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Multiculturalism and the Mouse

Multiculturalism and the Mouse

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    Multiculturalism and the Mouse
    Book Description:

    In his latest iconoclastic work, Douglas Brode-the only academic author/scholar who dares to defend Disney entertainment-argues that "Uncle Walt's" output of films, television shows, theme parks, and spin-off items promoted diversity decades before such a concept gained popular currency in the 1990s. Fully understood,It's a Small World-one of the most popular attractions at the Disney theme parks-encapsulates Disney's prophetic vision of an appealingly varied world, each race respecting the uniqueness of all the others while simultaneously celebrating a common human core. In this pioneering volume, Brode makes a compelling case that Disney's consistently positive presentation of "difference"-whether it be race, gender, sexual orientation, ideology, or spirituality-provided the key paradigm for an eventual emergence of multiculturalism in our society.

    Using examples from dozens of films and TV programs, Brode demonstrates that Disney entertainment has consistently portrayed Native Americans, African Americans, women, gays, individual acceptance of one's sexual orientation, and alternatives to Judeo-Christian religious values in a highly positive light. Assuming a contrarian stance, Brode refutes the overwhelming body of "serious" criticism that dismisses Disney entertainment as racist and sexist. Instead, he reveals through close textual analysis how Disney introduced audiences to such politically correct principles as mainstream feminism. In so doing, Brode challenges the popular perception of Disney fare as a bland diet of programming that people around the world either uncritically deem acceptable for their children or angrily revile as reactionary pabulum for the masses.

    Providing a long overdue and thoroughly detailed alternative, Brode makes a highly convincing argument that with an unwavering commitment to racial diversity and sexual difference, coupled with a vast global popularity, Disney entertainment enabled those successive generations of impressionable youth who experienced it to create today's aura of multiculturalism and our politically correct value system.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79660-7
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. INTRODUCTION I Had a Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes In Defense of Disney, Part 1
    (pp. 1-19)

    Beginning in the early spring of 1963, the New York World’s Fair played host to several attractions designed by Walt Disney’s initial team of “Imagineers.” Corporate-sponsored pavilions, each in some distinct way, combined Disney’s ongoing fascination with showcasing in the present a vision of where we as a people had realistically been and where we most likely were next headed. However popularThe Carousel of ProgressandHall of Presidentswere, an attraction calledIt’s a Small Worldquickly emerged as most fairgoers’ favorite.¹ Satisfying tourists from around the globe, and not a little startling owing to then-innovative ideological implications,...

  5. 1 Return of the Vanishing American Disney and the Native Experience
    (pp. 21-47)

    In 1968, that seminal year of social and cultural upheaval, Leslie A. Fiedler analyzed a quartet of then-recent novels—John Barth’sThe Sot-Weed Factor, Thomas Berger’sLittle Big Man, Larry McMurtry’sThe Last Picture Show, and Ken Kesey’sSometimes a Great Notion—as exemplifying what he called “The New Western.”¹ During a turbulent and transitional era of culture shock and an all but complete reversal of conventional values, revisionist tomes suddenly overturned long-standing genre clichés. Now, Indians were the good guys, whites bad. This resulted in a “social trend among the young which has led to books on Indian history...

  6. 2 Together in Perfect Harmony Disney and the Civil Rights Movement
    (pp. 49-77)

    During the late 1960s, the Woodstock nation’s interest in minority cultures most obviously manifested itself in Native American customs and costumes. Still, the roots stretched considerably broader and deeper. Many young people identified as “longhairs” during the brief but intense hippie era had, while still crew-cut during the early sixties, aligned themselves with the civil rights movement. No wonder, then, that the Afro, newly popular among blacks who now rejected their previous emulation of Anglo styles, was also embraced by many whites. Such cultural give-and-take reached beyond cosmetic levels, extending to a sincere interest in values, social and spiritual, in...

  7. 3 Beat of a Different Drum Ethnicity and Individualization in Disney
    (pp. 79-111)

    During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the civil rights movement intensely focused on African Americans. In time, though, the growing consciousness of tolerance spread to other minorities, including various nonracial special-interest groups. A ripple effect had been set in place, the country continually redefining itself thereafter. An emerging mind-set insisted on an ever-greater sensitivity toward anyone belonging to the diverse groups deemed “different” from the supposed (now questioned) “norm.” When compared to the embarrassing exaggerations of more adult-oriented Golden Age Hollywood filmmakers, Disney’s lapses are precious few. Even when they do on occasion occur, the impact is notably muted....

