- 1 Spectator needs
- 2 “Good evil” of Disney
- 3 What does “good evil” teach?
- 4 The imposition of the automatic perception of evil as good
- 5 Conclusion
One of the actively promoted topics by “Disney” company, which is systematically found in their products, is view of evil as not an unambiguously negative phenomenon. The essence of the “good evil” and the layer of ideas that lies behind this trend will be discussed in detail in this article.
First, let us turn to the real needs of the main spectator contingent of “Disney”, children and adolescents, in relation to the content of any information products.
One of the tasks for people in early stages of growing up is to get simple, basic guidelines on what is good and what is bad in the world and, thereby, to find a certain worldview foundation that is adequate to reality, which will gradually become more complicated: with the development of critical thinking, own life experience, etc. Thus, the right product for children/adolescents is obliged to set those standards of morality and behavioral models that would be a reliable tool for further movement along the life path. The lessons acquired by the young spectator from films and cartoons inevitably influence the emerging value system, which he will follow in the future, and therefore they should be understandable, inspiring, helping to develop the best qualities and a little simplified according to a specific age group, on which the product is designed for.
As for good and evil: on the one hand, it’s hard to argue that the topic is really infinitely scrupulous and can turn into a thick philosophical jungle, but on the other hand, one must understand that from the point of view of the needs of this group of spectators the question is put quite simply. In film and cartoon products for the low-knowledge, due to the age public, the following points concerning the concepts of good and evil are of paramount importance:
- Demonstration of the existence of opposite categories of good and evil/good and bad/moral and immoral – in principle;
- Demonstration of their clear separation. Good is good, evil is evil, it is the opposite concepts, between which there is a border separating them;
- Demonstration of the materiality of good and evil, their ability to exert a perceptible influence on a person;
- Demonstration of the manifestations of good and evil on adequate examples (For example, friendship is an adequate example of the manifestation of the concept of good, stealing is an adequate example of the manifestation of evil. Moral half tones in the choice of examples that are widely used by “Disney” and what will be further discussed are unacceptable).
At the same time, any ambiguity of evil, its subtleties, philosophical depth are topics that absolutely not intended for fragile minds and hearts. Asking a child or a teenager any difficult things to comprehend, like the significance of the existence of evil or the duality of the world is as unreasonable as sending him at this age not to the kindergarten and school, but to the university. At the level of formation and development on which he is, he will simply get confused and will not be able to understand a complex topic. This is not necessary. The real need of children/adolescents as consumers of information products is the receipt of such simple and basic ideas and values that would form a reliable worldview basis, capable of helping to further independently develop their views in the right direction, to erect on the right foundation a beautiful and harmonious set of beliefs.
“Good evil” of Disney
“Disney” is the company-authority in the field of children’s recreational education, very often depicts the concept of evil in a highly ambiguous and morally intricate way, mixing it with good or even drawing it to the position of good in the finale. Not to mention the fact that, as reveals a detailed analysis of their products, such maneuvers may conceal another laid unfavorable overtones (as, for example, in the “Frozen”). This or that ambiguous evil is presented in the following Disney products at least, in brackets is indicated through which character the idea is transmitted:
- “Cinderella” the movie, 2015 (Stepmother),
- “Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast”, 2014 (Earl),
- “Big Hero 6″, 2014 (Robert Callaghan),
- “Maleficent”, 2014 (Maleficent),
- “Oz the Great and Powerful”, 2013 (Oz and Theodora),
- “Frozen”, 2013 (Elsa),
- “Wreck-It-Ralph”, 2012 (Ralph),
- “Tangled”, 2010 (Flynn Rider and bandits from “Sweet Duck” pub),
- “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”, 2003 (Jack Sparrow),
- “Lilo & Stitch”, 2002 (Stitch),
- “Pocahontas”, 1995 (John Smith),
- “Aladdin”, 1992 (Aladdin).
