Thursday, 4 January 2018

Defending Disney - Part 2: Walt, the Supposed Nazi

[<- Index]
[<- Part 1: A Sampling of Recent Accusations]

The two most substantive pieces of evidence to support the idea of Walt's supposed Nazism (in general, not just from the sources in the previous section) are a claim by animator Art Babbitt that he saw Walt Disney and his lawyer Gunther Lessing at a meeting of the German American Bund (an American pro-Nazi organization) which Babbitt himself attended out of curiosity in the late 1930's, and that German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl visited the Walt Disney Studios on December 8, 1938 when she was in America to promote her movie Olympia (1938), having to do with the 1936 Summer Olympics which had been held in Berlin.

"While the Fuehrer brags and lies and rants and raves,
we heil! Heil! and work into our graves
."

Walt Being Seen at a German American Bund Meeting


The thing with the claim of Walt attending Bund meetings is that it simply isn't sufficiently substantiated to accept that it even happened. The only evidence for it comes from a claim by Art Babbitt, which in this instance is a questionable source to say the least. Art Babbitt was one of Disney's top animators who nevertheless became his bitter enemy over union disagreements (to the point where there would have been an actual fistfight between the two in the studio parking lot had they not been restrained). The result was that these two men held a life-long grudge against each other and either one would gladly have taking the other down. As such a claim like this should really be taken with a grain of salt.

Even in the late thirties Walt Disney had already established himself and was a well-known celebrity. How odd is it then that the only source who saw Walt and conveniently his lawyer at these meetings was a person who both hated him and who would gain (if only vengeance) from having Walt's reputation tarnished? So while I in no way wish to sully Art Babbitt's name instead, it seems much more likely that in this case Babbitt was either mistaken or simply lied. Without any counter-statement from Walt himself, if he even did attend those meetings, it is also impossible to determine his motives for attending. It is speculated that if he did attend these meetings, it would more likely be to facilitate the distribution of Disney movies in Germany rather than any admiration for Adolf Hitler. Disney historian Jim Korkis further notes that there was no indication of him attending such meetings in his office appointment book.
Ron Miller, Mel Milton, Gunther Lessing, Harry Tytle
Lessing's retirement party (1964) (source) (1)

The issue is even further complicated by speculation that Gunther Lessing, Walt Disney's lawyer who he supposedly attended these meetings with, was himself Jewish as suggested by Disney animator Ward Kimball in a 1986 interview with Michael Barrier. Which, if true, would not only raise even more doubts about their attendance of Bund meetings, but would also further complicate attempts to accuse Walt of being antisemitic.

The previously mentioned article from Paste Magazine that brought up these claims links the Babbitt quote to Peter Fotis Kapnistos' Hitler's Doubles. A quick glance at the source reveals that this book (or at the very least this Disney-specific chapter) is just another amalgamation of more speculation and wild conspiracy theories. It includes a claim that Der Fuehrer's Face (1943), an anti-Nazi propaganda cartoon sponsored by the US government which mocks Nazi Germany by reducing it to a hellish-yet-ridiculous slapstick comedy, actually is about Donald Duck as a "good-natured trusty Nazi" (p.253) (rather than an impoverished worker drone going insane from having to work 48 hours a day) and him waking up from losing his mind in Hitler's factory to hug the Statue of Liberty is actually subliminal messaging of a loyal Nazi being committed to America. Most telling of all is that this book actually proposes the possibility that Walt Disney was really the alter ego of Adolf Hitler himself! (2) That's an impressive double life to say the least and just another example of how eager conspiracy theories surrounding the man are concocted.

Since Hitler's Doubles was first released in 2015, it is impossible for it to be the original source however. Neal Gabler's 2006 biography of Walt Disney (which is even quote-mined in Kapnistos' book, conveniently reprinting the accusations but not the refutations that followed them) already mentioned the Art Babbitt quote and concluded Walt's attendance at Bund meetings was unlikely because at the time he was both too busy with his studio (this was when he had gained increased prominence with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), which prompted him to make even better feature films to maintain his status as the number one in animation while he was also overseeing construction of the new Burbank studio) as well as his reputation for being politically uninterested at that time.

"[...] Art Babbitt in later years claimed to have actually seen Walt and Gunter Lessing at Bund Meetings of Nazi sympathizers that Babbitt himself had attended out of curiosity; that was highly unlikely, not only because Walt had little enough time for his family, much less political meetings, but because he had no real political leanings at the time."
Walt Disney: The Biography - Neal Gabler p. 448

Unfortunately as of writing I haven't yet been able to find the original source for Art Babbitt's accusations. This section might thus be updated if I ever manage to track it down. However I very much doubt it would change the conclusion that Walt's attendance of these meetings was highly unlikely.


Walt Meeting Leni Riefenstahl


We once again turn to the Paste Magazine article. This time its source for Leni Riefenstahl's visit is the introduction of a 2011 New York Times article about Lars von Trier announcing himself to be a Nazi which for some reasons draws a comparison to the meeting of Walt Disney and Leni Riefenstahl, which the Paste Magazine author then reworded for his own article. Unlike Paste Magazine, The New York Times article at least had the decency to mention Walt turned down a showing of Riefenstahl's movie due to his apprehensions of playing host to her in the first place. Neither article mentions Walt later did disavow the visit, claiming ignorance of who she was (I haven't found whether this was feigned ignorance to her as a person or actual ignorance as to her political leanings). Instead the articles cite Steven Bach's biography "Leni" where she praises Walt hosting her as not having been taken in by Jew smear campaigns, which is hardly relevant to Walt's feelings or intentions regarding the meeting. Paste Magazine, with the benefit of 80 years worth of hindsight vs Walt Disney's pre-World War II political naïvité, just calls the visit "inexcusable".

Olympia (1938)
Leni Riefenstahl did visit the Walt Disney Studios on December 8, 1938 according to Gabler through an invitation from mutual acquaintance Jay Stowitts, who wrote Walt that Riefenstahl was interested in meeting who she considered "the greatest personage in American films". Of course the truth is that the visit is not at all a barometer for Walt Disney's own political leanings or which dictatorial regime he was supposedly involved with. Leni Riefenstahl was an influential and innovative filmmaker who receives worldwide acclaim even today, despite the now obvious fact that she had lent her talents to further the ambitions of an undeniably evil man with for example her Nazi propaganda movie Triumph of the Will (1935). Walt Disney had just enhanced his own status as a filmmaker with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and wanted to remain at the top of his field by making even more and better animated feature films. Thus Walt's interest in meeting her (publicly at his studio even. According to Gabler, Walt's desk diary indicated they watched a sweatbox session of a Fantasia sequence) would be much more likely fueled by her reputation as a film director rather than any sort of conspiratorial association with Adolf Hitler. Walt Disney was known for meeting artists of any kind at his studio and it seems much more likely he just didn't much care about Riefenstahl's politics because he was interested in the artist.

"Leni Riefenstahl did visit the Disney studio, I gather, but so did Sergei Eisenstein, and no one has ever suggested that Walt was a Communist."

So the most substantive fact that even remotely links Walt Disney to Adolf Hitler is nothing more malicious than two celebrated filmmakers having once met each other publicly. Everything beyond that is conspiracy theory fueled with guilt by association.


