July 2017
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the mouse is a trap: Disney stole magic and then sold it back


If you haven't seen NLC Net's series about Chinese workers in Disney sweatshops, you might be unaware of how Disney exploits its workers. If you haven't seen "Mickey Mouse Monopoly" you might be unaware of the ways and intensity to which Disney shapes the thinking of children. If it isn't within your experience and you haven't read intersectional critique you might be unaware of the ways in which Disney's films are racist and sexist. But most of the people I know -- even those who otherwise care deeply about resisting oppression -- just don't want to think about it. Somehow Disney is the one clearly exploitative part of life that people I know are most resistant to acknowledge and work against. It has trapped people's thinking, and I know why.

Disney has co-opted magic. It has packaged and licensed and sold it, defined it and locked it up. Its first theme park was the "Magic Kingdom," which in two words creates a border that magic cannot cross and establishes it as a place that is ruled by a rich male. It has created the idea that magic is made of sparkles and swirling light and air, that it is a visual thing, a tactile thing. It made magic into a binary of good and evil, something with clear and easy to understand edges, something with obvious consequences. It stole magic from us and then sold it back, and if you want more you have to keep paying: you have to buy movie tickets and theme park tickets and merchandise. Magic becomes a thing that you cannot access without an intermediary.

I think in some ways I was lucky that my family was poor and controlling. I saw my first movie at age 8 and didn't watch TV until I was 19; my childhood magic was found in nature and books. But others' first exposure to magic may have been Disney, or they may have grown up disallowed magic and found that the only kind that was allowed was the kind validated by billion-dollar sales: Disney. Disney's magic may be the only kind that allows them to feel wonder as an adult -- because at Disney's parks you're SUPPOSED to feel wonder and see magic. If you go through your daily life noticing and feeling awe at magic (like moss in the sidewalk cracks), your social status will drop; if you do it at Disney, it's okay.

So while I feel wounded at the suffering that I know goes into and comes out of Disney, I also feel that it is, for some, their only access to magic, and I have a hard time discussing it. I hate telling my lover that no, I cannot go see the latest Disney because I do not want to support a corporation that I know causes harm. I hate being silent and uncomfortable when other people describe their deep connection with a Disney film; I will tell people my thoughts when they ask but most of the time I stay quiet. I understand how it must be well-nigh impossible to cut off a source of magic (even if it is problematic) when you don't know another source. I don't have an alternative to offer them, and I understand the need for magic. I feel trapped.


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on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.