Popular culture does not matter, and people who read political messages into children’s television programs and movies are guilty of bad faith at best and willful malevolence at worst. Art is independent of politics and has a meaning all its own. All people of good will should be able to agree that at least children’s programming isn’t furthering some kind of nefarious agenda. If parents don’t like it, they can always change the channel. Besides, whatever meaning is somehow encoded in a film, in the end, it’s just a movie.
Unless we say it’s racist. Or worse, anti-Semitic.
Fashionable liberals around the interwebs are rejoicing at the latest chapter in the Fox News Follies. Painfully square contributors on America’s News Channel occasionally humiliate themselves with the strange mix of paranoia and political correctness that characterizes the American Right, and liberals are triumphantly taking to their stomping grounds at Media Matters and the Huffington Post to congratulate themselves on their superior intelligence (like not falling for the idea there’s a link between race and IQ).
The Fox Business Channel hosted a seven-minute segment that asked whether the new movie The Muppets is actually a Left-wing plot to indoctrinate children against capitalism. The plot (such as it is) involves the Muppets trying to combat the evil designs of the creatively named “Tex Richman” to destroy the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently found underneath. Eric Bolling of the Media Research Center intones, “It’s amazing how far the Left will go . . . to manipulate your kids . . . to give them the anti-corporate message.” Andrea Tantaros agreed that it was “brainwashing.” Dan Gainor went so far as to connect this to the Occupy Wall Street movement and a larger history of children’s programming pushing environmentalism. “What is this, Communist China?” he cried.
Gainor’s charge against Commissar Kermit flops because The Muppets has nothing to do with the environment. Still, movement conservatives can point to a host of children’s films that subtly (and not too subtly) push liberal political messages. There’s the anti-gun message of The Iron Giant, environmental messages in Happy Feet, Ice Age, and Wall-E, criticism of the energy industry in Cars 2, and of course the Bible-thumping bad guy general in Battle for Terra, just for starters.
In his revealing book Primetime Propaganda: The True Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV Jewish conservative Ben Shapiro exposes television executives bragging about how they pushed political messages on television specifically as a “fuck you to the right wing.” This included children’s programming, as executives from Sesame Street admitted they used the program to push messages about homosexuality, racial diversity, pacifism, and Left-wing economics. Shapiro notes that Left-wing media executives felt comfortable openly telling him about their use of the media because they assumed that as a Jew and a Harvard graduate, he must agree with them.
Nonetheless, both liberals and mainstream news sources have mocked Fox’s alarmism over the likes of Miss Piggy and Gonzo. The Chicago Sun-Times, Washington Post, and others predictably ridiculed and dismissed the claims. The Huffington Post piled on, as did Conan O’Brien. Media Matters wrote several follow up stories and mocked the “stupidity” of the Right for criticizing other children’s programs. Even the Religious Right’s outpost on the Internet, Worldnetdaily, called the idea laughable. The Washington Monthly summed it all up by saying, “when far-right Fox personalities perceive secret political messages from the Muppets, it’s a reminder that conservatives sometimes have too much time on their hands.” Unless you are some Bible-beating hick or movement conservative looking to sell books, we can all agree that sophisticated people know there is no secret plot to force views on your kids.
Except of course when it comes to Disney.
December 5, 2011 was the 110th anniversary of the birth of Walt Disney, the progenitor of some of the most iconic characters and stories in American culture. Despite, or perhaps because of his importance in developing “Americana,” it is a remarkably consistent meme in contemporary media that Walt Disney was an anti-Semite or a secret Nazi. Marc Eliot’s Walt Disney: Hollywood’s Dark Prince has been the source of numerous urban legends about Disney’s supposed anti-Semitism and secret National Socialist fantasies. Despite the lack of concrete evidence for these charges, Disney’s anti-Semitism has become something that everyone “knows” and is a staple of jokes and allusions in the media — just like J. Edgar Hoover’s supposed homosexuality and cross-dressing. Many of these anti-Disney jokes and parodies are quite funny, but all indicate a deeper and more disturbing rot in the American consciousness.
Disney, along with just about every other studio, did its part during the Crusade to Save the Soviet Union by supporting the war effort and creating propaganda cartoons. The most famous, Donald Duck in “Der Fuhrer’s Face,” is interesting because it identifies the rightness of the American cause with material prosperity. National Socialist Germany is mocked because people can’t enjoy a breakfast of bacon and eggs every morning, as if Depression-era America were awash in prosperity. The cartoon also doesn’t age well, as the stereotypically Italian Mussolini, the overtly racist portrayal of Hirohito, and the implied homosexuality of the Hermann Göring stand-in, seem, shall we say, insensitive by modern standards. Like other propaganda of the time, these cartoons reveal that whatever America thought it was fighting for, it wasn’t racial egalitarianism. Nonetheless, Disney was hardly a bastion of pro-German sentiment.
That hasn’t stopped it from being common knowledge that Disney was actually a Nazi sympathizer. In a sixth season episode of The Simpsons, “Itchy and Scratchy Land,” the family visits a parallel to Walt Disney World. A film about the company’s founder Roger Meyers Sr., takes care to note that he was beloved by the entire world, “except in 1938, when he was criticized for his controversial cartoon, ‘Nazi Supermen Are Our Superiors.’” Family Guy manages to combine the two great myths about Walt Disney, being frozen after his death and hating Jews:
Saturday Night Live also accomplished the same trick: http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/high-school-musical-4/1085201
This is just a reflection of the larger Culture of Critique — it is precisely because Disney represents “Americana” that it is evil. While not a Nazi, Walt Disney was a fervent anti-Communist and gave favorable testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee against Communists in the movie industry.
As a contemporary political actor, the Disney Corporation hardly plays a positive role. After its founder’s death, Jewish executives eventually replaced the Disney family, and the corporation promotes the same kind of Cultural Marxist viewpoints and policies that every other studio does. Through its programming for children and “tweens,” Disney dresses up the Zeitgeist of the Kali Yuga for the next generation while churning out a menagerie of child stars turned celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera that will poison the minds of white youth even as they poison themselves.
However, like America itself, the essence of Disney is Eurocentric, traditional, and implicitly white. Just as Leftists know that talk of the “Real America” is a dog whistle appeal to “White America,” Disney its core represents traditional Western storytelling, standards of beauty, and appeals to a time when the United States looked like “Main Street USA” — a clean, orderly, and prosperous white America that was getting better every day.
Disney purchased the Muppets in 2004, but the kinds of movies and stories that are identified with the company are the portrayals of fairy tales and Disney Princesses that are inseparable from the company’s heritage. Therefore, while Right-wing conspiracy mongering about “Communist Muppets” is a subject of predictable SWPL mockery, an entire industry and academic discipline has grown up around deconstructing the institutional racism of Disney.
Entire college classes are dedicated to analyzing (and condemning) the politics of race, class, and sexuality in Disney films. Dr. Virginia Bonner writes grimly that, in her class, students will learn that Disney movies are not “innocent” or simple “entertainment.” Professor Andi Stern in her own class about “Deconstructing Disney” complains about the lack of strong female characters in Disney movies. Occasionally, an illustration of “Deconstructing Disney Princesses” makes the rounds online. Of course, that hasn’t stopped complaints about how there were no black “princesses.” When they finally did include one, the movie bombed, and the Huffington Post dutifully complained it wasn’t good enough and probably racist.
The usual denunciations of Disney are staples of academic publishing in journals, books, and on the internet. With titles like Deconstructing Disney or From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender and Culture, these books are filled with numbingly predictable criticisms. Taking their cue, the professorial minorities have made their own contributions with articles like “Deconstructing Disney: Chicano/a Children and Critical Race Theory” appearing in journals such as Aztlan. There are also the documentaries and short films, with professors from all over the country humorlessly pontificating about the evils of the company’s heteronormativity and the like.
Such bold critiques also contain the de rigueur tributes to themselves, as “academics” who would have starved to death in any other society in human history whine and complain about living in a “police state” when normal people roll their eyes upon hearing about the National Socialist sympathies of Cinderella. Our society thus has a never-ending supply of “educated” minorities fresh out of Affirmative Action Studies at Taxpayer-Funded University ready to make a living complaining about how Pocahontas is the reason why no one on the reservation can get a job.
This inevitably trickles down into popular culture, as it is understood that any portrayal of wholesome or “innocent” entertainment contains anti-Semitism. Hence, the staggeringly vulgar Drawn Together portrayed the “Disney Princess” character Clara, as racist, classist, and fanatically anti-Semitic. While Drawn Together also took shots at “Jew producers” (allowed because it was produced by, well, Jews) and nonexistent black fathers, it shows how deeply it is understood that traditional children’s stories represent the trifecta of racism, anti-Semitism, and “antiquated” gender roles. And of course, we also have Family Guy‘s portrayal of the Disney Universe —
As always, our cultural watchmen are more paranoid and hysterical than even the most alarmist Fox News contributor. The same Huffington Post contributors chortling at the idea of “Communist Muppets” will dutifully troop off to their media studies class to learn about how Snow White actually paved the way for Auschwitz.
Of course, these tenured neurotics do have a point, albeit not in the way they think. The kind of traditional world generally presented in Disney movies and fairy tales that rewards (and reinforces) nobility, feminine virtue, and courage, is a product of the white West. Although there have been attempts at pushing a kind of “alternative” children’s literature where the highest values are tolerance and non-discrimination, children and even otherwise goodthinking politically correct adults still respond to the simple stories and values of the European past.
The problem is that just as the contemporary American government does all it can to destroy the vital source of the real America, the contemporary Disney Corporation is similarly cannibalizing itself. At best, Disney today stands for a spiritually empty consumerism. At worst, it is something truly sinister, deliberately poisoning young people for profit. Nonetheless, in the end, the castle at the Magic Kingdom still stirs a child’s heart, just as it gives anti-racists deep misgivings for reasons they know but will not articulate (namely that they are not anti-racist, but merely anti-white–and anti everything that connotes whiteness).
It may seem absurd to worry about Kermit the Frog as a closet Marxist, but it is far more ludicrous that we live in a society that pays people vast sums to write about Ariel, The Little Mermaid, as a fascist. Unfortunately, there is always some truth to such charges. The personal is political, and culture is always a battlefield. Disney profits by giving Americans a dull echo of values and archetypes deep within the Western soul. Academics and subsidized activists derive a comfortable living deconstructing this appeal and telling whites they should feel guilty about it.
It remains to contemporary Radical Traditionalists to re-articulate these truths in new forms that can speak to our people, both freeing them from their guilt and giving our children new stories, legends, and heroes that can’t be repackaged and consumed for the well-being of Michael Eisner. Characters are products, but the stories and themes are inseparable from our life as a people. It’s time we reclaim them.