires marksmen to patrol the place and bring down stray raptors, do you?
posted by tyro urge at 9:18 PM on May 23, 2003

While walking through Walt Disney World this past fall, my wife and I were treated to a good lesson in racism; while looking through yet another gift shop, we were treated to an agitated Hispanic man explaining to his significant other that Mickey Mouse should be boycotted.

His reason? "Because he's a White Guy".

Just some food for thought. Or something.
posted by spirit72 at 9:23 PM on May 23, 2003

This reads like unpublished character notes from a Don DeLillo novel.
posted by rusty at 8:06 AM on May 24, 2003

I'd noticed the Little Mermaid factual errors, but I thought that the overall idea was rather interesting despite them (it's been years since I've seen Dumbo so I wasn't aware that there was an error there). I know a lot of people who really don't question any of the content in Disney films; they figure that if it's Disney, it's automatically good. They may be critical of everything else they expose their kids to, but if it's Disney, it gets a free pass. That frightens me.
posted by eilatan at 8:24 AM on May 24, 2003

I have a neato article on the existential humor of Edger Guest. can i post that?

HA, i guess right....'White Noise'
posted by clavdivs at 8:51 AM on May 24, 2003

This expose is, frankly, 95% self-conceived garbage by someone who must have wanked off to "the Tao of Poo" or something. Stuff like this is just as irritating as all the people who "can prove" how cartoon characters, many of whom are sexually androgenous, are secretly gay.

Talented and creative as they are, I sincerely doubt the animators, or for that matter songwriters, of Disney films really sit there and spend the time crafting subtle racist references in their projects. Yes, the "sex in the sand" and all the other Snopes-noted Easter Eggs are there, but this guy is talking about psychological manipulation of Machavellian levels: and as an animator, I'd like to vouch for this: we don't get paid remotely enough to take the time to do that. Sorry.

The crows in Dumbo aren't subtle, they're blatant, having been made in a time where mocking black people wasn't deemed inappropriate. "Bosco," anyone? The Song of the South argument I know for a fact I've already ranted about on MeFi TWICE so I'm not even going to start up with that again.

Like I did say once in a previous argument about the "true intentions" of some of these animations, pay homage to Freud: it's just a cigar, okay? It's not racism, it's not glorification of slavery or capitalism, it's not indirect attacks on Latino stereotypes. It's just a friggin' cigar.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:21 AM on May 24, 2003

Most of those points aren't remotely exclusive to Disney's animated films and can be found throughout film and TV.

I find it strange that the author was apparently ok with Disney animation until seeing the terrible racism of The Lion King.
posted by obfusciatrist at 9:33 AM on May 24, 2003

Yes, The Mouse can be sinister.

Oddly, Clive Barker's Abarat is set to be the next Big Huge Disney Thing:

The author and filmmaker will lay off the blood and guts to create The Abarat Quartet, described as a modern-day Wizard of Oz meets Harry Potter, and featuring a 16-year-old heroine in a series of otherworldly adventures.

In turn, Disney hopes to milk the story for all it's worth. The studio plans to develop movies, TV series, theme-park rides, video games and a host of licensed products to be hawked at Disney retail stores.

At least Disney doesn't mind that Barker is gay and increasingly out-of-the-closet. Frankly, I didn't think the "all-American, family-oriented" Disney would have the guts. (Barker's "partner" is mentioned on the inside cover of the first Abarat novel, and Barker's projects like Rare Flesh and his comical cartoon for Cliff Pieces [via iconomy; scroll down to Barker on the left menu] are very visible.)
posted by Shane at 9:53 AM on May 24, 2003

Perhaps Disney is simply a victim of their own successful formula here. They started out by re-telling old fairy tales, which themselves were written to pacify young children into a world where class and position mattered above all else, and where life was pre-determined. Where, if you were lucky enough, your future husband was pre-determined, and you might as well like it because it's not like you have a choice in the matter. Such constructs as 'there's only one romantic love for everyone' are simply leftovers from a totally different era, and fall apart upon examination today. The trouble with Disney is that no one seems to want to examine them, saying, as has been stated, 'they're just stories'.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:27 PM on May 24, 2003

Seems like a pretty lame, sloppy (another error: one of Ariel's quotes is cited from "Beauty and the Beast") attempt to tie together stuff that's been said better and long ago by others - Schickel's Disney Version, which is cited in a very narrow context, actually addressed a lot of these issues long before the current crop this guy is focusing on even came out. And he does a really poor job delineating between attitudes expressed by villains, side characters or heroes (all of which have different functions) as well as between choices Disney made in adapting material vs. stuff they made up whole-cloth.

That said, it would be delusional not to admit that Disney deserves the most high-powered reaming imaginable for the way the company (not the animators themselves, of course, XQUZYPHYR, but the big bosses) has commodified childhood innocence and set the precedent for most of today's installation of consumerism in young children's minds. Just because this messenger is a little incompetent doesn't mean it ain't so.
posted by soyjoy at 8:50 AM on May 27, 2003

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