  8. 4 Racial and Sexual Identity in America Disney’s Subversion of the Victorian Ideal
    (pp. 113-137)

    Opposition by reactionary forces to the civil rights movement in the polity of the 1950s was paralleled by an equally fervent opposition to rock ’n’ roll music on the era’s corresponding cultural landscape. The two ultraconservative agendas were essentially symbiotic, for both derived from an abiding fear on the part of the country’s most narrowly traditional whites that ethnic and cultural minorities—most obviously, African American progenitors of the new American music—embodied a sensual freedom which threatened the very foundations of a society that had never entirely separated itself from either its Puritan origins or Victorian values. Even the...

  9. 5 ″If It Feels Good, Do It!″ Disney and the Sexual Revolution
    (pp. 139-165)

    Paradoxical as it may at first sound, all revolutionaries are at heart reactionaries. Their various rebellions—cultural and political, intellectual or emotional—would never occur without the stimulus of whatever came directly beforehand. For the social as well as sexual revolutionaries of the 1960s, all their attitudes and behavior existed as an explosive response to the fifties, most notably the Eisenhower era’s mainstream celebration of a conformist ideology. As one keen observer noted about that period: “The 1950s in this country were a decade far more obsessed with the horrors of bodily secretions and smells than the nineteenth century.”¹ Self-...

  10. 6 Our Bodies, Ourselves Disney and Feminism
    (pp. 167-197)

    In 1961, while most Americans waxed euphoric over the election of John Kennedy, Parisian intellectual Simone de Beauvoir attempted to inform everyone that the latest First Lady ought to be recognized for brains as well as beauty: “The male amuses himself with free flights of thought . . . but women’s reveries take a very different direction: she will think about herpersonal appearance.”¹ In 1963, Betty Friedan’sThe Feminine Mystiqueinsisted that women “are living with their feet bound in the old image of glorified femininity . . . Encouraged by themystiqueto evade their identity crisis.”² Eventually,...

  11. Color section
    (pp. None)
  12. 7 Something Wiccan This Way Comes Walt’s Wonderful World of Witchcraft
    (pp. 199-225)

    By the mid-1970s, most women appreciated that their screen image was finally being presented with more sensitivity than had been the case in earlier Hollywood films. If there was a single notable exception, however, it was Wiccan woman, who—in the traditional guise of the evil witch, be she an ugly old crone or a desirable young seductress—inevitably appeared onscreen as a menace. In society itself, however, the cultural revolution of the sixties had initiated a reconsideration:

    The youth movement . . . rebelled against rigid social codes and Christian based ideals. Some young persons turned to Buddhism, Zen,...

  13. 8 Beyond the Celluloid Closet Disney and the Gay Experience
    (pp. 227-253)

    Long after various other groups had achieved major inroads into the American mainstream, gay liberation remained a final taboo for those of a conventional mind-set. Openly gay persons in such areas as San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury or New York’s East Village continued to be routinely hassled by local police. On June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, the victimized fought back in what would soon be mythologized as the movement’s Bunker Hill.¹ One year later, the newly formed National Gay Task Force emerged as the original political activist group for homosexuals. In response, the...

  14. CONCLUSION Popular Culture and Political Correctness In Defense of Disney, Part II
    (pp. 255-270)

    The place where [Disney] operated most comfortably in the late Fifties and early Sixties,” according to Richard Schickel, “was the American small town.”¹ With unmasked contempt, he added: “Only in Disney films has it remained unchanged.”² The first half of his assessment is true; the second, I hope to prove, could not be more misleading or patently false. The syndrome of which Schickel speaks—exploiting the public by marketing “nostalgia for a carefully falsified past”³—is most manifest in Main Street, U.S.A., the entry route to Disney theme parks. A visitor must pass through this romanticized vision of turn-of-the-century America—...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 271-280)
  16. Index
    (pp. 281-292)