I don’t believe it was a monster hit with the little girls, but I like Mulan. It’s an equity feminist movie, with Mulan competing at game level, rather than whining and changing the game. Here’s the best, and most inspiring, song from the movie:
Generally speaking, I am not a fan of the Disney Channel. Parents think the teen-oriented shows are innocuous, because they are free of references to sex and drugs. That’s true, but what they have in bushel-loads is attitude, bad attitude. Whether you’re watching Hannah Montana (mercifully out of production), the Suite Life of Zach and Cody (or the Suite Life on Deck, its sequel), or Pair of Kings, or the Wizards of Waverly Place (another show that is defunct), you be assured of a few things: inept, absent parents; humor that’s premised on one-liner insults; appallingly bad acting, with the teen stars pausing after every woodenly delivered one-liner to give the laugh track a chance to kick in; plots and camera work that cater to one-minute attention spans; and relentless Disney product promotion, since the shows are really just extended commercials for the teen stars Disney grinds out at its studios.
Put more succinctly, the shows are frenzied in pace and mean-spirited in tone. If your tween or young teen is giving you attitude, you don’t have to look further than the Disney channel (or its evil twin, Nickelodeon) to figure out where your child learned those techniques. It’s small wonder that so many former Disney stars have crossed to the dark side. Aside from living in the artificial, sycophantic world of Hollywood, stars such as Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, and Demi Lovato, all of whom have had drug or mental health issues, have also been carefully taught on the Disney lot that adults are idiots, that the only people who matter are their peers, and that morality is defined by feelings, with every person’s own navel being the ultimate moral arbiter.
Even Selena Gomez, who has just slipped free of the Disney studio, seems to be moving towards the dark side, as her costumes become sleazier and sleazier. Sleazy costumes were pretty much the canary in the coal mine for other troubled Disney stars. In other words, breast- and thigh-baring were the first outward manifestations of the actress’s imminent physical or moral collapse.
And yet, in this darkness, there is a little bit of light: Phineas and Ferb. The only thing that Phineas and Ferb has in common with the other Disney shows is that the parents are absent and clueless. I forgive the show, though, for that conceit, because it allows the main characters’ lights to shine so brilliantly. In a TV world defined by jaded, sarcastic, bored, trouble-making youth characters, Phineas, Ferb, and their friends are distinguished by boundless enthusiasm for and interest in the world around them, and a complete absence of cynicism.
The premise is simple. Phineas and Ferb are stepbrothers who have the perfect bond in their shared genius and their intellectual curiosity. Their friends admire their brilliance, and enthusiastically participate in their ideas. The ineffectual counterweight to their manic genius is their shrill older sister Candace, who talks on the phone endlessly with her best friend, and spends most of her energy trying to attract Jeremy, the laid-back teen dude who is unselfconscious, kind, and clueless about Candace’s crush. In every episode, Candace tries desperately, and without success, to make her parents aware of Phineas’ and Ferb’s escapades. The show also has a subplot with an evil genius and a platypus, but I pretty much ignore that part, which is just silly.
The show’s introductory song pretty much sets the tone. It describes an exciting world, with endless interesting things to see, do and learn. It urges children to participate wholeheartedly in life:
That theme song reminds me of another nice thing about Phineas and Ferb, which is the music. Every show has a song. Musically, the songs range from tolerably bland to surprisingly sophisticated. Take for example the song from “Ferb Latin.” Although the lyrics are nonsensical, it is a remarkably sophisticated example of counterpoint, a technique that takes two apparently incompatible songs and weaves them together into a single, successful melody:
So if you should ever find yourself in a room with a kid who is watching Phineas and Ferb, don’t change the channel or leave the room. Sit down, instead, and get a very rare glimpse of delightful children’s programming.
