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The twilight of the Disney princess America's decline is playing out in cartoons

The sun sets on their empire. Credit: Darkain Multimedia


September 23, 2022   6 mins

On Sunday, as hundreds of thousands queued to see the mortal remains of our Queen lying in state, I stood in a shorter queue, to see a different queen in the flesh. The occasion was my daughter’s long-planned birthday excursion to the West End musical staging of Frozen. And it was magnificent. We thrilled, wept, and whooped all the way through; the show’s high point — the Sparkly Elsa Dress Reveal — even received a standing ovation.

But in the odd moment during the performance when I briefly regained the ability to think, I was struck by the fact that everyone in the cast spoke, and sang, with American accents. It’s clear enough from the show’s cast list that pretty much every performer is UK-born. The Theatre Royal Drury Lane is, obviously, in the UK. Frozen is set in a fictional country with Nordic styling. Why, then, the accent?

It would have been jarring to see the Frozen story done with English accents — but equally, it’s hard to think of a more vivid example of American soft power than a stage full of English actors performing an American movie in American accents. And of all the delivery mechanisms for that soft power, there are few more pervasive, and powerful, than the American cultural colossus Walt Disney.

Disney, a $200 billion corporate and creative titan, is itself an instance of the American Dream: founded by two Midwesterners on creativity, hard work, sweating employees, and the ruthless protection of copyright. (They’ll even sue day care centres for using Disney images without a licence.) In Disney’s princesses, we can trace the evolution of that American Dream.

The first two, Snow White (1937) and Cinderella (1950), are straight retellings of European fairy tales: in effect, transposing Old World mythologies to New World media. But the ideology that would, in time, replace those mythologies was already taking shape on a far bigger scale.

In 1918, five years before Disney was founded, President Woodrow Wilson responded to the bloodbath of Europe’s first Great War with Fourteen Points. Here he laid out the germinal version of the now-familiar “rules-based international order”, and set America against overt imperialism, declaring that “the day of conquest and aggrandisement” was over. He declared: “National aspirations must be respected; people may now be dominated and governed only by their own consent. ‘Self determination’ is not a mere phrase; it is an imperative principle of action.”

Of course, Wilson’s proposed solution did not result in lasting peace. Between Snow White and Cinderella, the Old World went to war again, and by the time peace was declared in 1945, some 70-85 million people had died. During that time, European confidence in their traditions, faith, and political legitimacy grew as exhausted as their coffers.

In the shattered aftermath, the governments of 50 nations including Britain and the United States founded the United Nations. Conveniently for the still-confident and far-from-exhausted United States, this new body built a one-way ratchet for dismantling rival empires into its founding charter, via an obligation to “promote self-government” including across then-colonial holdings. But if more than a little geopolitical self-interest crept into the American approach to post-war peace, it was not a purely cynical project. Twentieth-century American culture was also magnetic: against the grim background of post-war Europe, it’s not difficult to understand how the ebullience, informality and sheer prosperity of American products and entertainment might have been so appealing.

As Europe’s empires fell apart piece by piece, aided in no small way by the universal solvent of American-style liberal democracy, so America grew more confident — and Disney moved from transposing to re-working the Old World’s mythical legacy. Sleeping Beauty (1959) was the first princess to make significant changes to the fairy tale: no longer a barely-veiled allegory of female sexual awakening, in Disney’s hands it became a tale of heroic (and more or less overtly Christian) masculine agency fit for a now-ascendant superpower.

Following the deaths of Walt and Roy Disney in 1966 and 1971 respectively, there were no princesses for a couple of decades — at least until history ended. But a year after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the princess machine roared to life again, and with a confidence born of its standing as the foremost cultural behemoth in the world’s only superpower, Disney flung caution to the wind.

