Disma….uh, Disney: The 5 Reasons I Am Not A Fan

During a class discussion concerning the consolidation of media ownership –in which basically a handful of corporations own essentially 90% of the media in the United States- it occurred to me that I find anything Disney, be it theme parks, corporate dealings, movies, music –so very disturbing. Yet, at the time, I was not sure why.

So I promised the class I would write a blog on it for the sake of helping me to clarify and articulate my thoughts on the matter.

Blogging really helps me organize my often scattered ideas floating about in my head. After doing some thinking and writing -a process that files my disparate ideas into a concise narrative (I hope)- I realize there are 5 specific reasons Disney thoroughly irritates me. Enjoy…or just tell me what a dick I am…I am used to it.

1. They are greedy bastards. The entertainment newspaper, Variety, reported in 2014, “The Walt Disney Co. ended its fiscal year on a significant high note, reporting a record $48.8 billion in sales, up 8%, and 22% improvement in net income of $7.5 billion, handily besting analysts’ expectations.” Now, in fairness, Wal-Mart earns nearly 5 times this amount, but that is a different blog for a different day -as I feel I lose a part of my soul each time I enter a Wal-Mart. As I think about it, the “greedy bastard” argument is not just reserved for Disney as I hold similar feelings toward the entire movement of convergence and the concentration of ownership among a handful of media corporations –in addition to Disney, I look at Comcast, Fox, Viacom and Time Warner in a similar light.

Where are we headed when less than a handful of companies own 90% of the media in this country? I am not a social dystopian theorist in general, yet if such conglomeration does not at least raise an eyebrow and be cause for some concern, we are just not paying attention.

Yet this massive profit is not really the “greedy bastard” part that bothers me so much. Without going into too much detail because it would be a blog all unto itself, Disney was the primary fighting force in changing the copyright/public domain laws in the 1990’s so they could continue to own the copyright on Disney stories -stories apparently stolen from the public domain many years earlier- for the additional life of the author plus 120 years (it was formerly 70 years….for a great open letter to Disney regarding this matter check out this link. This Copyright Term Extension Act is now comically referred to as “Mickey Mouse Protection Act of 1998″) as they hijacked global myths from humanity and called them their own for the sake of profit. Disney guards both its stolen and non-stolen possessions like a mother hen.

Oh…and just try to paint some Mickey Mouse ears on your kindergarten/preschool room walls…Disney lawyers will be on your Early Childhood Education ass faster than you can sing, “Can you feel the love tonight?”

Heigh ho, heigh ho…to the next criticism I go.

2. Disney is the bully of culture. In addition to the fact they bullied congress for a change in copyright laws and aggressively guard their designs, what makes this worse is that Disney has so crept into the entire ethos of American culture that if you deny your children a healthy consumption of Disney products you are a bad parent who deprives your child a “normal” childhood.  It is like getting the culture hooked on crack and then only allowing culture to buy your brand of crack…or risk going to prison (ok, bad analogy as you will go to prison for using any crack…but I think you get the point). Please do not get me wrong, when my children were growing up I force fed them Disney consumerism (read: crack) like there was no tomorrow…and it felt good doing it at the time.

Well now that I am older and, very much arguably, wiser, I sicken myself for falling for the bully tactic hoisted upon our culture by Disney. I believe I came to this realization when, a couple of years back, I was having a discussion with a colleague, Jeff –who currently is raising 3 small children- about parenting when he said they were about to do something Disney related. It was at that time that I thought out loud to him, “Why do we do this? Why do we indoctrinate our children with all things Disney? I did the same thing,” I told him.

Jeff, a philosophy professor, laughed and shared the same inquiry. “I don’t know,” he said, “I just don’t know.”

I would tend to guess most of us would have a similar answer: We really do not know, we just do it, as if it is all we know. We suckle at the teet of Disney culture as if it is our only source of entertainment nourishment….at least for our children. We have succumbed to the bully who has cornered the market on childhood, some would argue unfairly, and we have, like sheep, blindly followed the bully into the back alley where he entertains us into consumerist submission and leaves with our wallet –all the while with a Mickey Mouse-like smile on our face.

Nice work Walt. Thanks. I truly am feeling the love tonight.

