The Southern Baptists Are Right To Boycott Disney.
By Jeff Smith
July 8, 1997: LIZA AND I were driving to the dump this morning, so she could shovel out the truckload of rat turds and toxic chemicals I'd watched her shovel into the truck an hour earlier, while I made executive decisions as to which second-hand motorcycle tires I needed to save and store elsewhere and how badly an old mattress had to be chewed-up and vermin-infested before it was no longer worth keeping--important stuff like that, when out of the blue she asks me, "What does it mean to be Machiavellian?"
So to buy time while my middle-aged brain slowly attempted to retrieve the 25-words-or-less definition of the term I used on my last Humanities final, I regaled her with useless background including the man's given name "Nicolo"; best-known work: The Prince; and a lot of blather about the applied political science. Finally the data began appearing on-screen and I told her the basic premise of Machiavellian politics is to bind one's weaker adversaries to one's banner, thus forging a sort of confederacy which is stronger than the strongest of one's enemies, and in which one is in control and nobody is likely to mess with one.
Seriously or effectively.
I guess that's more or less it. The colloquy made me realize how one comes to a certain familiarity with a word or term, to an easy facility with employing it in conversation or prose, and how the understanding of its definition, which of necessity preceded its inclusion in one's vocabulary fades and almost is lost in time. Like "colloquy." I can use it, in fact I just did, but to tell you much beyond the notion that it deals with some kind of thoughtful dialogue is beyond me at the moment.
After we got back from the dump, washed the lime and concrete and gypsum plaster and dust laden with hanta virus and rodent matter from our bodies, and blew those great, black, adobe kind of boogers you get when you work all morning in a cloud of lethal dust, I sneaked off to write this column while Liza went to work with a push-broom and shovel on the barn floor, and the words "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," leapt to mind.
The reason being that I find myself in unlikely alliance with the 12,000 delegates to the recent convention of the Southern Baptist Church, and the manyfold larger flock they represent. It's about this Disney thing.
Up until about eight this morning I could have been goaded very easily into delivering a stentorian sermon on the folly of he who is not without sin casting stones at the folks who gave us Mickey and Donald and Snow White and Zorro, especially over something so bland and inoffensive as Ellen Degeneres telling everybody in primetime what anybody with a clue already knew on their own time, to wit: She is gay.
Stop the presses.
Indeed the Southern Baptists probably would stop the presses if they could, for playing toady to the worldwide conspiracy to undermine the morals of heterosexual, non-communist, tunnel-visioned, right-wing ideologues from San Diego to Presque Isle, by printing so-called news about people and behavior the Baptists find objectionable. Freedom and tolerance are not what the Southern Baptist creed is about. Strict adherence to the literal word of the Bible is.
So after watching and grousing and growing ever more outraged while the Disney Corporation gave employment benefits to gay couples, held informal gay days at their theme parks, marketed movies with more flesh and less uplifting moral tone that the Baptists would like, and finally, letting Ellen out of the closet on national TV, the Baptist convention decided to tell all the members of its churches to boycott anything and everything Disney.
We sophisticates chuckled condescendingly.
Boycotting Disney is like swearing off salt and sugar. You think you can put away the shaker and the sugar bowl, like you can tell the TV cameras as you march off the field victorious, following the Superbowl, "Where am I going now? I'm NOT going to Disneyland!"
Think again: Disney is into half the stuff we do, like salt and sugar are into everything we eat, including rice cakes and Sterno.
I must concede that knowing a little bit about the personal character and political agenda of the man who gave the name Disney to what is today a merchandising and media mega-monster, I wasn't entirely comfortable with leaping to the barricades to defend to the death the dead man Disney's honor. But hell, arrayed against the soul survivors of the Flat Earth Society, what's a free-thinker to do?
Side with Brother Billy Joe Bob and the Baptists, it turns out.
On account of this Hercules thing. Surely you are hip to Herc: he's the latest marketed juggernaut to come down the pike since, what? Batman and Arnold, last week.
My pal Annie McGreevy phoned early this morning, madder than a wet hen.
"These kids aren't going to know a damn thing," she said. Images of home-schooled children bound wrist and ankle in trailers came to mind, but I asked her, "What kids?"
"The ones who see Hercules. I'm so mad at this review in the Star I could spit."
Annie James McGreevy is a lineal descendant of Jesse James, and I've seen her in high dudgeon, but I've never seen her spit.
"I must be one of those purist whiners she writes about."
She was leaving me and I told her so. "Read the review," Annie said and rung off.
I did, and learned that what Annie told me was right: Disney has entirely rewritten, robbed, raped, Bowdlerized and re-cast an entire volume of humankind's most important literature and myth, and not a little of the underpinnings of a still-living religious and spiritual tradition.
And the Star's reviewer, Renee Downing, is so hip, so '90s, so there that she thinks it's all just ducky. Well hell, she's a film critic: If it serves the muse of film, any abuses of those muses, any liberties with history, fact, traditional, folklore, even the most faithfully held beliefs of religions other than our own (and that includes Southern Baptists) may--indeed, cheerfully must--be forgiven or forgotten.
Sorry, Renee, but I'm not ready to forgive Disney for punching the story by including a cyclops stolen out of the Odyssey, a winged horse from another Greek myth, a girlfriend named Meg (from where, The Valley, Dude!) or for turning Herc into a full-fledged Greek god, his mother from a mortal into the wife of Zeus, and all that other stuff that's going to make it literally and absolutely impossible for our grade schools to teach the current generation of anything accurate about Greek mythology.
I shit thee not: We wonder how come our kids can't get squat from the books we spend our tax dollars buying them; the answer is that outfits like Disney own their pliant little minds, and are twisting them and misinforming them and lying to them, in order to sell movie tickets, and beyond that, to peddle action figures, drinking mugs, T-shirts and 6,997 other commercially tied-in products that will bear the faces and figures and Hercules and Meg...
Or Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame. Or was he the quarterback? With those big, crooked shoulderpads he might have been a defensive tackle. At any rate he got tight with the chick, made a shitload in souvenirs, and lived happily ever after.
I can't wait for Schindler's List to come out in a cartoon version. My Baptists buddies and I are going to boycott it. By then I bet Ellen will be marching alongside us.
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