I just returned from seeing Disney’s latest release, The Princess and the Frog. Looked at purely from an entertainment standpoint, the movie is a delight. The hand drawn animation is imaginative and, at times, exquisitely beautiful. When the Bayou lights up at sunset with fireflies, every little girl in the audience emits a rapturous “oooooh.” The music, which Randy Newman composed, is a high energy blend of New Orleans jazz, Cajun zydeco and friendly pop. You won’t leave the movie theater being able to sing any of the songs (those types of songs seem to have been banished from movies forever), but your brain will definitely be happy with the melodies that zip around, lighting up various synapses.
As for the storyline, that’s where the real magic lies. But to explain just how magical it is, I need to back up a little bit. In pre-1960s America, the black community was sorely beaten down. I don’t need to recite here the insults, indignities and limitations that came with Jim Crow. Even outside of the South, black opportunities for economic advancement were limited, and blacks were routinely subjected to demeaning treatment. Unsurprisingly, in the first half of the 20th century, American blacks beat out white Americans in every negative indicator: compared to whites, black communities had more crime, more illegitimacy, more illiteracy and much, much more poverty.
Despite these severe, externally imposed limitations on the American black community, throughout the early 20th century the story of American blacks was one that showed an upward trajectory. (Although, thinking about it, maybe that resilience isn’t a surprise. Just as the body strengthens only when it is exposed to resistance, it may be true that a community often finds strength if it must push back against hardship.) The Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and the Chicago Renaissance in the 1950s revealed a black community that had a ferocious pride and intellectualism.
Economic opportunities were also opening up. For example, a job as a Pullman Porter provided an economic pathway to the middle class for those black man able to make the sacrifice of being on the road all the time. Between decent (for blacks) salaries and good tips, the men who held those jobs could provide for their families. The same job allowed blacks, formerly blinkered by geographic limitations, to see larger possibilities, both social and economic, in the world around them. Blacks were also leaving an indelible musical mark on American culture, one that elevated their status amongst young whites, who were the up-and-coming generation.
Looking at the strides blacks were making, in education, in employment, and in culture, it is obvious that the Civil Rights movement didn’t appear out of nowhere. It was the logical trajectory for an increasingly educated, empowered, sophisticated American black community.
One of the bizarre legacies of the Civil Rights movement, however, wasn’t the continued economic and social ascendancy of American blacks. Instead, the Civil Rights signaled the reverse, which was the destruction of many sectors of the African American community. I don’t say this to denigrate the important rights the movement affirmed belong to all Americans or the benefits that flowed to all of America from the recognition of black civil rights. American law now properly ensures that blacks (and all races) have equal access to every available opportunity America has to offer. Blacks, rightly, cannot be denied food, shelter, education or employment because of their skin color. The same movement, however, that affirmed that all men are indeed created equal, also cheated blacks in ways no one anticipated back in 1964.
In the wake of the 1964 Civil Rights bill, well-meaning liberals fanned out throughout black communities and told black people that, rather than working, they should take government handouts. As they explained it to blacks who had clawed their way up the first few rungs of the economic ladder by relying on self-reliance and community pride, these government funds weren’t really handouts at all. Instead, they were an appropriate form of retribution for the free labor blacks provided in America for hundreds of years. By making this pitch to blacks to give up self-reliance and become dependent on the government, blacks were first introduced to, and then embraced, the notion that, since slavery was work, all work is slavery. Work was no longer the measure of a man’s (or a woman’s) worth. It was a symbol of oppression, and therefore to be avoided.
The same held true in the world of education. In an effort to jumpstart the black community on the path to professionalism, the guilt-ridden white middle class skipped the obvious, which was to focus its efforts on family, culture and early childhood education. Instead, it decided that the best thing to do was to give adult blacks a free-ish path to the best educational institutions in America. In the short run, it seemed like a brilliant idea, since we all know that a Harvard degree opens doors. In the long run, it was a disaster. As I wrote in my post about Barack Obama’s affirmative action presidency:
[I]f you set the standards lower for one racial group than for others, three things will happen: First, the race that has the lower hurdles will stop trying as hard. After all, humans are rational creatures, and people working toward a goal are wise to work only as hard as they need, and no harder. Why expend energy unnecessarily?