Der Fuehrer's Face: Nazi Donald Duck reading Mein Kampf


Twitter often doesn't require a lot of 'evidence' to get the rumor mill running. Occasionally someone just posts the following picture of Donald Duck apparently reading Mein Kampf, or a similar scene in which Donald is dressed in a Nazi uniform, to prove Walt Disney had pro-Nazi leanings.
Der Fuehrer's Face (1943)
Originally titled: Donald Duck in Nutzi Land
The context that is removed, and that anyone evidently hardly bothers to find out, is that this is a still image from the aforementioned Der Fuehrer's Face (1943), an explicitly anti-Nazi propaganda film and scathing satire of Nazi Germany meant to help sell savings bonds for the war effort.

The short depicts Donald Duck as a factory worker in Nazi Germany (or Nutzi Land), where his clothes are made from paper and his breakfast consists of 'Scent of Bacon and Eggs', a piece of wooden bread so hard he has to cut it with a saw and water dipped with a single coffee bean (a luxury considering he attempts to keep it secret). His breakfast is interrupted by a copy of Mein Kampf being bayoneted in front of him. He is then escorted to the factory where it is his glorious privilege to work 48 hours a day into insanity making shells for the war. The task is being made even more annoying by random picture frames of Adolf Hitler being put in front of him, which he has to salute every time or risk getting a bayonet up his tail. Meanwhile the overly optimistic soundtrack consists of lyrics superficially praising Hitler while the feigned optimism often breaks and reveals the singer's desire to get out of there, even dreaming of one of their artillery shells blowing Hitler to hell. The plentiful use of 'HEIL!' is also mocked by equating it to blowing a raspberry in Hitler's face (back then it was considered an extremely obscene gesture rather than merely crude). After Donald has a complete breakdown it is revealed he was merely having a nightmare and he wakes up in his bed in the United States of America, being glad he's a citizen. The short ends with a caricature of Adolf Hitler getting a tomato in his face, as he has in the promotional posters.



So essentially whenever someone tries to assert Disney's Nazi allegiances by asking if they need to show you the Donald-Duck-is-a-Nazi cartoon, the appropriate response is to ask them if they themselves have actually watched it (it's not too hard to find on YouTube). However we're not done with World War II. Walt Disney Productions had a much larger contribution to the war effort than just a single anti-Hitler propaganda cartoon, which I'll cover in the next section.


To sum this part up: Walt Disney is considered a Nazi sympathizer because of a rumor spread by an enemy (and backed up by nobody else), him once having met another influential filmmaker who happened to be a Nazi sympathizer (but never having been convicted for war crimes or even as a Nazi herself) but later having denounced the meeting anyway, and his own anti-Nazi propaganda getting taken horribly out of context. There's no record of him promoting Nazism, no record of him subscribing to their ideas. The only statements he made on Adolf Hitler before the war at worst reveal him not taking the threat of Hitler's regime all that seriously yet (I'm also not sure why he should have, he was a filmmaker, not an army general), on which pinning him down is an extremely low and petty blow, especially coming from people judging him with the privilege of perfect hindsight. Furthermore the US military would have screened him during his time as their own anti-Nazi propagandist and evidently they didn't think he was a Nazi sympathizer either. So there simply isn't evidence to suggest he was a Nazi, a Nazi sympathizer or a fan of Adolf Hitler. 

Notes

1. The FactFile video shows this picture while talking about Walt Disney and Gunther Lessing supposedly attending these German American Bund meetings, which might intentionally or not implant the idea it is a picture from one of these meetings. However the source indicates it was taken at Gunther Lessing's retirement party in 1964, which is consistent with Lessing's advanced age in the picture.
2. Someone really needs to combine this theory with Marc Eliot's Hollywood's Dark Prince because that would make Adolf Hitler an illegitimate Spanish boy named José Guirao who was also a decades-long domestic spy for J. Edgar Hoover.

Defending Disney - Part 1: A Sampling of Recent Accusations

Before we go onto the debunking, let's first take a look at why a debunking is needed. There's always a couple of conspiracy theories surrounding any given popular topic so a popular historical figure like Walt Disney should be no exception. However it's the sheer prevalence of the "Walt Disney was a Nazi and raging racist" claims that I feel makes adding an extra voice to the counterargument a worthwhile effort. So here's the part where I point fingers.

"He sees no more than the party wants him to.
He says nothing but what the party wants him to say,
and he does nothing but what the party wants him to do.
And so he marches on with his millions of comrades
trampling on the rights of others.
"

The above is a screen and quote from Education for Death (1943), in our time probably the second most famous of Disney's anti-Nazi cartoons after Der Fuehrer's Face (1943) about a boy that throughout his life is being indoctrinated by the hateful ideology of the Nazis to persecute others and eventually march to his own death in Adolf Hitler's war machine. The short was inspired by Gregory Ziemer's book of the same name, which he wrote to highlight how the youth of Germany were being indoctrinated after he escaped Germany before World War II.
I will cover Walt Disney's many contributions to helping the fight against the Nazis in a later section, but I think it's valuable to have some snippets from Walt's actual output during World War II in between Internet accusations that he was "by all accounts" a Nazi. Doing a Twitter search for "Disney Nazi" or something similar reveals at a daily basis a startling amount of people who either spread or are utterly convinced by these rumors. The question also regularly pops up on sites such as Yahoo Answers, as documented by Cartoon Brew's Amid Amidi in his post Why Kids Today Think Disney was a Jew-Hating, Hitler-Loving Racist, who says Walt Disney's supposed hatred of Jews and Blacks is "one of the most vile mistruths tossed around about the old man". However it were primarily the videos and articles that follow which gave me the impetus to actually look into the history of Walt Disney.

One article responsible for a recent flare-up in rumor-mill accusations against Walt Disney is Paste Magazine's Walt the Quasi-Nazi: The Fascist History of Disney is Still Influencing American Life by Ryan Beitler. As the title's "Quasi-Nazi" would suggest, it is filled with soft-rejections of accusations, namely the fact that Walt Disney once met with German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl and the rumor by Art Babbitt that Walt was seen at a German American Bund meeting, while somehow still attempting to smear Walt with them. The author admits that there is no actual evidence for calling Walt Disney a Nazi, but then proceeds regardless of that admittance, refuses to actually look at the claims critically and still take them at face value, which seems like a transparent attempt to nevertheless instill that image into the readers' minds (effective, as Twitter's response to the article suggests). His personal accusations then follow in how Walt's anti-Nazi propaganda somehow wasn't anti-Nazi enough for the author's tastes, because the 2 cartoons he looked at didn't cover antisemitism while there was a Jewish "swindler" (really just the Big Bad Wolf disguised as a peddler) in Three Little Pigs (1933).
In the end he skips over all that and instead focuses his attention on Walt Disney's unfulfilled ideas for EPCOT (which never came to fruition during Walt's life and after his death got converted to Walt Disney World) and then judges Walt based on that. While practices at this Disney World can certainly raise some ethical questions (as one of the articles which Beitler sources does), the author instead uses it as another cheap method of throwing the words "Nazi" and "fascism" around, thus turning a more nuanced question over American corporate overreach into kneejerk outrage because your kids are watching propaganda from a fascist! In short: Quasi-Nazi accusations for clickbait.

