Recently, someone made a joke to me and I did a quick courtesy laugh and moved on. The joke was about how I shouldn't keep too much of a Walt Disney mindset because, after all, he was a nazi-sympathizing, jew-hating, communist. This got me thinking... why has this become the norm? Why is it that so many people of my generation and younger mention this hate-filled persona than anything else? Why do I hear so many people (outside of Disney fanatics like ourselves) acting like Walt was an out-for-the-money capitalist who should be associated with these horrible groups?
I did some internet research (albeit it started with a google search it ended on CNN and some really great news blogs) and realized that there were some facts about Walt I didn't know (and some I forgot I knew) that I could actually use as retort the next time someone throws a Family Guy reference out as fact.
The best article I found was over on a site called Cartoon Brew and I learned tons! Walt Disney actually was anti-communist at a time when it would have been easy in Hollywood for him to be pro-communist. According to www.TheStraightDope.com "he was called before the House Unamerican Activities Committee as a friendly witness, naming names of suspected communists in Hollywood." And this is corroborated across many articles and blogs, I can't find the link now but if you spend some time searching you can find the transcript on CNN. Additionally, the cartoon where Donald is found in Nazi garb, The Fuhrer's Face was actually a pro-American anti-Nazi propaganda film (I used to show this in my classes when I taught a 'World History from 1800' course). I think the only rumors to be spun after looking at the facts are that like many Americans and American filmmakers of his time there does seem to be an occasional racist undertone, not in humiliating Jews, blacks, Asians, or Native Americans, but in the portrayal as a little exaggerated. In truth, these can't be attributed to Walt being racist in any more than him seeing them and approving them as he did not draw each cell and create each character. (If you have ever seen the propaganda films you can see this.)
So whats the deal? Why are people so quick to make the anti-Jew, pro-Nazi jokes that are clearly not true of the man that shut down his work on current features to create propaganda films? Why are people willing to paint a picture of a racist, communist supporter if he was a mere product of the American sentiment at the time? Why? Why? Why?
I can only come to one conclusion. By knocking others down it temporarily raises people up. If Walt was the man who created the Disney company and all its many branches, including the #1 vacation destination in the world... and all you have done today is make a giant poop and sneak into work on time then maybe by belittling him you start to feel a little better. You may say: "Walt may have built a whole new kingdom right in California but he was a communist Jew-hater." but what you are really saying is: "Walt made his dreams come true and empowered others through his actions and I forgot what my dream was and am too lazy to reach for it anyway".
I know this may be lost on my audience since so many of you appreciate the imagination and genius of the man who transports us from a pirate's lair, to a flying ship above London, to a space shuttle launching into the stars, to tavern out of a fairytale, and then a runaway train on the American frontier all in one afternoon... but I think we have all been there. Frozen and smiling and nodding, by the new popular opinion of the man who brought his dreams to life and with it a fun adventure every trip that can only be described as magic. Next time you are privy to a comment quoting an episode of Family Guy instead of anything that really happened remember that the best way to combat that is to remember that wherever that idea got started (maybe the person is just trying to bring you down for your Disney love? or maybe they are just regurgitating a joke they heard recently?) it began far far away from anything Walt's actions and words gave the world.
And if someone is trying to bring you down? They don't deserve your reaction. They don't deserve the moments time it would take you to teach them about the real man that Walt was because they don't value that. They may be like some of my friends and colleagues, products of the awesome and fabulous 1980s but in all the wrong ways (I like to think I am a product of it in all the right ways ;) where they act entitled and spiteful if they see someone who is living their dream because they can't stop thinking about themselves long enough to be proud or happy for others. And in their intimidation they bring you down.... but only if you let them. So next time smile, nod, remember this article and walk away. Then imagine what they would look like if they got a Rapunzel frying pan to the face. (Just kidding!!!)
Keep dreaming big and making your dreams come true!