Oversaturation by young relatives and their favorite movies has gifted me with a bad case of the sniffles. But it also got me thinking: Is Disney really that woke?
On the one hand, yes. I’m too lazy to assign hyperlinks, but just trust me on this. They support BLM, they have “gay days,” their corporate HR is a high temple of Diversity and Inclusion with angry priestesses enforcing the Faith on disciplined acolytes.
But on the other hand, Disney’s movies are actually pretty conservative. The one that got me thinking was Moana. First, the animation: You’d expect something woke and post-modern to feature abstract Paul Klee style “art,” yet the animation in Moana is hyper-realistic and traditionally beautiful. The gleaming ocean looks like something from a romantic era painting, imbued by the long Western tradition of enhancing truth through beauty.
And then you have the movie’s plot. Am I wrong in reading it as an almost atavistic hymn to tradition and one’s ancient national mores? Moana saves her decaying nation by rediscovering the ancient ways of her forefathers, a mighty civilization of adventurous explorers. She revives their ways not only by following their example but also by reviving their deity. With the deity revived and the ancient ways re-learned, a happy ending follows.
I mean, can you imagine this recast as a European tale? A German girl, unhappy with the decay she finds around Leipzig, goes on to revive the spirit of Wotan and to usher in a new era of Wagnerian Germans true to the temples of their old gods and the ashes of their forefathers.
I think somebody at Disney was trying to tell us something.
Does this apply to other movies? I think it actually does, at least based on my limited familiarity. Although you do need to read between the lines a bit.
The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast are both obviously conservative. Both are classic girl-meets-boy stories that end with matrimonial bliss. It’s worth noting that Ariel, the little mermaid, is also the archetype for the perfect immigrant: She completely assimilates into the host society instead of demanding some sort of special recognition as a trans-fish.
The Lion King is an infantilized version of Hamlet, so by the virtue of the Bard, it is conservative enough.
Much altered from Victor Hugo’s original, The Hunchback of Notre Dame may appear anti-Christian, but it isn’t really so. First, the Christian imagery is magnificent, and second, the whole thing is a Christ-like story of redemption under the glorious structure of the world’s most famous cathedral.
I haven’t really watched many Disney movies after that, so let’s fast forward to the mega-hit Frozen which is completely unavoidable by anybody with children, relatives, or second cousins thrice removed under the age of 10. Yes, Disney diverged from the princess and prince matrimonial story in, perhaps, a modern attempt to manifest “girl power.” The result, however, is an ultra-conservative tale of traditional sisterhood. Anna and Elsa remind us of the profound innocence and the tremendous power of friendship between young women. Think about Anne and Diana, or Jo and Beth.
Further, what ties Anna and Elsa together is family, the oldest form of piety. Redemption comes when Elsa is returned into the family’s fold, not when she goes off to chart her own path like a disgruntled little lesbian.
Am I imagining things? I don’t think so. I think somebody at Disney has realized long ago that Wokery may be a good strategy at the corporate headquarters, but not so much at the box office.
Let all conservatives embrace Based Moana.