I'm personally not particularly interested in the goings on regarding Disney World (I have never been there but I assume it is much easier to escape Disney World than it was Nazi-occupied Europe). It is however a rather famous quote that "fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power" (misattributed to Mussolini), so this article seems to have it backwards anyway to attribute Disney with introducing fascism into corporatism. I will however rip into the Nazi accusations that this article helped spread since its main points have been echoing around the sensationalist press for a while. 

A 2017 Grunge video (1,440,275 views) entitled Respected Historical Figures Who Were Actually Terrible People has a bizarre section on Walt Disney. In Neal Gabler's Disney biography The Triumph of American Imagination (2006), plenty of time is spent debunking the myths of Walt's supposed racism and antisemitism with plenty of examples to back Gabler up, followed by elaboration for why Walt is mistakenly assumed to be these horrible things. However Gabler is gracious enough to admit Walt was racially insensitive just like the rest of his generation and also lists a couple examples of insensitive words Walt has been heard using. Grunge threw away everything positive but picked those two negative examples and declared Walt racist anyway and pretended Gabler's book was some sort of exposure. Then the video states Walt had issues with women by bringing up a letter Walt Disney wrote dismissing a female applicant. Unfortunately they should have actually read the entire letter and been more careful with cropping as it is advice rather than rejection and even their own video shows the letter is signed by a woman named Mary Cleave rather than Walt Disney.

There was also a relatively recent video (25,951 views) by the YouTube channel 'FactFile' who made his video on Walt Disney in the wake of The Walt Disney Company cuttings ties with YouTube Let's Player PewDiePie. In general it presents the same basic arguments as usual however it gets the facts very wrong (such as claiming German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl traveled to Hollywood in 1938 to get a job.(1)) and plays even more loosely with rationalizations of context-less clips from old cartoons. Somehow they think the fact that Meryl Streep at the National Board of Review in 2014 gave a speech chastising Walt Disney is the final confirmation they needed that he was in fact this horrible person. As if Meryl Streep of all people is the final authority on Disney history (the fact that she quoted Ward Kimball (2), only to be debunked by Ward Kimball's official biographer should tell you something). At least they admitted Der Fuehrer's Face was anti-Nazi propaganda. Needless to say, clickbait exposures that feature distorted facts about Walt Disney seem to have become an industry on itself, and rarely is anyone outside of animation historians actually brave enough to contradict the narrative by looking at history in context.

"Let me remind you, Disney, before you get on your fucking
high horse with your white powdered wig that Walt Disney
was a notorious racist and antisemite, okay."
 [Link](5:37) 
Speaking of the 2017 PewDiePie controversy and Felix Kjellberg subsequently being dropped from Disney's Maker Studios network, in its wake several videos of people defending him popped up, some of which also tried to turn the situation around by calling hypocrisy on The Walt Disney Company by claiming they had no leg to stand on considering Walt Disney's own supposed Nazism, racism and antisemitism. Personally I think the following are less egregious since they were off-hand comments rather than videos or articles that actively had to distort facts, but I'm including them just to show how ingrained these myths are (also I only found out they made these comments because I like or at least watch some of these people, so this is more about me pointing out how widespread these myths are rather than me doing some big J'Accuse over it). One of the biggest channels to defend Felix with (at the time of writing) well over 5 million channel subscribers and 6,042,899 views on the video in question came from comedy channel h3h3Productions, in which Ethan Klein understandably jumped into the debate to defend his friend but then dropped in the jab at Walt Disney personally anyway, proclaiming him to be an actual notorious racist and antisemite, unlike Felix. 'Notorious' only because it's a myth that just won't die, of course.

"Disney taking a stand on antisemitism? Have you heard of
Walt Disney? This fucker used Zyklon B at his baby shower."

[Link] (4:12) (3)
There was a particularly cringe-worthy quote (see the caption on the left) from a video (95,775 views) by YouTube reviewer and commentator RazorFist. His presentation style is one that combines high verbosity with hyperbole so he's obviously not making a serious specific claim of Walt Disney's usage of Zyklon B at baby showers but the misguided belief of Walt's antisemitism is definitely there (with a context-less frame from Disney's Der Fuehrer's Face for emphasis). It is also something of a recurring pattern for RazorFist to mention anything to do with Disney by implying Nazi ties, such as referring to Mickey Mouse as Mickey Mensch (dressed as a Nazi) in his Cuphead review. The irony is that both these gentlemen are defending a person falsely accused by the sensationalist rumor mill of racism and antisemitism by falsely accusing someone else of racism and antisemitism based on the same sensationalist rumor mill. 

There was also an older video (297,592 views) by HBomberguy, mostly known for comedic response videos, where in response to fellow YouTuber Jordan Owen being distraught over having a bad encounter with one of his childhood heroes and comparing it to having Walt Disney calling you an asshole, he counters "Now personally if Walt Disney, noted racist and fan of Hitler, called me an asshole, I would think of that as a compliment".

Finally I also remembered a joke by stand-up comedian Bill Burr about Walt Disney's supposed racism from one of his shows (to which I currently don't have access), after which I found this episode of the Monday Morning Podcast where he speculates on Disney's antisemitism (also a rather weird bit about Walt having stolen the concept of an amusement park, which is kind of like stealing the concept of a store. Walt didn't set out to make the first ever amusement park, he just wanted to create the best one possible).

Finally, a small sampling I took December 1, 2017

As you can see, people believe this stuff. Others should know better since they actually spent time researching Walt Disney to make their articles and videos, but for whatever reason they would rather publish the salacious rumors for clickbait. Next I will dive into the claims of Disney's supposed Nazism, particularly his supposed attendance of German American Bund meetings, his meeting with Leni Riefenstahl and the cartoon that shows Donald Duck dressed as a Nazi.

Notes

1. I have found no sources listed for the FactFile video but the claim that Leni Riefenstahl was touring Hollywood for work, along with the set of cartoons that are referenced in both, seems to show they used an April 2005 The Straight Dope article Was Walt Disney a fascist? as its source, which itself uses Marc Eliot's Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince as a source with only mild scrutiny regarding its factuality. Hollywood's Dark Prince is something of a joke among animation historians and received sharp criticism from Walt Disney's widow Lilian Bounds Disney and eldest daughter Diane Disney Miller. Ward Kimball's official historian Amid Amini of Cartoon Brew called it "Marc Eliot's notorious hack job", Didier Ghez says it's "full of mistakes, guesses, intentional lies and non-intentional ignorances" and Disney biography The Animated Man author and cartoon historian Michael Barrier referred to it as "unparalleled for sheer awfulness" and "the worst Disney biography ever" (among other colorful descriptions). While Disney historians might have an understandable bias against works that harshly criticize Walt, having tracked down the book myself I can indeed confirm it isn't a reliable source when even applying mild skepticism. It is a highly speculative piece with an unabashedly conspiratorial and negative slant based on questionable evidence at best (an entire chapter where Eliot asserts Walt Disney was actually born 11 years earlier in Spain as José Guirao is sourced as him having talked to two guys in Mojàcar and him mistaking Raymond Arnold Disney's birth certificate as Walt's. He then asserts the evidence for this was either destroyed or planted by Walt Disney Studio secret agents).
2. Ward Kimball (March 4, 1914 - July 8, 2002): One of Disney's famous Nine Old Men. Known for animating, among others, Jiminy Cricket, Bacchus, the Dumbo crows, Lucifer, Jaq, Gus, the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter.
3. I apologize to RazorFist for a picture that is kind of at an unfortunate facial expression but every other one I took was either blurry or worse.

