Looking forward to sitting down with a Disney Classic this Christmas? Beware the nefarious propaganda subtext.
The Pride Lands of The Lion King were a romanticised vision of a corporatist dystopia. The Circle of Life was an incessant propaganda message drilled into every sentient being unfortunate to find themselves in this brutal collective, seemingly held together by Mufasa’s cult of personality.
Not sure about the corporatist bit? In 1884 the Freiburg commission declared that corporatism was a “system of social organisation that has at its base the grouping of men according to the community of their natural interests and social functions, and as true and proper organs of the state they direct and coordinate labour and capital in matters of common interest” Sound familiar? Yes, every animal’s existence is justified solely on their respective worth to the collective; they have no right to alter their path, or chose not to be eaten because the ‘greater good’ demands it.
Scar is the unlikely hero in all this. Afflicted by a facial disfigurement and lacking the brute power of his control freak of a brother, Scar becomes a champion of fellow outcasts and those on the fringes of society. Being an oppressed minority, the hyenas are forced to eek out a living without the basic provisions enjoyed by those who submit to Mufasa’s tyranny.
Scar, being a man of peace, welcomes the hyenas into the Pride Lands in a gesture of integration and multiculturalism, which is resisted by social conservatives in the ruling elite. Ultimately Scar’s dream of a rainbow nation is brought to an end with a Public Sector strike; the lionesses refuse hunt. Their hostility to integration, never far from the surface, becomes a race war when an embittered princling returns and whips up inter community tensions in a ruthless bid to undo Scar’s classless society, and return the Pride Lands to crushing serfdom.
Everything about Aladdin should set libertarian teeth on edge; even the backdrop, Agrabah is a despotic Middle Eastern sultanate which seems have dodged the Arab Spring. Just look at the opening scenes, the sultan’s palace constitutes HALF the city…and we’re supposed to be ok with this? These are the good guys? The real hero was Jafar; a lowly policy wonk so underpaid that he’s clearly not eating properly. Being an open minded and progressive chap, Jafar isn’t afraid to mix with the peasants and pursue his passion for alternative religions and antiques. Aladdin on the other had is a thief, who when not violating property rights, commits the heinous crime of dressing his pet monkey up in racially offensive stereotypic costumes.
By pure dumb luck, Aladdin finds himself in possession of a magic lamp. Yet rather than wish to help the poor and hungry in his community, he decides to make himself a prince. And it isn’t even as if he wants to be a benevolent, reformist ruler…oh no, he’s just horny. The object of his affections is an angst ridden princess (angst being the rich kid’s substitute for real problems) who thinks it whimsical to keep a tiger as a pet.
What followed was a battle between Jafar, seemingly on some psychedelic trip, verses an Aladdin determined get his feet under the table at the palace.
Cinderella is another tale, touted as a timeless classic, which deserves far more criticism than it currently gets. True to Walt Disney’s authoritarian streak, it is set under an unquestioned monarchy where the Prince is permitted to harvest for himself a wife from the general populous. Cinderella is a story of social mobility, or more accurately, how to leap frog people by being pretty. The supposed villains of the piece are the Ugly Sisters; like Scar before and countless other baddies, lacking classical good looks immediately marks you out as a nasty piece of work. Body image issues clearly not high on Disney’s list of priorities. Nor it seems is feminism; in the world of Cinderella the only way for a woman in the hygiene service industry to improve her lot is to sink her claws into the first walking wallet she can find. And let’s not forget that the Prince in question can’t even remember what she looks like. That’s right, the person you’re destined to spend your life with can’t even remember if you’re blonde or brunette, and instead has to rely on a latent foot-fetish for identification purposes. But the real kicker for libertarians in Cinderella is the subject of licensing hours. Under this stagnant monarchy, outside of the palace there are no pubs, clubs, take aways, taxis, hotels or formal wear hire outlets open after midnight.
And the Fairy God Mother wasn’t even good enough to bring a hipflask…