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.
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.
Disagree: The Emperors New Groove is a tour de force. And have you seen Hercules? With Gerald Scarfe character design? Fabulous.
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”.
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!
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.
Thank you for the word, perspicacity. A new one for me.
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.
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.
True ‘dat – plus he (Wilson) was pretty much stroked-out by the end of his second term.
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.
I reckon we all scan the byline. I know I do.
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!!”
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
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).
I think now more than ever, we need the original telling of the tales Disney appropriated.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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….)
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.
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.
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.
I struggle to relate to most US series. I sort of understand the language but not the world and thoughts they inhabit
Frankly, the world and thoughts they inhabit are pretty foreign to most of us Americans that don’t live in NYC or LA.
Absolutely. It’s extremely rare for us to watch anything anymore on the old original big-3 of NBC,CBS,ABC.
They did the same thing with the Noddy cartoon, it’s bizarre.
And here I thought you Brits were the ones with the accent? 🙂
Accents, if you please.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
It represents the racial replacement of Europe.
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.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
Ms. Harrington, you are a credit to your race.
and gender! Best comment of the day Warren.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Good piece, thank you.
Simply brilliant. And brilliantly accurate.
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.
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.
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!
Maybe the American accents ensured that the story was not mistaken for one of British or Scandinavian origin.
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.
“That’s more of an issue with MBAs running film companies vs creatives.” Immediately thought of Boeing MBAs vs Engineers.
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…