The traditional princess stories were rewritten in alignment with the now-ascendant American mythos of “self determination”. The Little Mermaid (1990) inverts the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale: a story about the tragic consequences of trying to be what you aren’t becomes one about overcoming family constraints to become whatever you want to be. In Beauty and the Beast (1992), bookish Belle escapes stifling provincial life for a higher destiny (and a nicer house). Tangled (2010) stars a Rapunzel who saves her prince, rather than the other way round, even as she affects her own escape from the tower. And by the time we get to the 21st century’s best-loved princess — Elsa, in Frozen (2013) — the source myth is all but unrecognisable, beneath a story about the perils of repressing your true nature.

Just as the New World redesigned older mythologies to fit its own increasingly dominant narrative, it became clear that for “self determination” to be truly universal, its European legacy had to be sidelined as well. To begin with, this simply meant adding stories appropriated from further afield, such as Arabian Nights (Aladdin, 1993) or the Ballad of Mulan (Mulan, 1998), to deliver a range of self-actualising princesses with different skin tones.

That’s all gone wrong since the End of History itself came to an end. Now, even Disney’s princesses are growing politicised. But just as the Global War on Terror turned the spread of democracy from a matter of leading by example to one of imposing by force, so too the American culture those princesses deliver to little girls worldwide has grown less cohesive, less ebullient, and simultaneously more fractious and moralistic. In turn, this has paralleled a slow stagnation in American culture and lifestyle, notably for those further down the food chain, where the middle class has been shrinking since the Seventies — even as incomes continue to rise for the wealthiest.

This slow dimming of the American Dream has brought increasingly bitter internal politics — and with this, the Disney soft power juggernaut has turned its focus inward, proffering not entrancing, confident morality tales that project the American moral vision outward, but didactic ones that project an identitarian update of that moral vision toward Americans themselves. And, in particular, toward those Americans who retain a residual fondness for what remains of the New World’s European cultural legacy.

A trajectory already well under way by the early 2010s, this has now so fully permeated ‘educated’ American opinion that by 2018 undergraduates were writing papers about historic racism and sexism in the Disney canon. And thus, inexorably, Disney has found itself dragged into the culture war, via a growing conflict between the mostly progressive views of its staff and a Disney-buying American public who don’t necessarily share those views.

For the bottom line is that a soft-power colossus on the scale of Disney could only avoid politics as long as the imperium itself was in agreement on the fundamentals. Now, though, this is no longer the case, and the result is a running battle for who owns the princesses. That battle has seen, among other recent skirmishes, a backlash to multiracial casting decisions for live-action remakes of Snow White and The Little Mermaid; a subsequent anti-racist backlash-to-the-backlash; and even a revocation of Disney’s special tax status in Orlando following the company’s intervention in Florida legislation on sex education in schools.

But amid the fighting over the meaning of Disney’s princesses, what will happen to the future stories? Can there even be new princesses? The demand for more sparkly dresses is, after all, insatiable. And you only have to glance at the extremely strong feelings on both sides of the Atlantic prompted by Meghan Markle’s brief and divisive brush with the British monarchy, to see that even a nation founded in repudiating the Crown still often longs for a sprinkle of royal magic.

But when every new work is minutely scrutinised for the stereotypes it reinforces or challenges, and assessed less on narrative power than compliance with “self determination”, what does this do to the storytelling? Well, consider that the only character in Encanto, the most recent big-ticket Disney animation, who has experienced any significant real-life adventure is the heroine’s grandmother. And Abuela’s adventures, which happened long before the movie takes place, are portrayed as a traumatic backstory that results in her stifling her grandchildren’s self-actualisation. In effect, it’s a Disney princess adventure about the impossibility, under modern conditions, of making Disney princess adventures.

In the name of universal self-actualisation, then, the ascendant American imperium is now seeking to sand its culture free of all Old-World legacies and associated stereotypes. But this raises the question of whether a stereotype-free princess story would even be possible. What are stories, after all, except stereotypes which we embrace imaginatively? And it’s far from clear whether a 21st-century America suffering from a self-inflicted inability to tell compelling stories can ever be as internationally influential as the 20th-century version that propelled the Land of the Free to global hegemony.