Second, those members of the race who are fully capable of competing without a handicap will also behave rationally and conserve their energy, because it’s the smart thing to do. This means that the lower hurdles will deprive them of the psychological opportunity to stretch and prove themselves.
Third, a lot of people who would not normally have been in the race at all will bob up to the top, thanks to that handicap. Worse, if there is a critical mass of mediocrity floating along on this tide of affirmative action, those mediocre people will inevitably, through sheer numbers, become representative of the racial group. In other words, if you give enough mediocre people in a specific racial group a head start so that they win, it looks as if all the winners from that particular racial group are mediocre.
The above realities mean that you end up with two dire situations for the racial group that affirmative action is infantilizing: First, an enormous number of useless people become very poor representatives of their race. And second, people who are genuinely good and deserving of recognition end up being thrown in the hopper of useless beneficiaries who achieved high status without ability or effort.
So, in a generation, American blacks went from being a community that was forced at whip’s end to give away its labor for free, to one that was assured that there was true virtue in getting money for nothing. Likewise, the American black community that was for so long denied the opportunity to educate itself, learned that it could now get the degrees without bothering with the education. Inevitably, America ended up with a black community that, at the thickest part of the bell curve, is averse to expending any effort to make money or learn. Why bother, after all? Common sense tells American blacks that money and meaningless degrees will come their way regardless of effort.
The result of post-Civil Rights liberal meddling is 40+ years of learned helplessness in the black community, and the profound sense of inferiority that goes along with that kind of helplessness. Blacks can talk about “Black pride,” and celebrate Black History month, but the savvy ones know it’s a sham. Their wings have been clipped. Pride comes from effort and achievement, not from largesse handed out by guilty white liberals. (Incidentally, if anyone is getting the wrong idea at about this point, I am not arguing that blacks are inferior. I believe that blacks are in every respect equal to whites, or any other race. I am arguing that the legacy of the American Civil Rights movement is a black community that has been trained to be helpless and that therefore views itself as inferior.)
And that’s where The Princess and the Frog comes in. Early Disney fairy tales assured young girls that if they were very meek and worked hard to serve others, they would succeed. (Snow White and Cinderella, for example.) At least one movie emphasized sleep as a useful virtue (that would be Sleeping Beauty). In recent years, girls have been encouraged to be feisty and to rebel against whatever it is their life happens to be. (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and Mulan spring to mind.)
While the more recent movies have a much less passive message than the old ones (and I’m not knocking the old ones; I love them), they still don’t offer much in the way of life advice. Rebellion, pretty much for the sake of rebellion, is not a useful tool. This is especially true for the black community, which has locked itself in a victim mentality that routinely sees its members cutting off their noses to spite their faces, just to make the point that the white establishment can boss them around. The relentless push for ebonics education, a sure way to keep blacks mired in the ghetto and out of the money jobs, is a perfect illustration of this reactive, rather than proactive, tendency.
The Princess and the Frog, however, offers an entirely new message: Find your talent, pick a goal, and work really, really hard. Oh, and find support in your family values and your community. And also . . . don’t rely on other people. You are responsible for your own success. If obstacles stand in your way, don’t give up. Keep going . . . and going . . . and going.
It’s rather embarrassing that this obvious life lesson — find a goal, work hard, and stay focused — had to come from a paternalistic white corporation. Regardless of the source, however, the lesson is an important one for all people. And, sadly, it’s an especially important one for youngsters in the black community, all of whom have been told for more than forty years that they way to get ahead is to be first in line at the government hand-out center.