3. The massive profits produced by Disney are immorally generated by producing an illusory world of lies. A lot of greedy, bully companies make good profits. Oil companies, the meat industry, automotive manufacturers, just to name a few, generally make money hand over fist. Yet these industries do not mask and conceal their mercantile contributions in an underhanded, skewed and disguised sense.  We know we fight wars over oil -while this and the automotive industry are cause for environmental concerns.  The meat industry does not claim to enhance the lives of animals.

Disney sells happiness. The irony of a greedy, money hungry, bully conglomerate selling as its primary product happiness, fairy tales, dreams coming true and living happily ever after is, well, sickening. The author Aldous Huxley in his book, “A Brave New World,” with ideas later reignited by Neal Postman in his book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” suggest that the end of civilization as we know it will not come from “big brother” forcing his coercive evil hand upon us, rather we will become a culture so engaged in our own masturbatory sense of entertainment, amusement and dependency on delight that we will be lulled into a sense of wonder…and be lead to our destruction with a big smile on our face.

Is that somewhat overstated? Probably. Yet the idea of a bully selling as its primary product happiness just leaves a sour taste in my mouth. It would be akin to the sugar industry selling the idea of dental health or the donut industry selling the idea of weight loss. Just ironic. They sell the idea of “the happiest place on earth,” though when it costs $100 a pop just to walk through the gates only to purchase $10 sodas, we quickly realize it is, in reality, the “greediest place on earth.”

I am all for entertainment, storytelling and myth. I just need to know where myth ends and reality begins. So, Disney, I guess you could say I have interest in being part of your world.

4. Disney serves as anesthesia for the masses. Related to number 3, above, Disney creates the idea of selling the happiest place on earth. If you live in Southern California it is not at all unusual to meet people, people who live several hours from Disneyland, who have year round passes to Disneyland. For many, it is not just a place to visit but a lifestyle.sign-front

Recently someone introduced me to an art exhibit called, “Dismaland,” that ran in Europe over the summer. This exhibit is described in part in this way:“Are you looking for an alternative to the soulless sugar-coated banality of the average family day out? Or just somewhere cheaper. Then this is the place for you—a chaotic new world where you can escape from mindless escapism.

I freaking love this…an escape from mindless escapism.

This exhibit truly strikes at the heart of my feeling toward Disneyland. It is a stark reminder of the realities of the world around us…it can be beautiful place, yet often it is a dark, tortured and unpleasant place. Fairy tale endings and “happily ever afters” are rarely part of the real human experience. Disneyland provides such a stark contrast from reality as to, arguably, serve to render us less effective in the real place. It causes us to ask where was my knight in shining armor or my prince charming when I needed him? It places an unreal expectation on that which is real as to cause an existential crisis when reality turns out to be, well, reality.

So….it is becoming a whole new world as…

5. Disney is expanding and its influence is growing evermore far reaching…and this is dangerous.  Yes, I realize Disney knows it is in the business of entertainment and does NOT really believe in flying elephants, a puppet with a growing nose, talking cars, genies, beasts turned princes or whatever else the Disney illusion sells…but, dammit, they are going to give it their best shot to get us to believe it.  The growing pervasiveness of its presence, now leaving the theme park and entering into the global, corporate ethos…is potentially very scary. It is the greedy bully selling us a package of lies and manipulation…on a now global scale. Consider that Disney now owns the means to influence culture through ABC, ESPN, Pixar, Miramax and Marvel Studios…just to name a few.

Now that Disney has purchased Lucasfilm for a paltry 4 billion, I can guarantee we are going to get Star Wars shoved up our collective asses higher than a WeHo high colonic.

Was Huxley’s warning and Postman’s position far off?

They look spot on to me.

So kids. Argue with me. I probably spat upon your sacred cow. Or, in this case, sacred flying elephant.

I love it when a lecture inspires a blog.

Hakuna Matata Mouseketeers.

jimmysintension

20 Comments

  1. Ah here it is, I have been expecting this post. It was very interesting reading your thoughts now that they are gathered. I am now thinking about taking a shot at the opposite viewpoint on this topic. I will see how that goes.

    • I am waiting Jessica. Please realize I could quite easily argue with this blog…there are some weaknesses to be sure.