But even if it can’t, both Disney and the American imperium still have a very long way to fall. Queen Elizabeth II may have been Britain’s longest-ever serving monarch, but (as attested by the sea of blue sparkly nylon in Covent Garden last Sunday) the hearts of countless six-year-old girls around the world belong irretrievably to Queen Elsa.

And even if, as some predict, the American Dream really has peaked, it took the British empire a long time to come apart. Former colonial outposts are often the last to abandon the imperial ways: there are, to this day, Anglican schools in parts of the world a long way from England, where imperial-era English is spoken with an elegance long since vanished from the British Isles. I suspect that long after the global American empire is a dim memory, there will still be little girls in far-flung places, playing ice princesses in glittery, grimy blue nylon.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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Rod Robertson
Rod Robertson
1 year ago

Yes, well, let’s not even talk about what the new Disney narratives are doing to the spirit, energy, confidence, drive, and ambition of young boys. Or maybe they merely reflect an already emasculated civilization. Welcome to the club, ladies.

Terry M
Terry M
1 year ago
Reply to  Rod Robertson

Yes, The Lion King was the last Disney film that appealed to boys as well as girls. It is just one more step in the feminization of America via the propaganda machine of big media.

Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry M

Disagree: The Emperors New Groove is a tour de force. And have you seen Hercules? With Gerald Scarfe character design? Fabulous.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jane Eyre
Kingsley Baconhausen
Kingsley Baconhausen
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry M

Wreck-It Ralph and its sequel are two of my favorite recent Disney movies, mostly because they aren’t straining under the burden of political correctness. The sequel even mocks the idea of “princesses”.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

It takes a special kind of perspicacity to be able to turn attending a theatre production aimed primarily (but not exclusively, obviously!) at prepubescent girls into a wide-ranging and highly insightful piece on the changing cultural mores of the past one hundred years.

Mary is a true harbinger of our times. She’s also intelligent enough to leave plenty of room for the reader’s own thoughts and experiences to coalesce along with her own, rather than falling into didacticism.

I must admit, but for her name being attached to this article, i wouldn’t have touched it with a bargepole. During the relatively short timeframe in which my daughter was into Disney princesses, i studiously avoided joining her and her.mum in front of the tv. Who knew the ramifications i was missing!

Sue Sims
Sue Sims
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I must admit that I scan the contents’ authors, and if ‘Mary Harrington’ isn’t one of the names listed I tend to shut down the email that notifies me.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Thank you for the word, perspicacity. A new one for me.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Excellent comment – my initial instinct when seeing the title of the article, was: what the Hell is this – and then I saw it was by Mary Harrington, I cautiously began to read, and slowly became amazed at her ability to identify and penetrate deeply into very subtle, and very accurate, transformations in American politics (Wilson was the first real Hegelian/“progressive” President, who sought to distort and denigrate the Constitution to give more power to the executive branch).

Clearly, Mary is familiar with the American “collective” psyche (I’m a 7th generation Yank) familiar with Leo Strauss and much political philosophy). How she teased all of this out of watching a children’s play with her daughter, is almost astonishing.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Pearse

MH is rather amazing in how she manages so many layers. Her mention of Wilson was also to highlight his role in bringing about “rules-based international order”, thus transforming governance of the whole world, not just the US. While Wilson fronted it, said order had roots in 19th century European utopian thought, and was actually largely a creation of Wilson’s mate Colonel House – one of the most fascinating & under studied power players of the 20th century. (E.g. see “Colonel House and a world made of Law” by good Philip Bobbitt.) If only the good Colonel hadn’t fell out with Wilson at the palace of Versailles, the 14 points might have had a brighter legacy. Wilson becoming ineffective without his Mephistopheles, as Bobbitt put it with a nice fairy tale meta.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

True ‘dat – plus he (Wilson) was pretty much stroked-out by the end of his second term.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

Quite agree with these takes. To intermesh so much material in one essay, moving quickly was most thought provoking. Takes a bit of time to digest.
Good to know young girls are still appreciative of frilly nonsense because of it’s intrinsic beauty. I remain entranced by that charm.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I reckon we all scan the byline. I know I do.