Cross-posted at Right Wing News
In several posts over the last few days, I’ve commented about Disney efficiency. Thousands of people are fairly painlessly shuffled from place to place; Fast Passes are a think of beauty, especially if individuals handle them well; everything is immaculately clean, including the overused bathrooms; the equipment functions superbly well considering the demands made upon it; and the people who work there are pleasant and handle their jobs with competence. The whole place is a testament to corporate efficiency. Many, however, think corporations are bad things (Obama, anyone?) and, if elected, assure us that they will see to it that the government will manage more and more aspects of our lives (healthcare, anyone?).
For those of you who think this liberal vision is a good thing, I’d like to give you a little example of how the government handles things, along with the added bonus of some insight into how disability advocates view society’s obligations to them:
Where else but San Francisco City Hall could a 10-foot-long wheelchair ramp wind up costing $1 million?
Thanks to a maze of bureaucratic indecision and historic restrictions, taxpayers may shell out $100,000 per foot to make the Board of Supervisors president’s perch in the historic chambers accessible to the disabled.
What’s more, the little remodel job that planners first thought would take three months has stretched into more than four years – and will probably mean the supervisors will have to move out of their hallowed hall for five months while the work is done.
“It’s crazy,” admits Susan Mizner, director of the mayor’s Office on Disability. “But this is just the price of doing business in a historic building.”
Supervisor Jake McGoldrick said Tuesday that the issue went to the heart of liberal guilt that often drives the city’s decision making. He also choked on the price tag, and asked that the board take some more time to come up with an alternative, like maybe just getting rid of the president’s elevated seat.
The root of the problem dates back to when City Hall got a $300 million makeover in the 1990s that made just about every hallway, bathroom and office accessible to the disabled. The exception was the board president’s podium, which is reachable only for someone who can climb the five steps from the chamber floor.
The understanding was that the room would eventually be made fully accessible. But no one worried about the podium until 2004 when Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who uses a wheelchair, joined the board.
City architect Tony Irons and representatives of the state Office of Historic Preservation – which had to be consulted to make sure the city was sensitive to the building’s designation as a state landmark – were called in to take measurements.
Then preservation architects from the San Francisco firm Page and Turnbill worked up no fewer than 18 design options – at a cost of $98,000 – with ideas ranging from an electric lift to abandoning the president’s lordly podium altogether.
No one could decide which design to use, so after a year of arguing, the Department of Public Works was ordered to make 3-D computer models of all the options.
The ramp won, which means lowering the president’s desk, which means eliminating three of the “historic” stairs and tearing out Manchurian oak panels that are no longer available, which in turn will mean finding a historically correct replacement.
And because the ramp was going to encroach on the room’s sound equipment, officials decided they might as well use the opportunity to upgrade the board chamber’s entire audio-visual system, to the tune of $300,000.
Here’s what else is going into the million-dollar ramp:
– $77,000 for the city’s Bureau of Architecture project manager, design and construction fees.
– $455,000 for the actual construction, plus asbestos removal.
– $28,000 for a construction scheduling consultant.
– $3,500 for an electrical consultant.
– $68,000 for the Bureau of Construction Management to oversee the construction and various consultants.
– $12,000 for Department of Technology and Information Services oversight.
– $16,500 for permits and fees. (Yes, believe it or not, the city charges itself.)
– And as much as $65,000 for bid overruns.
All for a total of: $1,123,000.
The supervisors considered signing off on the work Tuesday but put it over for another week. Even if the board gives its final blessing, however, construction of the ramp won’t be completed before the end of the year – midway through Alioto-Pier’s second and final term.
“I deserve equal access to every part of the chamber,” Alioto-Pier told her colleagues, adding that ending discrimination is worth the $1 million. [Emphasis added plus this point: One million in taxpayer money, that is.]
Incidentally, I am not unsympathetic to the hurdles the handicapped face in this world. It’s also true that many handicapped access ramps and bathroom stalls extend an unexpected benefit to moms with strollers. However, as I’ve blogged before, there has to be some cost/benefit analysis before we give over huge sums of public money, not to benefit all or most of the handicapped, but to benefit one person (as in Alioto-Pier, the only wheelchair bound supervisor ever) or, as is often the case with relentless bureaucratic initiatives, no persons at all.
