How a repugnant monster corporation pretends to wholesomeness

What comes to mind when you hear the word Disney?

For a lot of people it means family entertainment, wholesome enjoyment, and harmless fun.

Which is odd, because Disney is in reality a malign influence on society and an appallingly exploitative employer for those unfortunate enough to work for it. There are endless stories of minimum-wage employees passing out as they rush from one costume appearance to another in the underground tunnels that form an integral part of every Disney theme park.

Far worse, however, is Disney’s malign influence on the minds of the young. Disney has perfected the art of pitching low, of assuming its audience is comprised of intellectually-challenged information-free dupes who can be palmed off with the most formulaic trash provided they’re told it is “cute.”

To exploit its marketing prowess and international distribution channels, the Disney Corporation has acquired the rights to a great many children’s stories and then shmaltzerized them into travesties. By way of example we can cite Winnie-the-Pooh.

A.A. Milne originally wrote the stories for his son Christopher Robin and the characters are all based on the stuffed toys the child played with. When the stories were published they were accompanied by charming illustrations by E.H. Shepard. The stories are gently humorous, poignant, and redolent of childhood fantasies. An example of the Shepard illustrations is below.

Disney, on the other hand, created Prozac-befuddled low-IQ travesties that lack subtlety, charm, sophistication, and humanity. They are prancing idiots with mindless grins and the story-lines are devoid of anything remotely connected to childhood. An example of the repellent Disney version is below.

Others have written about how Disney reinforces unhelpful stereotypes: terrible role model of the passive heroine waiting to be rescued by Prince Charming, or nowadays the stock Feisty Girl who is really just a 1980s action hero cliché in a girl’s body and as such is an equally terrible role model for real young girls. Some people have even noticed that the Disney attitude towards sexuality is deeply unhelpful: pretend it doesn’t exist, aside from a chaste kiss between heroine and hero right at the end of the movie.

The stock Disney trope sets up the principle characters, introduces the antagonist, there’s the inevitable mid-point fissure between the protagonists before they reunite to overcome adversity and triumph in the end. Throw in some simplistic quasi-humor and you’ve got a formula that can be recycled through endless movies by merely altering the characters a little each time. Most importantly of all, make sure the characters are average. Make sure they don’t require any intellect or meaningful knowledge in order to reach their Happy Ever After.

What does this tell the audience?

Do we really want our children to grow up thinking that provided they “try hard enough” and are “team players” and “believe in themselves” then they’ll end up with a happy-ever-after? Real life is complex, often cruel and deeply unfair, and very few people get what they deserve. So human beings who’ve internalized the Disney fantasy are going to have a very difficult time reconciling their preconceptions with harsh reality. Who will they blame when they don’t get the happy-ever-after they were promised as children?

Themselves, or their partners, or their children, or their bosses.

Because if things didn’t work out like the cartoons promised then someone must be to blame.

If you’re skeptical about the connection, just pause a moment and consider the people you know. Consider your own reactions to disappointment.

Life is not a Disney theme park, sanitized and whitewashed and scaled to ignorant fantasies. Life is complex and difficult and full of unexpected challenges. Disney fare is one of the worst possible preparations for dealing with real life.

Sure, it’s easy to say that all this concern is misplaced, that all children grow up and come to realize the difference between the Disney version of life and complex reality. But that’s akin to saying that all children grow up and come to realize that the invisible magical creatures they were told about in church aren’t any more real than Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. It’s akin to saying that there aren’t people who go to Las Vegas and truly believe they’ve seen the actual Eiffel Tower.

The fact is, we carry our childhood ideas over into adulthood far more often than we’re comfortable admitting. Think of all the people who become disillusioned with dating apps because they don’t reliably deliver Prince(ess) Charming. Think of all the people who really do apportion blame for the disappointments they inevitably experience. And think about the very bad examples set by the various Disney characters: no matter how vacuous and ignorant you may be, provided you’re a Team Player and Overcome Adversity then all will be well.

Of course Disney is not to blame for all the misconceptions and bad ideas and poor role models in the world. There are plenty of malign influences twixt cradle and grave. But aside from religions, only Disney manages to be a malign influence that has convinced people it’s actually wholesome. That’s a feat comparable to the makers of Barbie managing to convince people she’s an ideal phenotype.

Which, remember, they did for quite a while…

So the next time you’re thinking about exposing a child to a Disney production of some kind, it may be worth pausing and considering what better alternatives there may be out in the world. Alternatives that encourage the child to think, to acquire real knowledge, to accept that a great many things will always be outside of its control and that failure is not necessarily due to a lack of Trying Your Hardest and Being A Team Player. Some adversities cannot be overcome and life is often unfair. Taking it personally is a huge mistake that sets the child up for endless unhappiness and a lifetime of paying for useless therapy.

But if you really must visit a Disney theme park, at least take along sufficient plastic explosive and det cord to make the trip a truly wholesome one your children will remember for the rest of their Disney-free lives.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

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