Mathilda Eklund
Mathilda Eklund
1 year ago

I remember seeing the little mermaid in the cinema with my dad as a 7 year old and being furious at them changing the ending. My dad had to drag me out of there, me shouting “but she’s supposed to not get the prince and die!!”

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago

The movies also tend to skip out what really happens to the various wicked characters at the end of the stories. Because too gruesome for 8 year olds I guess

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

I dunno! I was younger than 8 when I read Aesop’s fables and that boy who cried wolf! He got eaten! I also remember being read two versions of red riding hood, granny hiding in the wardrobe was the latter one and we never had a problem with the woodcutter chopping up the wolf.
Kids can handle some of the darker aspects of reality! (Emphasis on some).

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago

I think now more than ever, we need the original telling of the tales Disney appropriated.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

So true. Lots of reasons why we’d benefit from the values & patterns of behaviour those old stories used to promote. Perhaps most of all, in how they used to support monogamy. Only about 10% of studied human cultures were largely monogamous – but those were the ones with the energy to advance to a civilisation. And historically, once the repressive forces that buttressed monogamy weakened, civilisational collapse soon followed. Traditional tales often foregrounded chivalry, encouraging men to treat woman well. But also had pro monogamy messages for women – e.g. Beauty & the Beast helped show how a pair bonding with an average to ugly man could be redeemed by Love. Today, many average to ugly men unable to form any relationships with women at all, and hence choosing to disengage. While elite men many having so many options its saps their productive energy for opposite reasons. At least there is the fact of AI / robotics replacing much of the lost civilisation sustaining energy, else future prospects would be bleak indeed.

Penny Mcwilliams
Penny Mcwilliams
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

Not sure that I am keen to revive the practice of father’s giving away their daughters, without their consent, to wealthy men, in settlement of their debts.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
1 year ago

Fair comment. Many of the original tellings had quite a dark side. Unfortuneatly, that might be why their +ve message had such potency, though above my pay grade to be sure of such things.

John Ramsden
John Ramsden
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Weren’t the original versions of many well-known fairy tales somewhat grim? (sic – not Grimm! ) For example, I seem to recall Cinderella’s ugly sisters had to chop some toes off in their vain attempts to wear the slipper! Maybe my recollection of that specific example is false, but those sorts of dark edges seem to have been lost long before even Disney got their hands on the tales.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago
Reply to  John Ramsden

Yeah I suspect many of the childrens fairy tale books took some of the darker overtones away but still weren’t as saccharine as Disney. The version of the little mermaid that grew up with still ended in her taking her own life because she didn’t get her voice back and the prince fell in love with another.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

That is the first thing that I can remember reading. I read it several times. I think it must have been my introduction to the adult world. I suppose that was the point of fairy tales, and when they lose their bite they lose their purpose.

Last edited 1 year ago by polidori redux
Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

It could also explain the lack of resilience in so many young people today, all under the delusion that there will always be a happy ending and then struggle to face reality!

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  John Ramsden

I believe you are quite correct. They included some real life situations that appealed to many people at the lower end of the spectrum, where they could associate with the subject matter. And although there are still plenty of people in the West that are at the lower end of the spectrum financially, at least they are not serfs, slaves or peasants anymore.

Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  John Ramsden

Very grim. Sleeping Beauty was raped, The Little Mermaid took her own life (who, unsurprisingly for a European fairy tale actually, was described by HCA as being white multiple times). Snow White isn’t too bad, but there’s no prince: it’s about the relationship between girls and their mothers, like many fairy tales are, and I think that’s a great story to tell. There’s also loads of wonderful folk tales from all other continents that should get more air time, and tales written by women not just claimed by white middleclass men (google Baroness Marie Catherine d’Aulnoy….)