Defending Disney - Introduction and Index

It is certainly true that the Walt Disney the world knows, just like Mickey Mouse himself, was a wholesome character played by a fallible man named Walter Elias Disney. As such it is understandable that there is a certain appeal to pulling back the curtain and revealing the man behind the character. However the problem is that some people take fallibility behind a wholesome facade as evidence that there is something far more dark and sinister going on. Sometimes people make poor decisions. Sometimes people are wrong. That doesn't automatically align them in a conspiratorial plot with some of the most evil people in recorded history to wipe an entire ethnic group from the face of the Earth. Yet salacious rumors around Walt Disney keep popping up and keep being spread around, as especially in the Internet age it seems rumors are believed not on credibility but by virtue of them being salacious.

[NOTESince further pages in this series are still being written and edited, it is highly likely I will be heavily editing pages already published until everything is released]

Defending Walt Disney

One of the notorious Rules of the Internet (some versions of them at least) states that "The more beautiful and pure a thing is - the more satisfying it is to corrupt it". In that context what could be more satisfying than claiming the man who (in part (1)) gave us Mickey Mouse was also a noted racist, a Nazi and a supporter of one of the most evil men who ever lived? The reality is of course that these are unsubstantiated claims born from weak evidence at best that often go into outright absurdity. Walt Disney was not a Nazi, a Nazi supporter or a fan of Adolf Hitler (the reverse might be true however, as evidenced by Hitler's private movie collection) and his supposed racism doesn't extend beyond the spirit of racial ignorance of his generation, in several cases he could even be argued to be downright progressive for his time. That unfortunately never stopped overeager conspiracy theorists and sensationalist bloggers, especially those judging history with the benefit of hindsight from a society that has progressed for over 60 years (or just because they take throwaway Family Guy jokes too seriously) from reading too much into overproduced animated fairy tale movies and the man responsible for them.

Index

Part 3: Walt, America's Anti-Nazi Propagandist
(Coming soon)

Part 4: Walt, the Supposed Gender Bigot
(Coming soon)

Part 5: Walt, the Supposed Racist and Antisemite
(Coming soon)

Conclusion
(Coming soon)


Introduction

I am personally a lifelong fan of Walt Disney Studios movies, yet its founder's history was always somewhat elusive to me. However given I have long been aware that the worst criticisms of Disney movies come from people who apparently have never seen them, I decided to look into the worst rumors regarding Walt Disney himself and spent several months studying up on his history. Unsurprisingly, I found the worst rumors surrounding Walt Disney come from people who apparently have never looked into him. Instead of the raging racist sexist Nazi-sympathizer, I found a fairly regular man with big dreams who generally meant well and whose only hints of racism was an unfortunate product of the time he lived in (and which he himself struggled to progress out of). He was by absolutely no means a perfect man, but to see him as the monster the Internet tries to spin him into requires a severely distorted view.

However it is not merely my intention to refute these claims because I'm a fan of the work Walt Disney inspired. In an era when white supremacists are rallying in the streets chanting racist and antisemitic slogans while covered in swastikas and other Nazi symbology, I think it is dangerous and downright stupid to assert an American icon who dominated so many people's childhoods such as Walt Disney, a man who worked tirelessly to help defeat the Nazis no less, was one of them.

I am under no illusion I will succeed where many an animation historian or even personal acquaintance of Walt has failed in killing these myths. However I do wish to provide a place I can point to whenever I encounter these blatant falsehoods. As such I intend to be as thorough and as correct as I can possible be. Therefore this is going to be a rather long multi-part piece and I will attempt to use only the most credible of sources (these would be those animation historians, interviewers and personal acquaintances of Walt), preferably ones I can cross reference with each other. There will be errors (for me this is merely a side-project of a few months after all) and it goes without saying interpretations will be colored by my own biases. What I will do is attempt to refute claims that are blatantly absurd and provide context for claims that have been ripped out of such.

What accusations you will see will fall mostly under the following categories:
- Conspiracy theories based on weak evidence, sometimes no evidence at all.
- Ignoring any of Walt's positive aspects and instead highlighting what are usually minor exceptions.
- Harshly judging a man who lived a century ago for not being a 2015-era progressive man.

Furthermore the accusations never leave any room to consider Walt's development as a person. The majority of examples to accuse Walt with (if they are valid at all) are of events that happened in the 1920's and 30's when Walt Disney lived and thus progressed as a person until 1966. The 1920's and 1930's being a time when Walt was still a young man with more heart than education being shaped by the struggles of keeping his studio afloat against outside interests, including his own distributors.

First I will be looking at some of the contemporary accusations that are thrown Walt's way.

Notes

1. There are several accounts to the exact origins of Mickey Mouse as Walt Disney was known to exaggerate personal anecdotes for entertainment value (a shared company sentiment that for example gave us a historically inaccurate Pocahontas (1995) movie. They were telling a legend, not the history). However Mickey's overall design is largely owed to animator Ub Iwerks and the name 'Mickey' came from Walt Disney's wife Lilian Bounds, as Disney himself intended to name him Mortimer Mouse. In 1938 Mickey was redesigned into his best-known form by Fred Moore.



Links & References

Bibliography:
M. Paul Holsinger - War and American Popular Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia (1999)

Questionable sources, but consulted for these articles:

Online sources:
- Army.mil: [Walt Disney Goes to War] (2009) The United States Army
- Archive.org: [Walt Disney Studios]
- Blackpast.org: [Basket, James (1904-1948)]
- Cartoonresearch.com: [Animation Anecdotes #231] [Debunking The Myths: Crusader Rabbit and Walt Disney]
- Cobbles.com: [Gunther R. Lessing - SIMPP Chairman] (Excerpt from Hollywood Renegades by J.A. Aberdeen (2000))
- Disneybooks.blogspot.com: [This just in from Jim Korkis]
- Disneyhistoryinstitute.com: [In Defense of Walt] [Journal of a Disney Historian - The Salad Bowl Edition]
- Floydnormancom.squarespace.com: [Sophie's Poor Choice]

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Split the Ice Apart - Frozen

I already talked quite a bit about Disney's Frozen (2013) in my Response to Stefan Molyneux's The Truth About Frozen but I feel this movie deserves some more elaboration outside the context of weird YouTube pseulosophers (if that's not a word, I'm claiming it) over-analyzing things they clearly don't understand just to ruin it for their daughters. As such, here are some of my thoughts on Disney's Frozen, primarily I'd like to dig into the cliche of True Love's Kiss around which the final act is centered.

There will be spoilers for Frozen (and some for older Disney animated movies).

Split The Ice Apart
Disney's Frozen

The story is about two sisters: princesses Anna and Elsa of Arendelle, the latter of whom was born with ice powers. After accidentally blasting her sister with ice, Elsa gets isolated until she learns how to properly control her powers and Anna's memories of Elsa's powers are wiped. Unfortunately Elsa's isolation and anxiety only causes her growing powers to become even more uncontrollable as she grows up. Then during her coronation as Queen of Arendelle, in front of her entire kingdom, she loses control and in her panic she accidentally freezes the entire kingdom, after which she exiles herself. Anna then takes it upon herself to go into the mountains to find her sister, repair the relationship that was broken for 13 years and find a way to unfreeze their kingdom.

