And I don't think Uncle Walt intended to be a shill for the progressive elitists. He was always a great one for promoting talent, for recognizing ability and he had a real problem with unions. He was a capitalist of the first order. He built amusement parks that were of the highest quality and, by example, taught the American ideal that the product with the finest quality will outsell cheap crap. For that I revere the man. When he told stories they were always finely crafted and he wasn't afraid to alter a story to make it better. That is in the finest tradition of American craftsmanship. It's the reason we're the most powerful country on the planet.
So what went wrong? I think it was the stories he chose. Admittedly, he chose wisely. The stories were familiar - Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty. Disney turned them all into "underdog triumphs" stories that appeal to American audiences. There was nothing morally ambiguous about a Walt Disney picture while Uncle Walt was alive. It was the deep core idea behind the old fairy tales that was the fatal flaw I think and it would have been hard to root out. Generations of children before and after the Disney era had heard all those fairy tales from the days they were children. Disney cleaned them up some for the 20th century, but the core theme of the stories was still there, full of kings and queens, nobles, princes and, most importantly, princesses.
In so many stories the hero is the true prince or princess that somehow becomes lost. Then through a combination of hard work and magic, the heroine or hero overcomes and takes his or her true place as king or queen over all the realm and rules wisely and everyone lives happily ever after. All those fairy tale princesses and princes inadvertently taught generations of American kids that there were certain "special" people out there who were the only ones truly fitted to rule. This was so because they had "royal blood" in them. Walt chose stories that would appeal to children.
What little girl doesn't want to be a fairy tale princess? What doting parent doesn't want to convince her she is one. To Walt's credit, his fairy princesses were all decent girls, kind and brave to a fault. They had been mistreated, beaten down by evildoers and evil circumstance. They triumph on their own merits and if he'd stopped there, he'd have been okay. But there's always the discovery at the end that the hero or heroine is a real prince or princess after all - one of the elite ruling class by blood - that is the problem.
It's in most children's films of the time and even lingers today. The ultimate rags to riches story of this generation, "Shrek", falls into the trap. Shrek was by no means an elitist. He was not of noble blood. He was an ogre. He even marries above his class and she elevates him to the kingship. But in the Shrek film cycle, old Shrek is not comfortable in his new role as ruler of all the kingdom. His is a rags to riches to rags again story. Shrek gives up the throne he had won, but was never comfortable with, in favor of cousin Arthur who is of the real "royal blood". Once he shows Arthur he really is king material, he slips back to the swamp WHERE HE BELONGS! And there, my friends is the real message. If you're not one of the ruling class, you need to stay quietly in your swamp, play in the mud and let the nobles do the really tough work.
Do you see what I'm getting at. I'm not big on vast conspiracy theories. I don't think human beings are that organized. I think people act in concert because they share similar selfish interests. Too many of us have bought into the idea that there are some that are called to lead and others who are, by nature, merely followers. We tell stories to this effect because people like those stories. Those stories sell books and movies because, secretly, we all want to believe we are special; that we secretly have noble blood and should be in charge of things by right of birth. Disney's tales and those of his imitators also taught us that true princes and princess always have magic to help them - a fairy godmother, a genie, a magic unicorn or a crusty old sorcerer who would help save the day at the crucial moment if you only believe. This belief that magic serves the ruling class would explain Obamacare and the bailouts.
We want to believe that there is an elite "special" group of genetically smart and capable people that are qualified to rule over us all who can make magical things happen. We were raised on this idea and, because we are convinced this is so, we defer to those people who present themselves with confidence and authority as our heroic princely rulers, even though these guys really are as cowardly a bunch as you'll ever find anywhere. And, if you study history, you'll soon discover that most of the so-called "nobility" have always been a pretty cowardly lot. That's why nations have risen and fallen for thousands of years. If one of the noble class accidentally has even a modicum of real courage, he will run rough-shod over the others and create for himself a bully boy's empire.
The nouveau nobility that has arisen in the past century and a half is a rag tag assemblage of politicians, journalists, university professors and corporate barons. They believe that their willingness and ability to bully, cajole, manipulate and buy their way to power makes them genetically superior to the huddled masses who just want to go quietly about their own lives and not bother anyone. And most of us who are contented to go about our lives in peace defer to these ego-maniacal narcissists and, thanks to all the Disney movie and fairy tale propaganda to that effect, some of us believe that this is as it should be.
And these guys get away with that because it takes a great deal of abuse by our betters to get us farm folk and working stiffs riled up enough for us to risk the little we do have by taking up our torches and pitchforks and throwing out the bums. We do it once in a while, though and that's what terrifies the new noble classes. They live in constant dread that we're going to rise up and take away their privileges. Anytime they see peasant unrest, they toss the proletariat some bread and put on a few circuses hoping to quiet them down.
Appeasement soon becomes the diplomatic technique du jour for our betters and cowardice becomes ingrained. Then we declare an end to the war on terror. We try to demonstrate to whoever happens to be the scariest most threatening people around that we are really harmless lovable fuzzballs in the vain hope that they will not harm us.
And what's truly outrageous is that the great and noble leaders of the planet all treat it like it was a big game and we ordinary folk are mere pieces on a chessboard.
I love Walt Disney, but his movies should have carried warning labels. Something like this:
- Warning! Characters in this film are in no way intended to reflect reality. There is no such thing as a "real princess". You're all princesses and princes and no one has any divine right to rule over you and if anyone tries it, you should pitch them into the nearest ice cold body of water - preferably something with icebergs.
I'm just saying.