E. L. Herndon
E. L. Herndon
1 year ago
Reply to  John Ramsden

Personally, I think the original Grimm tales should be part of the canon of child development. Kindness, humility and empathy are rewarded. Evil schemers are plainly and satisfactorily punished. Nothing wishy-washy about it, and even small children have an amazing tolerance for blood and gore when it is meted out to the wicked. The values of civilization are embodied in those tales. BTW, as to the Little Mermaid, my mother first read me the Greek story of Clyte, before the Anderson story, and read me other cultures’ versions of the Cinderella tale (the Egyptian Rhodopis was a favorite, although the Chinese and Korean stories were fun too). I truly believe that when children began to generalize the moral response to situations out of exposure to multiple entertaining stories, that their grip on civilized behavior is more internalized and secure. The old cell-cartoon Disney was bowdlerized but artistically lovely. The new “live-action” are grotesque and rather offensive, without redeeming mythic value whatsoever. Years later, when viewing a Star Wars sequel, annoyed by the Jar-Jar Binks “character”, it occurred to me that the trend had been prefigured in Disney’s declining years with the disgusting little monkey in Aladdin, or the superfluous and vulgar tiny dragon in Mu-Lan.

jim peden
jim peden
1 year ago

Disney … has turned its focus inward, proffering not entrancing, confident morality tales that project the American moral vision outward, but didactic ones that project an identitarian update of that moral vision toward Americans themselves.

Beautifully put! This seems to be true of the BBC in Britain. This way do institutions perish.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
1 year ago

We used to watch Wallykazam! with our daughter, but stopped watching it when the version on the TV changed from UK accents to US accents. The difference was jarring. I’m Australian, but I find that I’m watching more and more UK TV shows and less and less US shows. That’s could be put down to the fact that all American TV shows are essentially soaps in other genre’s clothing, but the accents matter to me.

Guy Pigache
Guy Pigache
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

I struggle to relate to most US series. I sort of understand the language but not the world and thoughts they inhabit

Lorna Dobson
Lorna Dobson
1 year ago
Reply to  Guy Pigache

Frankly, the world and thoughts they inhabit are pretty foreign to most of us Americans that don’t live in NYC or LA.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Lorna Dobson

True that!

Bruce V
Bruce V
1 year ago
Reply to  Lorna Dobson

Absolutely. It’s extremely rare for us to watch anything anymore on the old original big-3 of NBC,CBS,ABC. 

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

They did the same thing with the Noddy cartoon, it’s bizarre.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  M. Jamieson

Eewww. Gruesome.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

And here I thought you Brits were the ones with the accent? 🙂

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Accents, if you please.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago

Interesting analysis. That said, nothing has been weirder than attending ‘Billy Elliott’ in London years back only to have Billy wear an afro hair-style and speak with a Jamaican accent, yet his parents in the play spoke with ‘cleaned up’ Yorkshire accents. It was jarring to say the least. And this past summer, again in London. Eliza Doolittle in ‘My Fair Lady’ was black and also had an ‘other accent’, all while I had Julie Andrews in my head, having memorized the record decades ago as a kid. It’s all a bit off kilter. Does the replacement of classic British characters by people of color represent the further decline of the Anglo-Saxon British Empire or is it just a newer version of Britannia?

Last edited 1 year ago by Cathy Carron
Kathleen Stern
Kathleen Stern
1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

The Establishment and actors have been doing this,initially on a smaller scale so less jarring, for some years. The Royal Shakespeare company at Stratford was doing this in the 70s and felt strange.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

They are not replaced by “people of colour – they are replaced by blacks. There are twice as many Asians as blacks in the UK, but they don’t carry as much victim points.

And yes, it does represent decline: lack of pride in your culture, emphasis on empty virtue signalling, capture of institutions by a narrow, vicious political class pretending to be benign reformers

Last edited 1 year ago by Samir Iker
Stephen Strange
Stephen Strange
1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

It represents the racial replacement of Europe.

Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

It’s interesting that ‘cultural appropriation’ only works one way. So, a white actor playing Othello is out of the question, but a South Asian David Copperfield is fine.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 year ago

My vague rcollection of Frozen is that Elsa is a “You Go Girl!” heroine and the male lead is a weakling.
I believe that we are leading young women into the wilderness with this kind of culture.

0 0
0 0
1 year ago

That’s what I thought when I watched with the kids. Actually most US sitcoms over the past 30 years seem to show a weakling “how stupid is dad” male. Annoying; why not a mix?? Separately, I would have enjoyed hearing someone from the UK do the voiceovers for old cartoons. Always novel to hear a different sound, particularly one so “nice” to listen to 🙂

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago

Yes, that’s the dark heart of the matter. Disney seems to have become its own villain: the creepy old grand vizier who feeds off the passions of youth.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago

Strangely enough, the “you go girl” and “we don’t need these stupid men because women strong” culture, doesn’t seem to come into play when women go to divorce courts and ask for alimony.

Last edited 1 year ago by Samir Iker
Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

Unfortunately, the parallels I see with the US today and France in 1939-1940, or the Soviet army, crowd out Disney princesses. About half the country thinks Diversity, Equity and Exclusion, oops Inclusion, training is more important than combat readiness in the military. USAF Academy cadets are trained not to mention mom and dad, because some folks don’t have them. The US Military now has DEI officers, the equivalent of zampolits, Soviet political officers, to make sure everyone and everything is woke enough.

0 0
0 0
1 year ago

That and modifying training requirements so that women can be admitted. As asinine as picking a particular race to pilot an airplane. Oh wait, that’s going on too….

Bruce V
Bruce V
1 year ago

Also finding it hard to tell much of a difference from all that you mentioned vs the Iranian Morality Police. One group of self-annointed humans trying to tell everyone else how to think, talk, and act.

Last edited 1 year ago by Bruce V
Sam McGowan
Sam McGowan
1 year ago

Disney went down the tubes when they locked their best movie, Song of the South, in a vault and took it out of distribution. I last saw it when my now adult children were children in a theater where large numbers of black children were just as happy as anyone else in the theater. But then activists decided a movie depicting events a decade or more after the War Between the States somehow glorified slavery. Disney is now “woke” as is the United States and they’re on their way to oblivion.

0 0
0 0
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam McGowan

Nancy Drew was taken out of most of our area high schools in the 70s. Black maid. Obviously no one ever read the books, she was definitely not a “maid” and she certainly wasn’t written as stupid.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

Ms. Harrington, you are a credit to your race.

Alex Tickell
Alex Tickell
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

and gender! Best comment of the day Warren.

Dominic S
Dominic S
1 year ago

this new body built a one-way ratchet for dismantling rival empires into its founding charter, via an obligation to “promote self-government” including across then-colonial holdings.”

An easy way to remove alternative power was to get the world to break itself up into smaller and smaller units, using the false notion of ‘democracy’ and ‘self-rule’, none of which pieces are capable of standing on its own. The devolution of power to the constituent parts of the UK is a perfect example of this. The nonsense of claiming that Scotland or Wales have the financial ability to be genuinely independent is a perfect demonstration of the outcome of this.
At the same time the nature of the USA has been gradually turned from a federation of states into a mega-monolithic empire. The result of this is obvious – because we have all weakened ourselves in order to look ‘democratic’ they can tell the rest of us what to do and we simply have to suck it up.
China stands apart from this, and so did Russia – though they are clearly next on the list to be dismantled yet further into even smaller bits and pieces.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago

Tangled I thought was a great movie and among other things, it created a feisty female character without elevating womanhood to deity status or disparaging the male lead – who incidentally also demonstrated in the climactic scene why these concepts of “toxic masculinity” etc are so misguided.

Somehow, the white skinned casting of the original Frozen did not come in the way of my Indian and brown skinned daughter enjoying and identifying with the lead characters (watched it everyday for a month)

Which is why I was not keen on giving my money to a theatre production on learning that they decided on “diversity” for Kristoff, a key character who happens to be Scandinavian.