  2. I only had a chance to skim, but I’m surprised you didn’t bring this up.

    http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3246317

    It times in with quite a few of your points.

    I must say on the record that I absolutely abhor Disney culture. I’ll follow up when I’m not at work.

    Cheers.

    • Wow. I hate Disney even more now. What culturally insensitive, greedy assholes. Thank you for sharing this Lou. Very insightful and quite disturbing.

  3. Interesting that Disney has purchased Lucasfilms. Are we soon to be bombarded with movies where The Force turns out to be “God” of some sort and introduces us to a new religion based on Disney’s CEO/Boards concept of it. If you join the religion, what are the requirements to become Jedi Knights?
    The concept that The Force is some sort of supernatural state/being/ condition has already been established in the existing films.

  4. Took my kids to Disneyworld in the early 90’s when they were about 10 and 12…had a great time. It was relaxed, no long lines, no pressure. I took my kids to DisneyLAND in 2000 and did NOT have a great time. It had turned very corporate by then. Luckily my kids were teenagers and weren’t begging for the newest toy, etc. I feel really sad for today’s parents having to try and keep up with the Disney monster.
    You’re absolutely right that we’ve been bullied by greedy bastards….and we let them do it.
    I kind of believe Walt never intended it to be this way, I think he’d be pretty unhappy about it…. as the rest of us should be. The bigger question is, now that we’ve created this monster, how do we fix it? We probably can’t kill the monster, but it should at least play fair.

  5. Yes the blog has arrived!!! I think Walt knew exactly what he was doing. I read recently that when he walked in the office his employees trembled at the thought of his watching eye. He knew how to spin a story and plot line to have his viewers frothing at the mouth and his ideology in creating films/movies continues today. As if I’m watching a hallucinatory video that catches my attention and won’t let me look away until I have been manipulated into believing the false fairytales. Comparing it to a drug is disturbingly accurate. Lead into the lions den with smiles on or faces. Excellent job Jimmy!!

    Glad you enjoyed Dismaland.

    • You are supposed to disagree with me Taylor! Damn you! Glad you enjoyed the blog. I am really surprised I have not heard back from Disney supporters…I know they are out there. I have some family members that work for Disney.

  6. I wish I could disagree as much as I adore everything Disney, but unfortunately I cannot. You think there are Disney anonymous support groups I can attend to help me with my addiction?

  7. I’m saddened by this post due to the fact, that it’s true. I say that because I am a huge Disney fan. I visit the park at least once a month. Don’t judge me. I feel as though Disney does exists to make money by entertaining it’s audience. Also, Walt Disney knew what this corporation would become and now,it pretty much runs the world.

    Although I do believe he helped pave the way for a bit of futuristic technology like Epcot(Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow). Which was, one of Walt Disney’s original plans for the park in Florida. Which was very much like the movie Tomorrow land, which shows a futuristic prototype community of tomorrow. Disney showed interest in early scientific advances which really put him ahead of his time.

    Great Read.

    disneyparkhistory.com/epcot.

  8. Blasphemy. Walt Disney Co. is an excellent producer of critical thinkers in almost every aspect of business they handle, and its conglomerate powers make everything it touches that much better. Pixar, LucasFilms, Marvel Studios and ESPN are all excellent companies that Disney has made even more prestigious than they already were since their acquisitions. The new StarWars movie will bring back moments of nostalgia for almost all age groups, Pixar has dropped nothing but hits since it was acquired by Disney in 2006, and when the chord cutting phenomena continues to destroy Time Warner Cable and so many other media companies throughout the next decade Disney will have already assimilated into Fire TV, Apple TV, and Netflix. This is why Disney is here to stay.

    Disney is not as greedy as most companies whatsoever. Disney is one of few companies who leads in nature and animal conservation, encourages charity volunteering through their “voluntEARS” program, and their Worldwide Conservation Fund is an excellent resource for anybody in the world attempting to find funding for their conservation efforts or natural disaster response efforts. All you have to do is apply online. They also give a semiannual dividend to their investors unlike some greedy corporations, so leave Disney alone Mr. Urbanovich. You’re bad for business.

