Disney: Still Clueless
by L. Brent Bozell III
On June 18, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) announced
its national boycott against the Walt Disney Co. Soon the SBC was joined by a
number of other organizations representing millions more families thoroughly
disgusted by Disney's continuing assault on traditional values. As we approach
the three-month mark, it's still difficult to gauge the boycott's
effectiveness, but one thing's sure: Disney continues to be clueless about why
the boycott began, why it's still going on, and why it's growing.
It certainly grew on August 27 when Dr. James Dobson
announced that his organization, Focus on the Family, would join the SBC, the
Catholic League, Concerned Women for America (CWA), the American Family
Association (AFA), and several smaller groups. The SBC claims 16 million
members; Focus on the Family four million; the Catholic League, the AFA, and
CWA several hundred thousand each. Add those numbers up and you've got an
awful lot of parents whose entertainment dollars have bought a lot of Disney
products for their children.
Asked to measure their effectiveness to date, some
boycotters are minimizing the bottom-line aspect. The SBC's Richard Land says,
"God never commanded us to be successful. He commanded us to be
faithful." Dobson asserts that "we won't bankrupt Disney, and we may
not even damage them financially." Don Wildmon's AFA, in the September
issue of its monthly magazine, describes the Goliath it's taking on:
"Disney and its subsidiaries employ more than 90,000 people. Disney had
revenues of $21 billion last year - and earned a hefty $1.2 billion profit in
Like a medieval siege, a boycott can realize immediate
success if the target is particularly vulnerable, or take many months, even
years, if aimed at a giant the size of Disney. And yet already the signs are
ominous for the Mickey Mouse empire. This summer's animated cartoon movie,
"Hercules," was a surprising box office disappointment. The ABC
television network is in a similar slump; its all-out promotion for what it
calls its "Family Tuesday" program lineup is evidence of an attempt
to recapture a lost audience.
According to Land, the SBC's mail is running 20-to-1 in
favor of the boycott; he adds that half of that support comes from
non-Baptists. But perhaps the most salient number comes from a USA Weekend
poll which found that virtually half the country (49.5 percent) supports this
boycott. So much for the "radical right" or "fringe"
labels attached to the boycott by Disney and its supporters in the media.
Responding to the decision by Focus on the Family to join
the boycott, Disney's Tom Deegan declared that "in an atmosphere of free
expression, we will always try to promote moral ideologies."
Granted, Deegan is a paid mouthpiece, but even by flack
standards his remarks are absurd. What does Disney consider moral? Movies like
"The Prophecy" which bash Christians in general, and
"Priest" which bash Catholics in particular? TV's "Ellen,"
which promotes the homosexual lifestyle, and the new "Nothing
Sacred" (more Catholic-bashing)? Gay Days at Disney World? The Satanic
heavy-metal act Danzig and "The Great Milenko," an obscene, violent
album by the rap group Insane Clown Posse, which Disney released but pulled
from stores in the wake of the Southern Baptists' boycott? ("Milenko"
has just been reissued on Island Records, which is not part of Disney.)
It makes you wonder what we'd be in for were Disney to
announce it was going to promote immoral ideologies.
More honest than Deegan was another Disney spokesman, Ken
Green. The Washington Post's Marc Fisher wrote that when Green was asked to
comment on his company's influence on culture, [he] said, 'I'm not prepared to
discuss mores." Asked to find someone at Disney who would talk about
culture and morality, Green called back to say, "We're not going to go
into that." There you have '90s Disney: politically correct relativism
concealed by a Mickey mask. As another sign of the times, Fisher presents a
well-researched report only to tarnish it with this bizarre analysis: "In
a sense, Disney and religion are now competitors. Both sell a vision of
reality. Both traffic in nostalgia."
A Disney executive has said his company thinks of the
boycott as analogous to "a gnat on an elephant." But remember this:
gnats are persistent, and if you've ever been plagued by a cloud of them, you
know you'll do almost anything to make them leave you alone. If the boycott
reaches gnat-cloud proportions - which it probably will given the tenacity of
the boycott's leaders - Michael Eisner, et al, will want to shoo it away, and
fast. The good news is that Disney can do so simply by returning to the
family-friendly product that won it a special place in American cultural
The bad news, if we are to believe Disney's statements, is
that they still have no idea how noxious, and obnoxious, they've become.
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