home esoterica Original binnallofamerica.com Audio the United States of Esoterica merchandise contact

Contact Richelle Hawks
Check out Richelle's other work @ Associated Content
Visit Richelle's blog: Beamships Equal Love

Bookmark and Share


Notes on the Esoteric Nature of Cartoons, Part II: Generation Disney

I won't start an entire rant about the cultural peculiarities of upstate New York but—the weddings. Oh, the weddings. I'm no noob of nuptials. I've attended many weddings and receptions and been in several throughout the ages: as a bride, bridesmaid, flower girl, and even what could be considered a best man.

These weddings and receptions have been held in all manner of churches, LDS temple sealing rooms, pondside, VFW halls, country clubs, courthouses, elementary school gymnasiums, catherdrals, gay bars, creekside, hotels, and a Chuck-A-Rama.

I've caught the bouquet as many times as I've been married. I've sat with sobbing brides; I've heard Wind Beneath my Wings sung in a countrified-cabaret style while I wore requisite, ill-fitting, badly dyed pumps. Dude, I've been to the wedding.

Or so I thought. It's different here in the East; it's like what you've seen in the movies, and I get it now—that movie wedding is not an exaggeration. I'm not going to go into detail, mainly because I can't really put my finger on the ingredients that make it its own enigmatic deal. But it's got its own unmistakable, paradoxically uber-restrained and fantastically outrageous template--and it's a doozy.

I suppose it's the Italian, Greek, Catholic, Old World cultural meld influence, but it just doesn't exist in the Midwest or West—at least not like this. It's fascinating.

At one of these Eastern weddings, the organist began playing a song that sounded familiar; I whispered to my husband, "That almost sounds like that Beauty and the Beast Disney song." His reply: "It is." Disney was not done there. Since then, I've seen it present in receptions and looming largely over engagement and honeymoon plans. What the…?

I was so in the mindset of attributing every difference to Place, that it wasn't until later that I realized the Disney/wedding thing I'd been noticing was a generational trait. Although I'd never heard a Disney song played in a church before, I'm now certain it's happening on a daily basis.

The influence of Nouveau Disney on an entire generation is profound. I have just barely skimmed this ruffles of this phenomenon. My own experience with Disney in my childhood of the 1970s was pretty classic and retro, and largely aligned with the Boomer generation.

My sister and I watched reruns of the original Mickey Mouse Club, read my uncle's leftover and tattered Lady and the Tramp, Donald Duck, and Minnie Mouse Golden Books at my grandmother's house, and watched the Wonderful World of Disney on Sundays, waiting for the jackpots, the annual feature specials like Bambi or Snow White.

I believe The Little Mermaid started it all. It was released when I was completely distracted in my early twenties, and I barely caught wind of its enormity. The first I really knew of it, I was working in a large gym in Provo, Utah, in the childcare facility. The little girls would come in dressed in crappy store bought mermaid costumes and Ariel regalia and even bring their own VHS tapes to watch The Little Mermaid during their stay—or just cradle the bright clamshell cases like baby dolls. I couldn't imagine what this thing was, and I dismissed it as an anomaly.

It's difficult for me to believe this, but those same little girls are in their mid-to-late twenties now; they are the generation getting married and choosing Disney to accompany them at the altar along with their husbands.

Later, still distracted with life and not at all interested in Disney features, I remember being vaguely aware that I was missing something kind of big with Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and on and on.

Some of these were popular while I had my own child in my late twenties, but he was young enough at the time to not be engaged with them on his own. Because I wasn't interested, he never picked up on the mania. Contemporary Disney is all still pretty distant and intangible to me; for better or worse I feel removed from it and perhaps that's why I find its power completely fascinating.

This isn't exclusive of course: it's hard to dismiss the current power of Twilight or Harry Potter with modern young people. My generation and those before had…what? Barbie dolls, GI Joes, Gilligan's Island reruns, cowboys and Indians, Saturday morning cartoons, Superman, comic books, Star Trek, Grimm's Fairy Tales? It's just not the same.

For the most part, kids outgrew these things and even though adult interest might be present, it's in a nostalgic light. I don't remember hearing the Petticoat Junction or Flintstones theme song at any of my friends' weddings.

Currently, with the aforementioned vampire and wizard books and shows, there's the manic fandom, the same neverending viewings and obsession involved. But is there the same deep impression or formation of identity going on? That the main viewers are a bit older might make a difference, but so might the medium.

I would argue that the archetypal character and situations of Disney presented in animation and easy-access VHS lends itself to these profound attachments. It is often said that life was different before the internet, and oh, how true that is. However, it was also different before the VCR.

It's the easy route to make the issue about allowing children to park themselves in front of the TV, watching the same shrill drivel day in and day out until they are vacuous automatons reciting entire filmscripts verbatim. Yeah, yeah.

I'd argue the same practice of benign parental neglect that allows this has been present in every generation and that only the opportunities for child engagement have changed. I'm not saying parents are or are not responsible, but that it's beside my point here.

Looking at it a bit more thoughtfully and, as I asserted in my last column in Part I, with the idea that the nature of cartoons is rooted in the liminal and aligned with the some inner forum of esotericism or realm of the unconscious, it's clear the already-saturated meaning packed in the postwave feminist and Gulf War I era, princess-empowered, good –trumps-evil, Nouveau Disney films is super loaded.

It's no surprise then, that a whole generation--tots while the VCR was first rewinding en masse--latched on for life.

Next Medusa's Ladder: Part III, which will address issues of CGI and reality, and Trickster and cereal boxes.

Photo credits and further reading:


Cracked Out Ariel, taberandrew

Wonderful World of Disney

Contact Richelle Hawks

Visit Richelle's blog: Beamships Equal Love