  9. Disney has been the central basis of almost every childhood. For the sake of arguing I do think that without Disney, we would not be as exposed to a form of culture through the diversity of Disney “princesses.” Disney has subliminally used their product to educate children via entertainment. Pocahontas, for example, was a way to explore the Native American Indians and what tragically took place. Mulan also explored culture through means of supporting her family and risking her life to ensure the safety of China. There is soon to be a new Disney princess, which is rather exciting only because I do enjoy analyzing the cultures they impose, coming out soon. http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/movies/new-disney-princess-moana-warm-reception-article-1.2389136
    Not only do Disney princesses teach culture, they also reflect the classic Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Due to this we do notice that a lot of the original princesses originate from places such as England or France. If Cinderella (Disney movie) were to end as the Grimm’s version we would all probably have a more realistic side of life rather than living in fantasy.) If Grimm’s Tales were never written, maybe Disney would have been different.
    So, in terms of teaching cultural basis, I think Disney has done a great job, even though children are too young to truly understand the culture that is being presented within these films.

  10. Great blog professor and although, I do agree with you, I will point out that there always has to be a bully somewhere, someplace at all times. If Disney wasn’t the big “greedy bully of our culture”, it would have been some other company. When I was a kid back home in Europe the elder generation had a saying “The rich get richer and the poor help them.”

  11. You have an interesting take on Disney, and I respect it, but I must say, my own belief is different. While I must agree that I hate the fact that corporations are greedy and rich, I don’t dislike Disney because of it. I think that corporate greed simply spawns from self-interest, which is just something that happens, especially in an economy driven by self-interest; all businesses are, to some extent or another, selfish. Honestly, I somewhat respect Disney for its ambition and innovation. I respect anyone who can find a way to make money doing something that they love. Even if Disney is just a greedy corporation selling happiness for the sole purpose of making money, I don’t see the harm in the effect. If it makes people happy, who cares? To answer your question on why we push Disney down the throats of our children, I think it’s because we enjoy it ourselves, and we wish to share that joy with them and bond with each other. I also don’t see the harm in the mindless escapism that Disney provides. I know that for my family, and many others, Disney has provided hope and happiness, which is often a great relief from the real world. Sure I love Dismaland and the “escape from mindless escapism” too, and I like that it serves as a reminder that the world isn’t all fairy tales and happy endings, but I don’t think the escapism that Disney provides is THAT harmful, and it at the very least outweighs the negatives just from the happiness it brings. Most of us know, or at least come to realize at some point, that wishing on stars can’t make all your dreams come true, but a wishing star can at least act as a symbol of hope. Rather than seeing Disney as “the bully of culture,” I like to see it as a positive influence on culture that inspires creativity, as well as COMMUNICATION and bonding with others.

  12. For the most part, I agree with you, but a couple of things you mentioned got me thinking. I also detest Disney’s copyright stranglehold, but then again I also have a bit of apprehension of the notion that every idea down to the last screw, word, or note can be owned solely by one entity. I also have issues with what Disney presents with its products, but then again I have problems with them for the same reason I have problems with any piece of media with problematic implications, so there really isn’t much point in treading that well worn ground.

    The first thing I want to do, before I get to the phrase that got me really thinking, is provide a bit of a counterbalance. Whatever can be said of modern Disney, and there’s a hell of a lot to say about them, it is hard to look back at their entire filmography and find it without merit. After all, even considering Walt’s many faults, the studio was still populated by people who were masters at their craft and aimed to create masterful works with that craft. It is true that the same company that made Fantasia would later make Cars, but that doesn’t necessarily invalidate the artistry and, at the risk of sounding pretentious, visual poetry that proved to be the company’s foundation. Nowadays we have to cut through the bells and whistles, but there is a heart in this beast, beating still and neglected as it is. Add in the potential crapshoot that is the animation industry in general (including the weird, crude, bizarrely unpolished works of people like Ralph Bakshi), and Disney’s dominance in the minds of generations being endlessly repeated can at least make some more sense.

