In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • Debating Disney: Pedagogical Perspectives on Commercial Cinema ed. by Douglas Brode and Shea T. Brode
  • Ida Yoshinaga (bio)
Debating Disney: Pedagogical Perspectives on Commercial Cinema. Edited by Douglas Brode and Shea T. Brode, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016, 252 pp.

In his introduction to Debating Disney: Pedagogical Perspectives on Commercial Cinema, underrated Disney appreciator Douglas Brode, author of the groundbreaking From Walt to Woodstock: How Disney Created the Counterculture (2004) and the painfully adulatory, if overreaching, Multiculturalism and the Mouse: Race and Sex in Disney Entertainment (2006), posits a bold claim: “No other book filled with readings on Disney has attempted to alternate negative and positive essays, as well as many others that are balanced or neutral” (xvii). Coediting with second-generation pop-culture specialist and frequent collaborator Shea T. Brode, his father, Douglas, labels this collection postmodernist in its measured avoidance of what the Brodes view as a “Manichaean conflict” that seems to split academic analyses of the corporation’s texts into either pro-Disney or anti-Disney camps (xvii). The pair aims to curate “infinite ways of digesting such material via the intellect, the emotions, or most impressively a critical inroad that combines both” (xvii).

The elder Brode’s own two entries enact this directive through an inventive, if uneven, zeitgeist historiography that contextualizes Disney films within the cultural standards of their times. His first article performs a comparative discursive reading of the 1955 theatrical version of the reedited miniseries Davy Crockett (ABC, 1954–55) held up against the 1952 film classic High Noon in the light of that postwar era’s objectivist versus altruistic frontier-hero tropes. His second piece presents a passionate defense of Walt Disney’s employment of and portrayals of Jewish people as relatively inclusive and tolerant compared with those of other beloved Anglo-American literary and filmmaking auteurs of his time (for example, F. Scott Fitzgerald, [End Page 343] Ernest Hemingway, and director Howard Hawks). The latter article was provoked in part by performer Meryl Streep’s controversial 2014 comments that the Walt Disney Company founder had been sexist and anti-Semitic, which were publicized during a National Board of Review awards ceremony that honored Emma Thompson, who starred as Mary Poppins creator P[amela] L. Travers in the corporate biopic Saving Mr. Banks (2013). The younger Brode’s contribution, the ambitiously mistitled “Seeing Black,” endeavors a “critical reaction” survey of The Princess and the Frog (2009; 77) but extensively cites prominent mainstream film reviewers who are not African American (Roger Ebert, Manohla Dargis, and Scott Foundas). The essay sets up, in a series of straw-man arguments, selectively underdiscussed critical responses by African American online commentators (notably from, where incipient cultural-text readers and rising scholars of the New Black Aesthetic, such as Angela Bronner-Helm, had shared cinematic analyses with their community from the late 1990s onward) while simultaneously cherry-picking quotes from African American filmgoers who praised the movie. Without Shea T. Brode offsetting his sample with mainstream reviews from notable African American film journalists whose writing might have reflected a professional middle ground of a thoughtful yet complex range of community response (Armond White, Elvis Mitchell, and later Pulitzer Prize winner Wesley Morris), this pro-Frog piece, in dismissing that community’s call for positive black male representation in Princess Tiana’s romantic colead, amounts to much less than “balanced or neutral.”

The Brodes gift newcomers to Disney scholarship with reprints of critical articles from diverse ideological perspectives of the past two decades—my favorites being political economist Janet Wasko’s 2001 juxtaposition of major Disney myths against sociohistorical realities; Dorothy L. Hurley’s now-classic 2005 “Seeing White: Children of Color and the Disney Fairy-Tale Princess” to which the Brode Jr. piece had no doubt aimed to respond; and Scott Schaffer’s 1996 insightful critique of the firm’s “Distorifying” (35) and “Small Worldization” (41) of regional pasts into present-day products. They do not neglect the expected cultural-textual entries about representational politics, interspersing several that unpack changing gender and racial depictions within Disney’s recent and readapted film franchises. Their dedicatedly interdisciplinary editorial mind-set also uncovers delightful treats by organizational systems specialist...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 343-344
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.