First of all, I love the movie. I don't think it quite deserves its spot as the highest-grossing animated film of all time but I still think it's a great movie (although number 2 on the highest-grossing list is Minions so at least Frozen prevented worse). My main issues are that Anna, although a very fun character, lacks the appeal to make her iconic on the level of a Disney Princess as well as a number of questionable story decisions that were likely the result of having to rewrite the movie without Elsa in the villain role. There's also the trolls and especially Olaf that feel like they were added primarily to sell toys to kids (only for it to be the Elsa dolls that were consistently sold out). While it is certainly a good movie, I don't think it quite reaches the level of quality of the princess movies preceding it.


True Love's Kiss, The Cliche That Wasn't One

During the final act an accidental ice blast to Anna's heart is causing her to slowly freeze to death from the inside. Advice from the wise troll leader Pabbie reveals that an act of true love will thaw a frozen heart. Immediately another troll jumps in and assumes that it must be a true love's kiss, causing Kristoff to storm Anna back to Arendelle so she can get a kiss from Prince Hans. Ultimately Hans proves to be a deceptive manipulator who sees this situation as an opportunity to claim Arendelle for himself by letting Anna die and then ordering the execution of the 'traitor' Queen Elsa. The real act of true love then comes in the form of Anna sacrificing herself to protect her sister Elsa from Hans' sword. 
-"But only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart." -"A true love's kiss perhaps?"
My problem with this entire scenario is that it feels incredibly forced and tries to subvert a cliche that isn't a cliche at all, at least not in the Disney Animated Canon. It's one thing to play on audience expectations, but the fact that they obviously twist Pabbie's words to force a scenario that the movie prior to this moment has already beaten down as Anna being incredibly naive just makes it a mess. Furthermore the trolls were just a minute ago trying to get their Kristoff hitched with a girl who was already engaged, evidently just for the sake of him getting hitched, but suddenly they start having overly romantic notions about true love? Why doesn't Pabbie interject to clarify his own advice anyway? He's right there! (To be fair Anna's condition suddenly worsens significantly while they're talking so urgency became a factor, but still)

It is the expectation that the troll's assumption is also the audience's assumption that, I feel, dates the movie horribly. It's an overly transparent attempt at subverting and thus falls flat. The thing with the True Love's Kiss cliche is ... that it really hasn't been a thing in ages at all. In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), a princess under a sleeping curse is awoken when the prince she's in love with finally finds her and kisses her. However even there the curse specifies that it is Love's First Kiss, not True Love's Kiss, which is already a significantly lower barrier. A similar situations happens 21 years later in Sleeping Beauty (1959), where it is indeed specified that the kiss must be true love's kiss. And then ... what? In just a few years time we've had several Disney properties, such as Once Upon a Time (2011), Maleficent (2014) and Frozen (2013), struggling at subverting the cliche when the subversion itself is now a better represented cliche.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Let's run down the traditional Disney Princess movies where, according to expectation, the cliche could show up. At the start of the Disney Renaissance with The Little Mermaid (1989) the concept of a true love's kiss is already being more subtly subverted. Ariel requiring a true love's kiss from prince Eric is explicitly an unreasonable demand from the sea witch Ursula, with which she intends to trap Ariel as leverage over King Triton. In the end that kiss never happens. The Beast's curse in Beauty and the Beast (1991) is lifted because he and Belle simply got to know each other and fell in love; no kissing required (my personal interpretation is that by accepting his own death, he had truly set Belle free and thus proved he understood how to love. Also for your accusations of Stockholm syndrome, please go [here]). 
Princess and the Frog (2009) once again plays around with it, in that prince Naveen just requires a kiss from a princess as an unreasonable constraint by Doctor Facilier. When he kisses Tiana early in the movie, ostensibly his true love by the end of it, instead she is turned into a frog for not meeting the requirements. Then in Tangled/Rapunzel (2010) there is once again no magic kissing, instead the solution comes from residual healing magic still inside Rapunzel healing Flynn's wounds through her tears (okay that sounds weird out of context).
Cinderella (1950), Aladdin (1992), Pocahontas (1995), Mulan (1998) had no curses requiring kisses. In the periphery of these movies (the unofficial Disney Princesses), Alice in Wonderland (1951), Peter Pan (1953), The Black Cauldron (1985), The Lion King (1994), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Hercules (1997) or Tarzan (1999) didn't have magic true love's kisses either.

So that puts the grand total of straight-up True Love's Kiss movies at ... two, if we're being generous. The last movie of which, and the only one that really qualifies at all, having been released well over 50 years ago. This is like "The Butler Did It" of modern fairy tales: It's only a cliche because people mistake it for being more prevalent than it really is. Disney movies have been subverting the cliche for 30 years and have done it way more subtly and effectively than Frozen did. Reverting all that and attempting to forcefully subvert a cliche that was barely relevant in the first place dates the story and makes it awkward to take seriously.


Queen Elsa, Unwilling Villain

During the early stages of the movie's production it was always the intention to make Elsa the actual villain of the movie. That changed when the crew started to really feel for her and realized that up until her transformation into the Snow Queen, she hadn't done anything wrong. Rewrites to accommodate Good Elsa is probably why certain plot elements from the second half feel so messy, but I feel the changes to Elsa herself do make her into a more compelling character than she would likely otherwise be. Throughout the entire movie there's still an undercurrent of the intention to make her a villain, but the fact that she then doesn't end up as one is actually touching.

The name 'Elsa' does not sound villainous like how 'Maleficent' sounds like a synonym for- or a misspelling of 'malevolent' (which is also why it was stupid to base an entire movie on how Maleficent wasn't just a tragic villain, but an actual hero who just had a really bad day that one time). Still, Elsa's name has a certain synesthetic sharpness to it (See The Bouba/Kiki Effect). This already differentiates her from the other Disney princesses, most of whom have names with more rolling r or l sounds. Consider the most similar name among the princesses: Ella, Cinderella's birth name in the live action adaption. 'Ella' rolls. 'Elsa' feels like there's a sudden stop in the middle. As such her name alone already makes her sound somewhat harsh.

The first 30 minutes of the movie leading up to Let It Go sets up the perfect environment for Elsa to eventually snap and put her into an anti-villainous role. Let It Go itself is the breaking point where she finally lets go of her good girl persona and embraces pure selfishness. However it is quickly revealed that the song was just Elsa lying to herself in a moment of ecstatic relief that she finally got to express herself through her powers. She wasn't actually descending into villainy at all. Despite having all the mental baggage to justify it, Elsa never crosses the line. The only time she ever comes close to crossing the line is in self defense against people who are actively attempting to kill her.

In the end it is what makes Elsa so engaging: it would be perfectly understandable for her to have gone evil, but her strong moral center prevents her from crossing that barrier. She is one of the most powerful heroes Disney has ever created, yet she evokes sympathy by also visibly suffering from anxiety and depression over what her powers have put her through and what they could potentially do to others. In that sense you could say she's an even more emotionally-charged version of the Genie from Aladdin, who despite his phenomenal, cosmic powers only wanted to be free (itty-bitty living space).

It also makes Elsa a foil for Rapunzel. Both characters have incredible powers, but they differ in that Rapunzel has beneficial healing magic that requires effort to bring out while Elsa has (until she learns control) destructive ice powers that she's unable to restrain. They were both locked away and have significant anxieties regarding their powers, but Rapunzel was taught to be scared of people who would abuse her gift by an abusive adoptive mother while Elsa is afraid to hurt her loving family. In personality Rapunzel is outgoing while Elsa is restrained, which translates into Rapunzel wanting to escape her tower but being afraid to go while Elsa voluntarily exiles herself into her ice palace. Both characters are primarily imprisoned by their anxieties and insecurities. Frozen and Tangled are thus exercises in how a character archetype (the classic Disney Princess) would grow if you add a specific power into their development.


Crossover Theories

Movies in the Disney Animated Canon tend to have very little overlap between each other. Still many of the movies have cameos or references that can reasonably link some of them together, although often just as a joke (there being a Beast toy in the Sultan's collection probably doesn't mean Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast are related). For example, there's a scene in The Hunchback of Notre Dame where Belle is visible in a shot of Paris. Since both movies are set in France, there's the possibility that Belle and her father lived in Paris until they had to flee Frollo burning Paris in his search for Esmeralda, ending up in the little town near Beast's castle.
Belle in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Possible the most obvious example of crossovers happens in the episode Hercules and the Arabian Night of Disney's Hercules: The Animated Series (1998). Jafar, having been defeated and killed in The Return of Jafar (1994), ends up in the Underworld and meets up with Hades. First they make a bet that they can get rid of their rival's arch enemy, which they both fail to do. Ultimately they devise a plan where they attempt to get rid of their respective hero problems by setting Hercules up to fight Aladdin, revealing that at least the adult section of the Hercules (1997) movie takes place long after Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996) has already concluded.

For Frozen there's a fan theory that it is linked with both Tangled (2010) and The Little Mermaid (1989). Linked with Tangled because Rapunzel and Flynn Rider have an actual cameo when the gates are opened near the start of the movie and with The Little Mermaid because the ship Ariel investigates at the start of her movie might be the sunken ship of the king and queen of Arendelle. Arendelle is Norwegian-inspired while Eric's castle would be on the shores of Disney's equivalent of Denmark, so there's definitely some geographic proximity to back that argument (I've also heard an extension where it is theorized the king and queen survived the sinking and ended up becoming Tarzan's parents, but that sounds a bit too far out there).

Top: Frozen (2013)
Bottom: The Little Mermaid (1989)
So if we're to link it all up, Rapunzel and Elsa would be roughly the same age, with Rapunzel likely being older depending on how long after her eighteenth birthday she and Flynn got married. Tangled would take place first with the Rapunzel's marriage (which Anna and Elsa's parents were allegedly on their way to) being the indirect cause of Elsa's parents being lost at sea, setting up the events of Frozen three years later. Then an indeterminate amount of time later the royal family's sunken ship gets looted by an inquisitive mermaid at the start of The Little Mermaid.

I mean it's not exactly some great insight since it's just a fan theory but it is kind of cool I can watch three of my favorite Disney Princess movies as sort of a pseudo-trilogy. I would call it Disney's Scandinavia Trilogy except Tangled's Corona being in either Germany or Poland might make that a bit of a geographic stretch.

WE WILL NOT SPEAK OF THIS
HELP ME

Friday, 29 September 2017

Vicsor Plays Cuphead - First 27 minutes

In the wake of Dean Takahashi's embarassing demo of Cuphead (Uploaded by VentureBeat as "Cuphead Gamescom Demo: Dean's Shameful 26 Minutes Of Gameplay") I decided I'd record my own first 26 minutes of gameplay once the game actually got released. I also purposely avoided actually watching any gameplay videos so I could go in blind.

So here it is:


It's indeed a difficult game, but it's also very fair in its challenge. If you fail, you can always learn something from it to do better next time and you'll get a sense of achievement out of it. As for my initial impressions, I can definitely recommend it.

Get Cuphead by StudioMDHR Entertainment Inc on Steam [Here].

Thursday, 20 July 2017

The Initial - Character Models

Earlier today I discovered a game called "The Initial" in the Newly Released tab on Steam. This game instantly caught my eye because the main character bore an uncanny resemblance to Dead or Alive's Honoka. Digging into the community hub and some reviews, I discovered other people who had come to the conclusion that the character model was indeed stolen from Dead or Alive (although they said Marie Rose. Likely because of the hair).

The Initial - Character Models

The Initial is an indie hack and slash game that that on the surface looks very similar in gameplay style to Mitsurugi Kamui Hikae (the indie side of the spectacle fighter, if you will). I haven't played nearly enough of it to do any kind of review, I literally only played long enough to take screenshots for this investigation, but so far it seems surprisingly playable, just heavily in need of someone to check their English translations. 

However, to get back to the question of whether the main character's model was lifted from external sources. So far it was just a single thread and a single review where this was discussed so it hardly counts as a controversy, but I was wondering about it myself, so I went into my Dead or Alive screenshot folder and I did science to it!

vs. Honoka

vs. Marie Rose
So yeah, I think there's definitely a chance that the developers of The Initial were inspired by the girls from Dead or Alive, but I don't think there's enough evidence to assume the main character's model was ripped from it. The characters' faces have a different shape. Honoka has a larger chin, smaller eyes, a smaller forehead, smaller ears (that are located differently) and a way thicker neck. Marie Rose has the same hairstyle, but it also doesn't look at all like the same model. Dead or Alive's character models are more highly detailed and their bodies have an overall bulkier frame. Not to mention, the textures are entirely different (my only doubts are in that Ruri's and Honoka's eyebrows are remarkably similar).

In short, I don't think there's any need to cry foul. 

If you want to check the game out for yourself, you can find it here: [The Initial on Steam]

Yeah, I'm not sure what that means.

Links & References

Images from:
- The Initial (Steam)
- Dead or Alive 5: Last Round (Steam & PS4)

Monday, 17 July 2017

A Response to The Truth About Maleficent


Once again I indulged myself into another one of Stefan Molyneux' 'The Truth About' series in regards to the movie Maleficent because apparently people think my bewilderment on Twitter about these videos is funny. Long story short: this man should not be allowed near movies because holy crap. In The Truth About Frozen there's an obvious undercurrent of his disdain for these women, in The Truth About Maleficent he goes into outright rape apologia and takes personal jabs at Angelina Jolie. Hence, I'm less patient with him than last time.

Note that this movie has a main character named Stefan, so to differentiate him from the maker of this video I will refer to this character as "King Stefan" or variations thereof and I will refer to Stefan Molyneux mostly as "Molyneux".

And of course, there will be spoilers for Maleficent.


The Spindle of a Spinning Wheel
Or A Response to Stefan Molyneux' The Truth About Maleficent
Full text [Here]

1. Introduction

Whereas I think Frozen is a good movie that has flaws, I think Maleficent is a bad movie with enjoyable aspects. It's obvious Angelina Jolie (Maleficent) and Sam Riley (Diaval) had fun with the roles and it absolutely shows. Their scenes are often delightful. Where it turns me off is that, rather than just turning Maleficent into a more complex character with deeper motivations than mere pettiness, it turns her into an outright hero who was just having a particularly bad day when she cursed princess Aurora. It was really King Stefan, a benevolent character in the original movie, who is now the true villain. Here we have the most iconic villain in the Disney animated canon (depending on where you stand with Fantasia's Chernabog) who even has a name that sounds like an alternative spelling of "malevolent", but somehow she was actually good all along. Those parents must have really hated their child when they named her.
In the end, Maleficent is not a more modernized remake of Sleeping Beauty. It's a completely different story that only really shares its basic characters and the cursing scene with its original incarnation. Then the movie ends by confirming this is the real story because the narrator is revealed to have been Aurora: a character not born for roughly half the movie, and asleep for a portion of the latter half.

After having done Frozen, it was interesting to me how Molyneux would react to Maleficent. As I said last time: Stefan dislikes representations of the state and he disproportionately blames female characters for slights he either imagines or unfairly subscribes to them. Whereas in Frozen those two aspects were centralized into a single person, namely Queen Elsa of Arendelle, here we have a situation where it's a woman, Maleficent, against a kingdom.
Unsurprisingly, he still shifts blame primarily to the female characters, but this time he somehow almost completely absolves the male characters. Because when a male villain does something despicable, it's either not actually despicable, or it's the writers inserting "[0:52] Nazi-levels of anti-male propaganda". Yes, really.

He then ends it by chastising women for demonizing men, including a graphic of how children are harmed when there's no father figure present in the life of a child. This might all be true in a real life context, but it's once again Molyneux being offended because he's reading his own conspiracy theories into a Disney fairy tale movie that happens to be about a man that grievously harmed a woman. Yes, both kings in the movie are shown to be overly ambitious monsters, but just like in Frozen, it is not maleness that is vilified, but reckless ambition. By contrast Frozen's Kristoff might be anti-social and cynical about people, but he's also a hard worker who understands sacrifice and has a deep moral center. He might not have a beard but he's nonetheless manly. Diaval in Maleficent leans closer to a pretty boy stereotype thanks to being portrayed by Sam Riley and his raven features giving him more of a goth look, but he's nevertheless a man with a deep moral center. Apparently it's the beard that's the defining characteristic of being male.


2. Oh, Magic is no Longer Madness

Oddly missing is his previous assertion that all magic in all of fiction is always a metaphor for madness. This despite the fact that the movie is about a young boy who enters a magic kingdom where mankind isn't allowed to go, befriends a fairy who he then betrays, and later actually goes completely mad with paranoia attempting to kill that fairy who threatens his power.
From this lens where magic is always madness, it can thus be argued that Maleficent herself is not real, but merely a metaphor for King Stefan's growing insanity and paranoia as he gains and then tries to protect his political power, projected onto an external tormentor. Not really of course, it's just telling that Molyneux foregoes his own framework fully because otherwise he couldn't be blaming women for being everything wrong with the world.
Last time when Queen Elsa's accidental ice powers got out of control and she exiled herself to keep her subjects safe, Molyneux deemed her a mad queen who would subject the kingdom to tyranny. When King Stefan actually does go insane for 16 years and redirects all his kingdom's wealth into a war with a woman he himself mutilated for personal gain ... well, it's her fault because she demanded he give back a gemstone he stole as a child.

The further absence of this argument is interesting in that there is a dichotomy of good and evil (mad) magic in the movie itself. When Maleficent is using benevolent magic, such as when healing trees, her magic is a golden yellow. When she's using malevolent magic, most notably when she casts the curse, it's green. The difference between the two is most clear when Maleficent tries and fails to undo her own curse before it comes to pass. The scene shows her benevolent magic clashing with the malevolent curse. Hence the color of her magic is a rather convenient method of telling what state of mind Maleficent is in. Humorously enough the color of her magic is also golden-yellow when she's merely playing pranks on the three fairies.

Maleficent, when in a state of destructive anti-societal anger, or in other words 'mad', is conveniently color coded green. The fact that there's a difference between the two types of magic is however evidence that magic is not always and forever a metaphor for madness, as one type is clearly based around benevolence and healing.


3. Protecting Your Property is Theft

[1:23] This interaction is completely insane – and immoral. A starving boy picks up an unowned gem so that he can eat, we assume, and the little witch takes it – just to throw it away. She does not offer him food, or gold, or anything else - she just takes away his treasure and trashes it. Can you imagine meeting a starving, orphaned child who is about to eat a banana, ripping that banana out of his hands, and grinding it underfoot? [24:24] However, it seems to have crossed no one’s mind but mine that Maleficent did the boy an enormous wrong, and sent him down a very dark path through her imperious theft. 
The future King Stefan enters a land his kingdom is explicitly at war with, only to rob its precious stones. It's never mentioned that he's starving, only that he's poor and intends to move up in the world, which he does in spite of not having stolen the gem. However Maleficent is somehow in the wrong because she didn't allow an invader to steal from her land and returned the gem to where it came from. Not to mention young King Stefan got a powerful sorceress as his best friend out of the deal. A relationship which he then squanders for personal gain until he once again needs her.

The very fact that he stole a gem and not food shows in the narrative sense that it was greed, not hunger, that inspired him to steal. Compare to the movie Aladdin (1992) where the titular character steals a loaf of bread, but then gives it to other hungry children in spite of his own needs. This shows Aladdin is a moral character despite being a thief who puts the needs of others before his own and only steals what he needs to survive. By contrast King Stefan already starts out in a more gray area because he sought riches in a place he wasn't even supposed to go. Maleficent only "throws the gem away" in the sense that there's no visible treasury the boy took it from because this is fairyland.

The fact that it crossed no one's mind but Molyneux' that this is an enormous wrong on Maleficent's part is that it's an insane conclusion to begin with. Once again Molyneux places disproportionate blame on women for slights only he imagines.
[1:55] Also, I don’t know if you have been to a mall lately, but if I recall rightly, women don’t seem to be particularly partial to taking expensive gems, and throwing them in a river. It is women who are responsible for the rape of the earth called diamond, mineral and gold-mining – not men. Angelina Jolie had a quarter of a million dollar engagement ring made for her, for a year, by Brad Pitt.
What amazes me about this bit is that it's so obviously a lie just to take another jab at women in general and Angeline Jolie in particular. It's not like we're mining the Earth exclusively to provide women with jewelry. What are all your fancy electronics made of? If you haven't upgraded to electric yet, where does the fuel in your car come from? 80 percent of mined diamonds are unsuitable for jewelry and is instead used industrially anyway. Only half of newly produced gold is put into jewelry. What a brazen lie or profound ignorance to pretend we only maintain the mining industry to provide women with precious jewelry.

However it seems Molyneux can't decide which one is the moral position here. Was King Stefan raping the Earth by taking the gem or was Maleficent doing the boy an enormous wrong for taking the gem back? Are we supposed to show women how they should react 'morally' or are we supposed to show them as they really are according to Molyneux? What exactly are we supposed to take away from his contradictory statements? He just places contradictory standards upon fictional women which they can never meet.


4. Being Raped is the Woman's Fault

[10:37] Taking advantage of their former friendship, Stefan drugs Maleficent, but finds he cannot bring himself to kill her, and so instead burns off her wings with iron – a substance deadly to fairies – and returns them to the king as proof of his victory. It is essential to remember that, on the King’s orders, someone from the castle is going to kill Maleficent – Stefan in fact actually saves her life by only taking her wings.
Molyneux takes it as a given that someone is definitely going to kill Maleficent, a powerful sorceress and protector of a magic kingdom who was just seen demolishing the king's invading army with ease. The fact that the future King Stefan was the only person Maleficent would even allow near the Moors to betray her trust in the first place is apparently an irrelevance. No, she should be grateful he merely drugged and mutilated her for his own benefit.

