Why I Hate Disney
"When the lemmings balk at dying for Disney, they're hurled off the cliff."
-The Dead Kennedys, "Potshot Heard 'Round the World"
THE LEVELS OF MY DISNEY HATRED
1. I vaguely remember from my childhood hearing punk songs and reading zines that were making fun of Disney... I don't remember how, exactly... but I think I remember, like images of Jesus Christ with Mickey Mouse ears or something. Punks really had it in for Disney, and I think this is when I started feeling like, haha yeah fuck Disney... not in any specific way, or for any specific reason, just generally.
2. Then Disney opened EuroDisney in Paris, and French people reacted against it. In particular, I remember reading Jean Baudrillard, who wrote about how Disneyland was the perfect example of hyperreality. That influenced me, too.
3. And obviously, Disney is a gigantic, powerful, multinational corporation, and if you're critical of capitalism in any way, you're inevitably going to be critical of Disney.
4. I also vaguely remember, back then, reading a specific zine that attacked Disney, but some of it was conspiracy theory: it said that Walt Disney was a nazi (I don't think he was a nazi, but he was very right wing, and probably more sympathetic to the nazi movement in its early days than the average American, and he also had his own utopian vision - EPCOT center was originally planned to be a kind of utopian society; that fell apart, but the dream never really died and later they created "The Villages") and it said that there was a slave labor camp under Space Mountain and that Walt Disney's head was being kept in suspended animation in a vat of chemicals. And it said a bunch of other stuff, none of which I believe now, and I was pretty skeptical even then, but some of it seemed plausible. I wouldn't say I ever believed that stuff, but some of it seemed like fun fodder to make art out of. (For more on Disney's right wing authoritarian utopianism, you can read this: https://www.pastemagazine.com/.../walt-the-quasi-nazi.../)
5. Okay, now let's get into the real reasons I hate Disney. First of all, Disney has been manipulating copyright law for decades. The Constitution explicitly instructs Congress to regulate copyright, but it was fairly unevenly regulated throughout the 19th century. In 1909 came the first comprehensive copyright law, and it said that an author had the exclusive right to his writings for 28 years. At the end of that period, the author could renew his or her copyright for another 28 years. If the author didn't personally renew it, it would go into the public domain. Disney created Mickey Mouse in 1928, and renewed the copyright in 1956, but died in 1966, meaning that under existing law, Mickey Mouse would have gone into public domain in 1984. So the Disney corporation lobbied hard to change the law. Their lawyers essentially wrote the law of the 1976 Copyright Act, which made it so that copyright lasts an entire author's life, plus 50 years, or 75 years for works owned by corporations. This meant that Mickey Mouse's copyright would last until 2003. So in the 90s, they again went to work to change the law, and it was during this time that I really started to hate Disney. Though activists fought hard against it, the corporate lawyers again triumphed and wrote new copyright law in 1998 (sponsored by sellout Sonny Bono), which said that copyright lasts an author's lifetime plus 70 years, or, for a corporation, 120 years since creation or 95 years since original publication, whichever comes first. That means that Mickey Mouse will enter the public domain on January 1st, 2024, and I'm excited about it.
I hope the internet and its meme warriors collectively destroy any hope that Disney has of maintaining its property. I'll be proud of the brave young soldiers, fighting God's war.
Because, by being such a copyright troll, Disney has stifled American creativity for generations. For a long time, there's been a struggle going on - on the one side are people like the "cypherpunk" movement, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Stewart "Information wants to be free" Brand, all the pirates, etc., etc. - which I used to think was cool....... and on the other side, corporations that will do anything to protect their IT, the most prominent and visible of which (and the one that has poured the most capital into the fight) is Disney. I may not completely unquestioningly believe in the ideology of internet anarchism anymore, but I'll never give up my grudge against Disney. It was during these 90s battles that I became thoroughly convinced that the U.S. government mostly exists not for the equal protection of all citizens, but to protect the property of corporations, whose lawyers largely write our laws for their own benefit. This is true most egregiously and obviously in the case of Disney and copyright law.
6. And BOY, does Disney use these laws that it created. As Newsweek put it (see here: https://www.newsweek.com/kermit-vs-mickey-mouse-202356), "Disney wrote the book on being tough. They'll sue anybody and anything." This is a quote from a copyright lawyer, responding to the story (which was happening simultaneously to the lobbying for copyright law changes in the 90s) where Disney was legally battling, and taking over, the Muppets (which is why you don't see Kermit on Sesame Street anymore). This one stings me, because I love the Muppets. A complicated story, but one of thousands. They're always suing someone, and they usually win.
7. Maybe it would be excusable if Disney were protecting the legacy of a creative genius. But the truth is, the idea for Mickey Mouse was stolen right from the very beginning. Walt Disney didn't come up with Mickey Mouse. He stole the idea from his friend Ub Iwerks. And in general, the history of Disney is the history of theft and ruthless exploitation.
8. And to me, it's especially galling that, while Disney, in reality, has done more to stifle human creativity that just about any other entity on the planet, they market themselves with these pretty songs and images where they extol the virtues of "imagination," which is their main theme. The rank hypocrisy nauseates me.
