Disney: The Evil Empire?
It’s a nice conceit to believe that everybody loves a winner. As things outside the world of aphorism typically work, it turns out that some people love a winner. Others react with jealousy, resentment, sniping, and the stinging thought that the winner could have — should have — been themselves. Others attack the winner’s character, measure the winner against narrow and dogmatic constraints to find him/her badly wanting, or in some cases hate the winner for no clear-cut reason other than the fact that they are winners.
Since few entities have attained personal or moral perfection, detractors are helped along by a winner’s obvious or perceived flaws, which are then tirelessly harped upon despite any number of notable achievements the winner may have attained. Depressingly enough, the bigger a winner may be, the louder and more numerous the bashers and the more desperate their declamations. So it goes for presidents, performers, celebrities, sports teams such as the Yankees and Lakers, or corporations such as Microsoft... or Disney.
Disney-bashing is a relatively new phenomenon, developing over the past 15 years or so. Before that era, Disney was synonymous with wholesome family entertainment, iconic animation and exciting theme parks that provided a dizzying scope of experiences. Mouse-mashing has taken place in the shadow of two contexts: First, the notion of Disney as an “evil empire” has grown proportionally with the company’s expansions and acquisitions; to many this represents increasing amounts of corporate money that can be (and sometimes is) used for political influence. The second context concerns the increasingly contentious public discourse between the cultures of the liberal left and conservative right, who perceive themselves beneficiaries or victims of said political influence. It is almost a certainty that an economic entity the size of Disney would be trapped in the crossfire.
Disney’s recent record of mergers, acquisitions and expansions has resulted in impressive profits, but these will not be discussed in this article. I am not a business journalist nor am I an economic analyst. The focus of this article is the befouling that Disney has experienced in recent years across both poles of the ideological spectrum. Although there are numerous printed and Web resources available for perusal, two recent books do a nice job summing up how the left and right have seen fit to castigate Uncle Walt’s Kingdom.
The fire on the right comes from Peter and Rochelle Schweizer, whose 1998 book, Disney: The Mouse Betrayed, highlighted alleged abuses at Disney theme parks and Disney’s moral degeneration under Michael Eisner. The book is published by Regnery Press (a regular publisher of conservative-oriented material), and the Schweizers also chose the Reverend Jerry Falwell’s syndicated TV program as the forum from which to tout their tome. The Schweizers, along with organizations of the religious right, are some of Disney’s most vociferous enemies, decrying Disney films and boycotting their products.