Leading Article: The wonderful world of Disney subversion

Share
Related Topics
THE accountants at the Walt Disney Company must have been reading the American press with unusual enjoyment over recent weeks. Not only have most US papers reported that Disney's latest cartoon epic, The Lion King, grossed almost as much in its first week at the cinemas as Jurassic Park, last year's moneyspinner; they have also provided further useful publicity by fomenting a controversy over the film's alleged subversive political messages.

In a film directed at children, which contains no human characters, Disney has been accused of sexism (because the lionesses rely on their male mates to rescue them), racism (because the villain's mane is black), and homophobia (because of alleged gay stereotyping among some of the animals). One academic has even accused The Lion King of perpetuating a psychology of dependency, and has bitterly asked: 'Anyone at Disney heard of empowerment?'

The Disney press office has rightly poured scorn on these complaints. But commercial discretion makes it difficult for the company to make its motives clear. If it is to make the profits that it does, Walt Disney must do its best to ensure that cartoons such as The Lion King appeal not only to children but also to the parents who must take them to the movies. That is why the company's recent productions can be enjoyed at two separate levels. But it would be a mistake to confuse one with the other. Most of the film's supposedly objectionable characteristics would hardly be noticed by the average child of five.

There is one question, however, worth asking: whether The Lion King, and other cartoons like it, might simply be too frightening. Paradoxically, very small children who can watch hi-tech dismemberments in Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger films with equanimity may be terrified by the death of Bambi's mother - and may have nightmares for months about Cruella de Vil, the villain of One Hundred and One Dalmations.

Most parents of young children will probably reflect that it is better for their offspring to come to terms with death and mayhem in a cartoon that guarantees a happy ending than elsewhere. Long before the days of political correctitude cartoons were teaching children the difference between right and wrong, and that bad things sometimes happen to good people.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I’m not sure I fancy any meal that’s been cooked up by a computer

John Walsh
Labour leader Ed Miliband delivers a speech on his party's plans for the NHS, in Sale, on Tuesday  

Why is Miliband fixating on the NHS when he’d be better off focussing on the wealth gap?

Andreas Whittam Smith
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore