Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Re-Kre8-ing Mythology

The Walt Disney Company is in the interminable and important business of re-creating our mythologies.  Why is this business important you ask?  To quote Kenneth Burke, "Stories are equipment for living."  Without good stories to breathe life into our existence, we wind up with little more than nietzschean, disconnected beings trudging through the warp and woof of life without hope of any greater meaning to the work we do day to day, whether raising a family, leading an international corporation, or making art.  With his studio's most recent work, Disney continues posthumously to re-define what it means to be a man, and what a woman out to look for in the proverbial 'white knight' who will sweep her off of her feet and carry her into 'happily ever after'.  Check it out:

The artists at Disney have masterfully crafted a 'want ad' for the hero of Rapunzel.  This re-creates the story of man and woman coming to be married, as our modern 'liberated' culture finds women taking matters into their own hands, often posting craigslist ads or being the first to reach out on popular dating sites like eHarmony.  This example has sadly become the norm in a post equality movement world where men default to waiting, rather than heroism to win their beauty:

I was on eHarmony twice, for 3 months at a time, a couple of years apart. I got a 4 month relationship out of the first time and my current relationship out of the second time. Both times, I initiated contact and it paid off.

Make contact!

The first time, I was the only woman out of (I believe) about 200 matches that had the nerve to contact him. The only one. Absolutely made me stand out, and that piqued his interest, so he replied. We ended up dating for 4 months.

This seems to be the story of the Disney heroine these days.  I'm reminded of a picture that I really enjoyed a few years back which was also created by Disney.  However, one part really troubled me.  At the climax of the film, a love story, the hero has to be prodded by his girlfriend to kiss 'Sleeping Beauty', as he had come to realize he was no longer in love with his girlfriend, but was the one man who could awake his true love from her sleep.  Watch the scene here, and comment below as to whether you find this a strange hesitation for a 'hero', or does it slip under our radar since Disney and others have so emasculated our post-modern heroes?  (If you continue on in the clip you'll actually see the writers were very transparent w/their desire to emasculate our modern day 'prince charming'.)  Conversely do you think it simply reflects back true life, where men wait for one of their 200 matches to reach out to them, because they are too afraid to initiate a relationship.  Art imitating life or life imitating art?

While I truly appreciate Disney's ability to create fine art (and Susan Sarandon's performance!), I don't think it breathes new life into our culture.  Rather I think it imbibes the draught of post-modern existentialism which would say, "we must try something new.  The old stories are so 'traditional'.  They can't really lead to life." I'd be interested to meet the writers of this and other Disney films and hear more of their stories to see whether they have a scarred conscience or not.  By that I mean that I can totally empathize with someone writing these sorts of stories if they are the heroine who is ignored by men until she takes bold action, and if her father never really affirmed her or told her how beautiful and amazing she is.  

We all must re-create from a true place in our hearts, but the greatest challenge and most worthy of recreation is to breathe new life into broken bones.  

I'd challenge Disney and others to re-write the story of the hero, realizing that if he regains his strength, boldness, and risk-taking love in his heart, the heroine will gladly follow him to happily ever after.



1 comment:

  1. Bravo! Yes, the male in the media is often depicted as a passive pansy. I like the Khaki ad where it says the following: "Once upon a time, men wore the pants, and wore them well. Women rarely had to open doors and little old ladies never crossed the street alone. Men took charge because that's what they did. But somewhere along the way, the world decided it no longer needed men. Disco by disco, latte by foamy non-fat latte, men were stripped of their khakis and left stranded on the road between boyhood and androgyny. But today, there are questions our genderless society has no answer for. The world sits idly by as cities crumble, children misbehave and those little old ladies remain on the side of the street. For the first time since bad guys, we need heroes. We need grown-ups. We need men to put down the plastic fork, step away from the salad bar and untie the world from the tracks of complacency. It's time to get your hands dirty. It's time to answer the call of manhood. It's time to wear the pants."