Last edited 1 year ago by Samir Iker
Christine Hankinson
Christine Hankinson
1 year ago

My granddaughter, a Frozen fan; very happy in princess garb, was recently diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. The test had been advised by her primary school in Manchester. On positive diagnosis I asked my son if I could see the report, it noted that she spoke with an American accent. I had not noticed but I see her rarely and she’s very shy. I was astonished. Very interesting essay.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

The last Disney film i can think of which embodied proper values was the much lambasted Treasure Planet from 2000. It was a film about a boy becoming a man, gaining and redeeming a father figure and helping his mother.

JĂŒrg Gassmann
JĂŒrg Gassmann
1 year ago

Good piece, thank you.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
1 year ago

Simply brilliant. And brilliantly accurate.

0 0
0 0
1 year ago

Disney has long since ceased to be the company that Walt and Roy founded all those years ago. We’re a long way from “Bambi”, “Fantasia” and “Cinderella”–not to mention “Steamboat Willie.” And the journey has become increasingly rocky.

Sisyphus Jones
Sisyphus Jones
1 year ago

As Europe’s empires fell apart piece by piece, aided in no small way by the universal solvent of American-style liberal democracy, so America grew more confident — and Disney moved from transposing to re-working the Old World’s mythical legacy.

I love Mary Harrington, but I don’t like it when people I love sum up five decades of geopolitics into one ambiguous sentence.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
1 year ago

As Jordan Peterson hath reminded us, do not overlook Giapetto, whose wishing upon “the highest” aspiration that any puppetmaster, or Everyman, could aspire to . . . bringing forth a dream come true.
To dream the impossible dream, and then watch it actualize. . . that is the great ultimate American hope. Nowadays, that hope would be slaying the Putin dragon in his kremlin lair, without Americans having to fire a shot.
Let us wish upon a star: Ukrainian heroes become our new curtain-call superstars! Now, with Elizabeth gone, we’ll eagerly be awaiting a new sovereign: A Crimean princess would fulfill the perfect curtain call from central casting.
Perhaps she’ll even capture the hungarian heart of the orban beast, taming his authoritarian demon and thereby rescuing the Free World, via updated 21st-century fantasy, from neo-fascist tyranny.
. . .and all of us living happily ever after!

Garrett R
Garrett R
1 year ago

This is a weak article. The realities of shifting cultural norms speak to the future, not the past. In the 1930s-1960s, America was 80+% white and only about 5% of the population was foreign born. Today it is 60% white and falling with 15% of the population foreign born.

Europe plays less and less of a role in America’s heritage. That’s just a genetic fact. If anything, reworking the classics to incorporate more modern reflections is savvy. America does not have thousands of years of traditions. It barely has hundreds. The advantage of that is reinvention and the future of America is more Asian, more African, and more Hispanic. It’s only fitting to see more shows and films incorporate characters from these cultures.

I will say this—you can’t forgive bad storytelling. It is also almost always better to craft new narratives than rework old hits. That’s more of an issue with MBAs running film companies vs creatives.

Bruce V
Bruce V
1 year ago
Reply to  Garrett R

That’s more of an issue with MBAs running film companies vs creatives.” Immediately thought of Boeing MBAs vs Engineers.

Heather Erickson
Heather Erickson
1 year ago
Reply to  Garrett R

So tell stories from African, Latin and Asian cultures. They have plenty of their own fairy tales and fables. No need to change the European ones to fit into a different cultural zeitgeist. All that does is make the story washed out and nothing and generic…. boring. If we want true American cultural depicted in cartoons, than make NEW cartoons that reflect the NEW world. Don’t bring in stories from the old world and try to politicise them into a narrative. It just makes the story false and phony. Tell the story like the author intended it to be told! If Anderson thought Aerial should die, there was a good reason, his masterpiece didn’t NEED a happy ending…