When I watch a film or TV shows these days, none of the first ten things that cross my mind have anything to do with issues of gender, race, religion or sexual preference. I’m usually more focused on the popcorn that fell down my shirt than my latest bout of cultural indignation. If something I’m watching really offends me, or, more often than not, just bores me, I might mutter under my breath something regarding “further proof of the fall of Western civilization.” It usually isn’t until I wade into the ongoing storm surge of mainstream press that I get “educated” as to the limitations of my powers of observation. It’s not that I don’t care about social issues, nor is it that I don’t have opinions about them. It’s just that I spend so much of my time angry at so many different things that I try not to focus on yet another set of issues sure to piss me off.
Case in point – Sally Kohn’s op-ed piece posted on CNN’s website today. Her article, titled “Disney, show some gay families,” follows-up a tweet she sent this past Saturday while watching Disney’s animated hit Frozen.
In her CNN piece, she talks about issues surrounding how families are portrayed in Disney films and films in general. Ultimately, her main point deals with larger social issues concerning how and what parents teach their children and how kid’s films could and should do a better job reflecting society’s realities.
“There are times when film can propel society in the right direction, whether it's 'In the Heat of the Night' or 'Tootsie' or 'Philadelphia' or any other number of groundbreaking films. We don't think of children's films as a space for social progress and yet that's exactly where our society's norms and ideals are most embedded -- how the next generation learns right and wrong and good and evil and inclusion and exclusion can start when people are young. Hollywood can do a better job of making inclusive kids' movies that reflect the wonderful diversity of 21st century America.”
Breitbart’s Big Hollywood chimed in with a short piece claiming Kohn “wants Disney to enter the culture war in its storytelling.”
Surely, topics such as Disney animation, kids and homosexuality were sure to raise a bit of a ruckus. Surely, they did. A couple thousand comments worth so far.
The most interesting, at times hilarious, at times disconcerting aspect of Sally’s tweet and subsequent blog post centers on this onslaught of Internet commentary. As I read through the comment threads, I laughed, I cried, I broke into song, I boarded up the windows and crawled under a bed. All in the span of 60 seconds.
Some of the key perspectives I got schooled on during this exercise:
- Disney is in the pocket of the LGB lobby.
- For some, “lesbianism” is discussed in the same context as Ebola.
- It’s one thing to have Gay Night at Disneyland. It’s another to spend $200 million on a film about a gay prince or princess.
- Conservatives are racist, self-righteous religious fanatic hate-mongers who have no respect for free expression.
- Liberals are elitist, self-righteous overbearing and controlling fanatics who have no respect for anything but their own needs and opinions and only want to force their agenda on everyone else.
- Sally Kohn is just another deviant rug muncher trying to push her perversions on unsuspecting children.
- Sally Kohn is a women who looks like a man, so of course, her comments are useless.
- If you want to see a film about a gay princess, pony up the cash and make it yourself. Until you do, get off Disney’s back.
- Let’s reboot Snow White and have Sneezy decide he wants to be a chick and date Grumpy. Or Happy. Or both.
- Children’s movies aren’t the place for political agendas. Mental health issues have a stigma too, so Disney movies should have a schizophrenic prince taking Zyprexa?
- Why must this type of argument be thrust in our faces at every single turn we make these days? Nobody cares!
- How about we stop pushing sexuality on children?
- Based on your perspective, you must be gay / a lesbian / a fag / a transgender / a Bible-thumper / a pervert / a Catholic.
- Gay or not gay, Disney films are formulaic crap.
People are free to think what they wish. They’re free to comment as they wish. That’s what makes this country so loud. And great. I’m not sure Internet “comment” threads are always the best home for reasonable debate, though they often contain interesting, thought provoking and well-reasoned points on all sides of the presented issues. I’m also not sure whether or not comment threads like this are populated primarily with snarky trolls looking to bait conscientious readers into a lather. I suspect they are often seeded and egged along by shills posting in an attempt to generate controversy, traffic and ultimately, revenue.
Sometimes it just seems common courtesy gets trampled by the “need” to be heard and make a point, no matter the setting or context. Right is right, period. No matter when. Because it’s right. Ultimately, I tune out. Which is a shame, because reasonable discourse is something in seeming short supply these days. When I saw Frozen, it never occurred to me that Disney was somehow remiss and should produce an animated feature with a gay prince or princess. I was just wondering why more people weren’t shivering. Am I being naïve, lazy, stupid or just casually indifferent?
Or, maybe all of the above? Thoughts anyone?
Dan Sarto is publisher and editor-in-chief of Animation World Network.