DQ has been doing such a spectacular job, I feel a little silly writing in, but I’ve got a few moments, so here I am. Pardon any typos. I’m on a micro keyboard, and am having a little bit of a problem getting my fingers on the right keys.
We’ve now spent two days at Disney World, and I have to say that, as I always am at Disneyland, I’m completely impressed by Disney’s relentless attention to detail. We spent yesterday at Disney/MGM, which is meant to remind visitors of Hollywood, circa 1930/1940. Every facade is a perfectly scaled replica of a classic Hollywood building from the golden era. The only exceptions to this rule are the parts of Disney/MGM that are meant to look like backlot replicas of New York and San Francisco.
I also appreciate how immaculate the parks always are — no litter anywhere. It turns out that the Disney designers studied how people behave with garbage and discovered that they’ll carry the garbage for only so many feet before giving up and tossing it on the ground — so garbage cans are spaced at intervals that encourage people to dispose of things properly, rather than just dropping them. It’s that kind of attention to detail that just delights me.
I wasn’t that thrilled with the Disney/MGM rides or shows. I don’t like “drop” rides, so Tower of Terror was all terror and no fun. Even though I didn’t like the ride, however, I was still impressed by the “theming.” I’ve actually been in the old Hollywood hotel on which the ride is modeled, and the Disney designers matched it perfectly — except on a much smaller scale, of course. The wood and tile work were just perfect. As for the Aerosmith ride — well, the kids loved it.
The kids liked the shows too, but I found them too loud for pleasure. At the last show, too, the water show, we had the bad luck to sit behind a thuggish British family that seemed to go out of its collective way to ensure that the people sitting behind them were interrupted by their standing up, flashing cameras, and wearing huge hats. I mention “thuggish” and “British” in connection with them, because we were actually scared to ask them to change their behavior. They really did look as if they thought they were at a British style football game, and could turn the whole thing into a bloody brawl given any provocation. I’m still trying to figure out if the behavior was unique to that family, if it was a class thing, or if they are yet another face of the profound changes in Britain.
Today was Epcot, and we loved every minute of it. To begin with, it’s so charmingly retro in its vision of the future. The present would have looked so much more attractive if the Disney designers could have been in charge of where we ended up!
The rides are also superb, from the Test Drive, which was lots of fun without being too scary; to the Space ride (I prefer the easy version); to Soarin’, one of the most innovative, beautiful rides I’ve ever experienced. I’d done Soarin’ years before, in LA, but had forgotten had great it was.
We also loved Epcot’s international area, although we spent only a short time there. We’re going back in a day or two, so I don’t feel cheated. Venice looks truly Venetian; Japan is perfectly Japanese; and we had a fantastic lunch in Morocco, complete with belly dancer.
While there, we watched a very inspiring, patriotic movie/animatronics show about American history in the America section. Mr. Bookworm, the liberal, made two interesting comments about this show when we walked out. First, he said that he learned a lot of his American history from Disney and didn’t unlearn it until college. I noted that Howard Zinn is very popular in college. He pointed out, accurately, that we didn’t read Zinn back then, but I could have responded with the fact that we were still learning from Marxist historians. His other point was that the video was very Republican. When I asked him why, he couldn’t answer, but I suspect it was the patriotism that earned that adjective.
A few hours after that, we watched a Lion King show about environmentalism that I would have classified as “Democrat”: it was all about pure animals and third worlders, who do not despoil the environment and the Westerners who selfishly ruin it for everyone. At the end, Simba noted that we’re trying to do better now, but it was quite an indictment of the West. I also found it very amusing coming from Disney, which must be one of the all time great energy hogs!
I’m getting too tired for coherence about now. I’ll try to check in later, but don’t count on it.