9. There's a saying attributed to Goebbels that the key to propaganda is to have a simple message and repeat it over and over. In this sense, Disney has perfected propaganda, reducing their properties to the simplest, most iconic formulas and then repeating them over and over in thousands of variations and iterations. Take those mickey mouse ears - can anything be more iconic? It's brilliant in its simplicity. As a brand it can be replicated endlessly, and mean anything - and thus nothing. It's almost aggressive in its meaninglessness.
10. And they're just taking over more and more properties, consolidating more and more into their empire. They own ABC, FX, ESPN, National Geographic, Hulu, 20th Century Fox (including the Simpsons), Marvel, LucasFilm (including Star Wars), Lifetime, A&E, History, Buena Vista, Touchstone, Pixar, Searchlight Pictures and major stakes in a lot of other properties like VICE news. They own Family Guy and the Chronicles of Narnia and Bob's Burgers and Winnie the Pooh. Besides their media companies they also run several financial services and software companies, and so far we've only been talking about their American holdings. They also big in Hong Kong, and increasingly in China, as well as Japan and India and Latin America. They're slowly absorbing everything. They may not be, legally speaking, a monopoly, but I think we have to change the monopoly laws to prevent the kind of empire they've built - more powerful in many ways than some entire nations - which is, to my mind, a threat to democracy everywhere. I have a strong feeling that we need to stop them before they take over everything, but most people don't seem to care. They even seem to LIKE media consolidation.
I once... joked? ... that one day we would see mickey mouse ears on the moon. But now they found Pluto on Pluto.
11. Disney doesn't - and never did - create anything. Even their best movies - Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, etc., - they're classics, to be sure. (I do love the song "Some Day My Prince Will Come"...) But they took already existing stories - myths, legends, fairy tales, and in some cases, stories written by specific authors - but stories in the public domain - and Disneyfied them. And they do it so well that now we have difficulty imagining these characters, these stories, any other way. They take these myths, which were once part of the common bequest of being a human being on Earth, and they brand them as their exclusive property, thus forever impoverishing the human mind. It's a clamp on human creativity.
I, for one, remember being read the books of A. A. Milne as a child, and imagining the stories in my own way. I remember seeing the Winnie the Pooh movie and thinking - that's not how Winnie the Pooh sounds! That's not what he looks like! They've got these characters all wrong! But then I was exposed to the Disney version again and again and again, and now I can't even remember what my version of Winnie the Pooh was like (or only vaguely). It's so sad. I lost something. They drilled it out of my head.
12. Worse than that, when Disney Disneyfies something, they suck out what is best about it. For one thing, they give everything a happy ending. Everything has to have a happy ending. Often, that ruins the whole point of the story. The Little Mermaid is supposed to dissolve into seafoam. The tragedy of the story gives it meaning. The Grimm stories are GRIM. Goldilocks is eaten. Little Red Riding Hood is eaten. Rumpelstiltskin rips his own entire body in half. But there is a depth and a majesty to this darkness. Everything Disney touches is simplified, watered down, and given a happy ending. Everything becomes perky and schmaltzy, and put to a moderate-rock Broadway soundtrack, with corny over-the-top singing.
13. Worse than that, the complexity, and the Weirdness, and the Uncanny aspects of these stories are all clinically removed. Everything becomes nice and tidy. Everything fits the Joseph Campbell story mold. And I've got a real bee in my bonnet about Joseph Campbell. I'm sorry, but he is Wrong about myths. Myths are so much Weirder than he thinks. They don't all fit that formulaic pattern. The Disney-Campbell-Peterson complex is even worse than the military-industrial complex, and needs to be utterly destroyed. Free the narrative story structure from this oppressive stereotypical schematic formula! It's ruining everything.
(Alice in Wonderland, the book, is perhaps the greatest creative accomplishment of any human being. What Disney did to Alice in Wonderland - and especially the live action version directed by Tim Burton - is utterly unforgivable. Everyone involved should be hung from their ankles, Mussolini-style.)
14. Speaking of which - blame Jordan Peterson on Disney. He is a Disney fanatic, and his little army all comes out of Disney. I actually watched his whole lecture course on Pinnochio. He acted like Pinnochio either emerged fully formed from the collective unconscious, as an ancient myth or fairy tale, or else the people at Disney came up with it, as creative geniuses who somehow accessed the collective unconscious. He more or less ignores that it was based on a book, by a specific person, Carlo Collodi, and it was, again, Disneyfied. The original story is much darker, and more interesting, and ends with Pinnochio being hanged by a noose from a tree. Disney was a right winger, Joseph Campbell was a right winger and an anti-Semite, Jordan Peterson... well, you know about Jordan Peterson. And there are thousands of these kinds of people. I had a professor in college who engaged in this kind of "mythopoetic" half-baked psychoanalysis. It's all BS.
15. Disney exploited its workers in Haiti.
16. Disney used child labor and worked people to death in China.
17. Beyond all this, Disney just sucks. Their cartoons aren't funny.
Looney Tunes RULE FOREVER