“He bordered on rabid fascism,” the 62-year-old heiress [Abigail Disney] said of Walt Disney on Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast last week.
The wealthy film producer and activist spoke with Maron about her new documentary that takes aim at her family’s company, called “The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales,” as well as her family’s battle with addiction.
Disney told Maron that while her great-uncle Walt was a “chaotic genius,” he and his brother played up prejudices of the time.
“They weren’t shy about delving into the stereotypes if it served them,” she said.
The Post reached out to the Disney company for comment.
The heiress noted that Disney positioned the wolf from “The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf” as a “Jewish peddler” and named one of the wisecracking black crows from “Dumbo” Jim Crow.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called out Disney when he made “Song of the South,” a 1946 film set in the Reconstruction-era American South that reinforced racist stereotypes.
“When they made ‘Song of the South,’ people from the NAACP came to the studio and they said, ‘Please don’t do it this way. Please talk to us,’” she said, noting that her family pushed ahead anyway.
“In some enclosed way, Disney is an American fascist fantasy,” Maron said.
But the person who condemns her grandfather for making a racist film is also quick to judge someone not by the quality of her character, but by the color of her skin: A White Woman’s Documentary About Muslim Extremists Is Being Canceled. Guess Why.
The Times notes that the South by Southwest and San Francisco film festivals canceled plans to screen the documentary.
But no one did more damage to Jihad Rehab than Abigail Disney, a filmmaker and member of the Disney family who served as an executive producer for the film. She initially described it in excited terms as “freaking brilliant.” But then she changed course, penning an open letter of apology.
“I may not be in total agreement with every criticism of the film but that does not obviate my responsibility to earnestly own the damage I had a hand in,” she wrote. “I call upon my colleagues now, whether you are gatekeepers, funders, curators, heads of institutions, agents, buyers, critics, or other filmmakers to rethink how we all behave when we are called out for our failures and shortcomings.”
The letter—which (ironically) reads like the transcript of a hostage video—expressed Disney’s commitment “to not creating any more pain, if only by accident or in ignorance.” She apologizes for causing “trauma,” and says that her “mistakes are myriad so I will not be able to claim them all in a single list, but I will try.”
Disney’s apology letter addresses the other, major criticism aimed at Jihad Rehab, which is that [Meg] Smaker’s interview practices are unethical, given that the men are unwilling participants in the center’s rehabilitation program: They are compelled to be there, and thus cannot give consent to be interviewed.
“I should have pushed back on the idea that the protagonists consented to appear in the film,” wrote Disney. “A person cannot freely consent to anything in a carceral system, particularly one in a notoriously violent dictatorship.”
This is deeply unpersuasive. For one thing, Smaker attempted to speak with 150 different detainees, and only four agreed to talk. If the other 146 said no, it would be reasonable to think that the four who said yes did so with a modicum of self-determination. It’s also standard practice for journalists to interview inmates who are incarcerated in prisons; there’s no generally accepted journalistic convention that such reporting is unethical.
Nor is it wrong for a person of a certain gender or ethnicity to attempt to understand, depict, explain, and create art about a foreign group. There’s a major difference between empowering voices from marginalized communities to tell their stories and shutting down seemingly good-faith efforts like Smaker’s film. Los Angeles Times media columnist Lorraine Ali expertly highlights this distinction, writing that “a film losing its shot at an audience over such a controversy doesn’t encourage critical thinking about images of Muslims. It throttles it.”
As Kevin Williamson wrote in 2018, “Watch What You Say. Someone Else Is.”
The generation that reached what passes for maturity in the age of social media is the most status-obsessed—and hence etiquette-obsessed—since the ancien régime. They are all miniaturists: There hasn’t been an important and original book of political ideas written by an American Millennial, and very few of them have read one, either. But they are very interested in individual pronouns and 280-character tweets. It is extraordinarily difficult for any one of them to raise his own status through doing interesting and imaginative intellectual work, because there is practically no audience for such work among his peers. Worse, the generation ahead of him stopped paying attention to Millennials years ago, and the generation behind him never started.
What that leaves is the takfiri tendency, scalp-hunting or engineering a court scandal at Versailles. Concurrent with that belief is the superstition that people such as Harvey Weinstein or Bret Stephens take up cultural space that might otherwise be filled by some more worthy person if only the infidel were removed, as though society were an inverted game of Tetris, with each little disintegration helping to enable everybody else to move up one slot at a time. Status obsession does funny things to one’s map of social reality. It leads to all manner of bizarre thinking.
And as a result, we live in the dumbest timeline imaginable: Whatever his flaws, Walt Disney invented the concept of the long-form animated movie, the idea that movie studios could own theme parks, and laid the groundwork for his cartoon mouse becoming the symbol of a multi-billion dollar empire. His granddaughter, given the chance to produce a documentary pushing back against Islamofascism, would rather attack a dead white man, and cancel the career of a living white woman instead.