    But enough about why Disney exists. Your attachment to the phrase “escape from mindless escapism” got me thinking the instant I saw it. The thing that strikes me as odd about this phrase is that it seems like a contradiction in terms. After all, if you are actively making an attempt to, as the phrase explicitly states, escape a norm of escapism, is that not itself escapism? Even if the ironic “escape” is meant to be dreary and dismal and rough around the edges, isn’t it still a fabrication? Isn’t Dismaland still another rabbit hole for Alice to fall down, only trading in a baby blue bow and curtsies for black hair dye, combat boots, and a bloody vorpal knife? Scrape away the advertisements and airs and Dismaland is just an art gallery hosted, in part, by a guy whose graffiti is put into plexiglass cases and sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds. Like you said with Disney being an exorbitantly pricey amusement park with a veneer of joy and happiness, Dismaland posits itself as a panacea to mainstream culture while ultimately being an art exhibit (with all the politics that go with it). The two are not so different, and how could they be? They both promise an escape, a tunnel with two different entrances. The “take that” Dismaland aims for, at least to me, falls flat.

    To me, it is not enough to escape from escapism. It just becomes too recursive when you start getting into it. As far as I’m concerned, the issue with both of these rabbit holes of “escapism” is that they are ultimately contained, focused, and rendered untouchable by their architects. After all, like you said, they draw deep from the well of myth and fairy tale, abstractions of ourselves. These stories, changed and mutated as they are, are in our blood and our culture, and so they must be rendered to it. Disney, in the words of my good buddy Satan’s latest attempt at corrupting children, must “Let It Go,” let themselves be touched by the many-jawed beast that is culture, and must learn how to live with it, not against it. And frankly, maybe we need to learn how to do that too, to learn how to take this crystallized escapism and break it to pieces and sculpt them in our image. Maybe we need to not just step through the looking glass, but learn how to bring the pieces of what’s behind it into our world, even if it means breaking the mirror into a bunch of tiny, sharp pieces. After all, we don’t lack for looking glasses. Why not give it a shot? We have nothing to lose, and we’re all mad here anyways.

    Okay, I delved a little too much into Wonderland there, time for me to wrap up my writing. Hopefully my rambling makes sense, even if I dipped into the poetic a bit overmuch. Thanks for taking the time to read it.

    • Thank you for the response Andrew. I believe that the term “escape from mindless escapism” really means to either “return to mindful escapism” or, at most, “escape to reality from the pit of mindless escapism.” That is how I understood the phrase…as escaping from fantasy -read: mindless escapism” can only lead to one place….back to reality. Thoughts?

  13. If I am going to “entertain myself to death”, I might as well do it with the best money has to buy. You already know that I am big fan, not fanatic, of Disney. While I love the corporation with all my heart, there is no denying that Disney is filled with flaws like the ones described in this post. It is scary that they are slowly buying out America one entertainment company at a time, but at least they are doing it in style. Ever since the Marvel and Disney merge, Marvel has been able to produce fantastic movies that stay true to the storyline. I also appreciate the fact that even though they are buying all these companies, they allow their subsidiaries to continue producing their own stuff. The other obvious perk of Disney, is how family friendly it is. That’s probably why everyone shows their kids Disney movies. Also, Disney continues to make shit tons of money because people are willing to provide it, no matter the price. For example, Disneyland continues to raise their prices annually due to new attractions coming out. Whoever goes to Disneyland is paying for the experience, it doesn’t matter how many times I go, it always feels like the first time. While Disney is great at mass producing materialistic items, they always create a lively atmosphere and memorable experience which is why everyone continues to pay the exorbitant prices. Now I’m off to renew my Disneyland pass.

  14. While I do agree that disney the company is most certainly a big bully, in essence, they are still a business, and a business relies on profit. Can we really be surprised they are in it to make money? While I agree that the company is money grubbing, you can’t deny the quality of the product they offer. The Marvel movies have been some of the best to come out recently, and part of that is because it is an interconnected community. Disney has made amazing films for decades and that is the main reason I Harald them as a cornerstone of childhood. I won’t say you had a horrible childhood to someone that hasn’t watched Disney, but to others that had Disney growing up is another way to connect on more levels. Is this any different than when someone says in class, “you have to watch that movie” or “You haven’t watched that?? It’s a classic.” I don’t think that it is healthy to look at the world in its extreme forms, ‘black and white’ for lack of a better phrase.

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