Re: pocahontas

Vance Geiger (geiger@PEGASUS.CC.UCF.EDU)
Thu, 22 Jun 1995 16:15:11 -0400

I used to think that post-modernism was a lot of bunk. I have
come to realize, however, that the ideas, stripped of obscuring
rhetoric, does have a point.

Regarding Disney's recent release Pocahontas: Monique Sol
Sonoquie /, after an interesting analysis

Why didn't Disney just write a whole new story? They could have
done a decent job with out the "Boobs", or racial slurs.


Could they? Why should they? Disney is a business. They sell
symbols. Animated T & A sells. Attmpted Co-opted Pseudo-
femminism sells as in a woman has a right to choose HER OWN MAN,
but little else. Pretty soon Disney will have its own stable of
(Charlie's) Angels, Arabian Princess, European Peasant, Native
American, Mermaid...

And the basis of the question, "they could have done a decent
job..." Why should they? The question implies that Disney does,
or should, have a desire to do a "decent" job, i.e. a persona of
an entity to be trusted. Why should Disney be trusted to do
anything but make money for its owners?

Monique Sol Sonoquie / continues:

Now that they've done Arabs, Fishes, and Native Americans, are
they going to do Africans? Will they refer to them as "Nigars",
like they called Native Americans "filthy heathens", Is there a
difference? NO.


Disney already did. Song of the South. Zippity-doo-da. But they
are going to do Africa, without the Africans. A big wild animal

Monique Sol Sonoquie / continues:

Or was the Lion King as close as they'll get?
Will America open their eyes? Everybody talks about sex and
violence on television, what about Disney? I could go on, but I
think I've made myself clear. I invite you to see for yourself,
but please don't take your children until you've viewed it first.
Believe me, the temper tantrums and nagging if you don't take
them will be more tolerable than the instilled ignorance and
sexist/racist habits they pick-up in the film. Tantae.

Monique Sol Sonoquie /


Post-modernism is about analyzing the transformation of symbols
into concrete physical stuff and the behavior of people. In this
case, the selling of people's culture to them.

Disney is in the business of selling "idealized" culture to
Americans, i.e. symbols and mythology. Anyone who does not think
that such things are very important and very lucrative should
look at Disney.

The application of post-modernism to academics is the asking of
the same question: do we sell culture to our students? Do we
present other people's ways of doing things in ways that
reinforce American cultural preconceptions about those other
people and the "right" way to do things.

A further question is whether the existence of such entities as
Disney indicates some sort of fundamental transformation in

For example:

Disney does not produce anything but symbols.

Epcot, foe example: technology, yankee ingenuity will save the
world. The environment can be controlled. There really is not a
lot of difference between the various cultures in the world, and
the various cultures can be understood in terms of nation state
identities, etc...

Fundamentally what Disney sells is order. In Disney World the
streets are clean, there are no drive-by shootings. Disney
citizens (employees) look similar in little uniforms, dress code
hair-cuts. You stand in line and nobody butts in front. Disney
even sells tickets in the form of passports as if you were going
to another country, one even more American than America.

How do we explain the existence of such places as Disney World?
The place is just as real as a corn field, a factory, a strip
mine, a sawmill. You walk out of Disney World with nothing you
can use, or what you could use ( a T shirt, maybe) you could have
gotten somewhere else for a lot less.

Maybe for cultural materialists and cultural evolutionists in
general there is probably some sort of transition that societies
(states, civilizations, huge globs of more or less cooperating
people) go through where there is a switch to greater expenditure
on the purely symbolic and away from the productive that
indicates the beginning of the down slide

Things such as:

theme parks

places where people go to expend energy on the manipulation of
machines and dead weight in pursuit of the perfect physique which
they then use in pursuit of status

gizmos for the exchange of the purely symbolic

gizmos for the expression of the purely symbolic such as B-2
bombers for the expression of symbolic power

monolithic architecture such as Saturn 5s, Space Shuttles, Disney
World, bigger prisons

politics in pursuit of symbolic consensus

None of this produces an ounce of food, building materials,
children, etc... that could not be produced at much less cost.

All this activity produces is symbols and a lot of non-productive
(in a material sense) human behavior.

so why do people do this?

vance geiger