It's a running trend that when Molyneux calls something a "jaw-dropping sequence" or something similar, that usually means he's working overtime misinterpreting the events that are happening on the screen to fit his biases. So better prepare yourselves because we're now truly going off the deep end.
[11:04] Next comes the most important moral dichotomy in the movie. Immediately after Stefan effectively saves Maleficent’s life by taking her wings, Maleficent comes across a crow in a net about to be beaten to death by a farmer, who is tired of the crow eating his seeds. Maleficent turns him into a man – thus taking his wings!  [11:40] Maleficent replies, “Would you rather I let them beat you to death?”. Diaval mournfully regards his missing wings, and then replies, “I’m not certain.” Maleficent says scornfully, “Stop complaining! I saved your life!” Diaval lowers his eyes and murmurs, “Forgive me… In return for saving my life, I am your servant.” I am so susceptible to propaganda that I did not even notice this until watching the movie for the second time, but it is truly a jaw-dropping sequence.
These two events are apparently equal to Molyneux:
1. An overly-ambitious man betrays the trust of the woman who loves him by drugging her and painfully burning off her wings, and visibly contemplated killing her outright, forcing her to have to relearn how to walk because she no longer carries her wings as ballast.
2. A woman saves a raven from death by turning him into an intelligent shapeshifter.

The next line after Diaval says "I am your servant. Whatever you need." is "Wings, I need you to be my wings". So Maleficent did not in fact take his wings, as made abundantly clear by the one line Molyneux omitted from his reproduction of the script. She needed him to be her wings. As shown on screen when 4 seconds later he transforms back into a raven and flies off. How is this in any way, shape or form supposed to be a moral equivalent? What was done to Maleficent was clearly an act of mutilation, whereas what was done to Diaval was an act of empowerment, which is also why she told him to stop complaining: he didn't lose anything in the first place!

[14:52] Watching the movie, I understood that Maleficent’s “wings” were a metaphor for her breasts, and watching Angelina Jolie – who recently underwent a double mastectomy – awaken from a drugged sleep and howl in agony at the surgical removal of her “wings" made me pretty uncomfortable. I prefer a bit more acting in my movies.
Seriously, what is wrong with this guy? Not only is he making up once again what is a metaphor for what, but he's using it as a personal attack on Angelina Jolie for having underwent a preventative medical procedure. What. The. Hell! It doesn't even make sense as the story would have certainly been written long before Jolie underwent the procedure in 2013. Even if Jolie brought some of those emotions to the forefront during these scenes, why in the world would Stefan then take a jab at her for that? She's still acting! They didn't film her waking up from a mastectomy and then CGI'd a fairy tale landscape around her! God.

At the end of the video, he does confirm that it's an 'interpretation' that the mutilation scene is analogous to rape, however not only does he fail to mention that this was actually the intention of the scene by the filmmakers themselves and not just an interpretation, he also dismisses it.
[23:31] I have some problems with this interpretation – not least of which is that Stefan’s supposed rape is considered a crime, but not one commentator has mentioned anything about Maleficent’s theft of Stefan’s gem, which really set the whole story in motion. If the young Maleficent had not stolen the boy’s gem, he would never have had to go and work in the Castle, and never would have been infected with the desire to become King, and therefore would never have cut off her wings.
In other words ... Maleficent's rape was justified. Young King Stefan trespasses into a place where he's not supposed to be, steals a gem that doesn't belong to him and gets caught by Maleficent, who demands he gives it back. To Molyneux this somehow means she stole the gem and that she's now fair game to be raped. Absolutely incredible.

He's not even correct that this event is the reason why the future King Stefan has to go work in the castle. His intentions were to get there from the start. We know this because he tells Maleficent when they first meet. His greed was always there, it was just more subdued in his childhood.


Benis

5. Metaphors are a Metaphor for Metaphors.

[15:42] If we understand that Maleficent is the King’s mistress who gives birth to a child, the rest of the movie makes a whole lot more sense.
And this is why I feel this man is unfit to analyse media of this kind. He's absolutely incapable of interpreting the events on screen and instead goes into rewriting the script under the guise of explaining "the truth" so that he can spin his moral outrage into it later. Somehow the child of the king and queen is actually the bastard backup child of the king and Maleficent in case the queen proves infertile ... which she isn't because she just gave birth to this very child. Evidently Molyneux is petty enough to use the character Maleficent to mock Angelina Jolie for having a mastectomy but the idea that she could love children she didn't give birth to is too unbelievable.

That's about all I can take from this madness, however there's one last bit I want to include to show just how far he takes all this made-up nonsense.
[18:18] Historically, a spinning wheel was a dowry present for a woman getting married, so this curse is basically for Aurora to die giving birth to a child when she is 16. ("Prick" is slang for “penis,” of course; a finger is a metaphor for a penis, which enters the woman on her wedding night and makes her bleed.) [18:57] So the curse means a continuation of the sexual disasters and dysfunctions of the bloodline – Aurora will get pregnant, just as Maleficent got pregnant, and these disasters will just repeat, over and over again, because Aurora will never wake up to reality, to the truth, which is withheld from her.
Pure. Unadulterated. Fan fiction. If a woman weighs as much as a duck, she's made of wood and therefore a witch: a woman who was pregnant but never actually was pregnant curses a child who was born from a woman who couldn't get pregnant to die in childbirth while also never having been pregnant because the only man she ever knew growing up was a raven who lost his wings because of Maleficent despite being shown flying with his wings intact four seconds later. This is the truth about Maleficent and this is why women hate men because they grow up without father figures. Or something.



6. Conclusion

Just like last time there's a lot more to cover, but I feel I've hit on most of his basic points where it actually interjects with the movie. What I didn't cover is mostly a repeat of the same things he chastised Frozen for (such as Maleficent's supposed unearned expertise in magic, despite the film opening on her practicing it), manosphere talk regarding Maleficent's beta male tree guards and how Maleficent's value lies in how sexually attractive she is or isn't.

In the end this "philosophical review" is just another vehicle for Stefan Molyneux to project his own damage onto a movie. Unlike his review of Frozen however, this time he just completely lets his disdain for women snowball into personally attacking even the main actress. He doesn't actually unpack any truths, he's just feeding the portion of his audience that throws hissy fits on Twitter when a movie has a female protagonist using bile wrapped in pseudo-intellectual nonsense and an intentional misreading of the movie's scenes.

While I disagree with the direction they took with this movie, at its core Maleficent is a movie about an abused person who becomes an abuser herself. Certainly the filmmakers lacked the spine to then take the story to where it was supposed to go (an actual re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty), but that doesn't exactly make it a Nazi-level anti-male conspiracy just because the villain had a beard.



A Note on Spelling:
Last time someone asked me if spelling it "Molyneux'" (apostrophe, no s) rather than "Molyneux's" (apostrophe, with s) was a deliberate choice. My reason for doing so is that I would pronounce it "Molyneus", rather than "Molyneuxes".



Links & References

Stefan Molyneux - The Truth About Maleficent
http://freedomain.blogspot.be/2014/06/the-truth-about-maleficent.html

Images from
- Maleficent (2014)