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March 1996, Week 1


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Jeff Apfel <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 6 Mar 1996 11:52:18 -0800
text/plain (87 lines)
>> On Thu, 29 Feb 1996, Mike Frank <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> >with reference to comments on "correct" readings of disney's "b & b,"
>> >. but wouldn't it be lovely if in fact disney has really missed the boat on
>> >the kind of politics these films actually articulate for their main
> audiences?
Then Jeff Apfel wrote:
>> May I ask why you feel it would be "lovely" for the film not to act as a
>>fairy tale would, as a kind of emotional instruction manual to the art of
>>growing> up? Is there another hegemony you would find preferable, and
>>therefore support subversive texts as a means to create a new order, and in
>>turn a new set of
>> fairy tales?  Or do you just like subversion?
Then Mike wrote:
> not only a good question but a fair one and, a little
>surprisingly, a disconcerting one . . . but i think there is an answer . . .
> . . . the question is based  [i think]  on the paired premises a) that there
>is "AN art of growing up" that is more or less single, unified, coherent, and
>constant [as opposed to multiple arts or processes of growing up] . . . and
>[more troubelsome to me] b) that the guys at disney have some kind of
>authority or control vis-a-vis this process . . .
>         . . . and while it's  probably true that i do have a kind of
>residual taste for certain kinds of subversion,  i think that my argument
>here is based on the possibility that, despite box office stastistics and
>comercial success certain comercial interests do NOT have the public
>completely in thrall and ready for a complacent acceptance of disney's
>sanitized notions of the good life . . .
>.. . . to put it differently . . . some might view the "authority" of disney
>[or of fairy tales] as supporting the insipidity of his resolutions . . . the
>alternate view sees the texts as "authorizing" the subversion of the problem
>rather than the complacency of the solution . . . and this, in opening up the
>range of possibilities available to us, seems most likely a good thing . . .
Thanks, Mike, for taking my question seriously.  I was concerned after it was
sent that it might be taken as sarcasm, which it was not.  I was, and am,
interested in the question in part because, as with all good struggles, it
mirrors unresolved concerns on my part.
I like you answer and sloshed it around for a while in my mind to see if it
worked for me and it sort of did and sort of didn't.  Here's what I find
unsatisfactory.  Crudely put, I think the left (and by that I mean the cultural
left, not the economic or political left--Pat Buchanan has amply highlighted the
fault lines on this score) has been as guilty or more guilty than Disney & Co.
on the issue of sanitizing issues like the relations between the sexes, history,
 and so forth.  That's why I think it has become so easy to lampoon "PC" views
of things--not because (or not only because) of the hegemeony of patriarchy, but
because, to paraphrase Camile Paglia, a lot of such thinking is "helpless
against the archetypal".
(I know I am throwing a lot onto "the left" here, but it cannot go unnoticed
that  much of the verbiage and dialog on screen and lit groups on the net
derives from the curious mix of gender and power issues prevalent in the
academy.  So forgive me if "the left" doesn't work for you--I only mean by a
sort of shorthand for a particularly current worldview and set of concerns.)
Specifically with reference to B&B, the sense I have is that some people may
have taken the young female viewers' sense of an unsatisfactory ending to be a
bellweather of sorts for a feminist reading of the film--young girl's rising up
around this nation intending to smash Disney.  Maybe that's true and I'm open to
the notion.  However, I just find it more likely that the myth being retold in
this film--whether told by Cocteau, Disney or around a campfire--has
incorporated right into it the tragedy at the loss of the beast, and does not
have to be isolated externally in "negative" responses.
I'm not convinced that this kind of Grimm's fairy tale instructional view by
necessity implies "AN art to growing up". . .there are of course infinite ways
to do so, all the more reason for the child to hear an adult's view of some of
the passages to take, even if some are bittersweet.
I find myself defending Disney here more than I should, so I probably shouldn't
go on.  It's just that he's so easy to dump on while we give an Oscar for Best
Picture to Dancing With Wolves.
Jeff Apfel
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