Methods of showing the evil in an ambiguous way can be classified as following:
“Good evil” or good in a package of evil
“Good evil” is structured as follows – a spectator is offered a type, when reasonably considered, does not raise particular doubts about his belonging to the side of evil. For example:
- a “fairy”, similar to the devil, who cursed the child (Maleficent in the cognominal film),
- a demonic monster (Earl in the cartoon “Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast”),
- a swindler and lovelace (Oz in the film “Oz the Great and Powerful”),
- bandits, assassins (the inhabitants of the pub “Sweet Duck” in cartoon “Tangled”),
- thieves (Flynn Rider in “Tangled” and Aladdin in the film of the same name),
- a pirate (Jack Sparrow in the film “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”),
- an alien monster-destroyer (Stich in “Lilo and Stitch”),
- an invading enemy (John Smith in “Pocahontas”).
Then the plot shows that the represented character of the villainous type is good and kind. At the same time, there are no significant stories of the evolution of evil into good (a similar topic is serious and needs the same serious disclosure, including the unambiguous transformation of the bad into good, repentance, full-scale correction, etc. However, it is never suggested in single-value way in “Disney”).
As a result, all the listed heroes, remaining on the positions of evil by type, but affirming by some minor plot motions in the fact that they are good, morally represent very intricate images of “good evil.” The specificity in each product is different, but in general the method boils down to the fact that instead of reborning evil into good, the deceptive prefix “good” is added to the villainous character of the hero, such as : a good demonic “fairy”, a kind monster, kind swindler and lovelace, kind gangsters and murderers, good thieves, kind pirate, good alien destroyer, good enemy. To make it clearer, this is the same as the good devil, a kind pedophile, a good violent maniac and so on. Good evil is a deceptive oxymoron, a combination of incompatible characteristics and phenomena.
Evil, which was good and became evil not through its own fault and desire
… but because of some sad and uncontrollable events it him:
- Theodora in “Oz: the Great and Powerful” was a good sorceress, but because of the betrayal of Oz, she transformed into a witch of the West, a classic evil character from F. Baum’s book “The Amazing Wizard of Oz,” the variation of which is a film.
- Maleficent in the film of the same name was kind and took the side of evil, like Theodora, because of the betrayal of her lover.
- Angry stepmother Lady Tremaine in “Cinderella” also equipped with sad history of her villainous status by screenplay writers – she became angry because of the death of her beloved husband.
All three are the “trend” villains of recent years, taken by writers from other stories, where they were a simple, homogeneous evil, and deliberately revised towards a good/complex evil. In the new stories, these characters have become partly (Lady Tremaine) or completely (Maleficent, Theodora) an innocent evil, which someone has led to a villainous status.
- This category also includes the original character from the cartoon “Big Hero 6″ – Robert Callaghan, who was a kind and decent man, but embarked on the path of evil because of the uncontrollable event that affected him: the loss of his daughter.
This pattern of “conditioned evil”, repeated in recent years by “Disney” though it seems realistic, but is not positive from the educational point of view, which will be discussed later.
Again, evil is beyond control, evil is not at will:
- Elsa in “Frozen” (the version of the Snow Queen of Andersen, villain character) born with dangerous magic for people:
- Ralph in the cartoon of the same name, the inhabitant of the game machine, was created to play the role of villain:
- Stitch in “Lilo and Stitch” was artificially deduced by an alien mad professor and programmed by him for destruction:
The heroes listed are some kind of evil “from birth” (Elsa was born “like that,” Ralph was created “like that,” Stich was brought out “that way”), from which somehow or other they suffer. Like evil with a sad prehistory, this repeated “standard” is bad in its educational potential, which will also be discussed later.
Frankly demonic features in the image of “good evil”
… identified with Satanism – the direction, to put it mildly, very far from the concept of good:
- The prototype of the Maleficent from the film of the same name is the fallen angel Lucifer, one of the classic faces of the devil.
- A creature named Earl in the cartoon “Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast” – “Maleficent” for those who are younger. “Good Evil” is presented in the form of an eerie monster with demonic appearance and ambiguous behavior. Allusions to the fallen angel of Lucifer through the Earl are also shown.
For the most part, stories with a complex evil are positioned under the sauce of “imperfect reality”: absolute good and absolute evil are rare in life. All bad phenomena have some prerequisites + as for the devil-like appearance with horns and canines – one can not always judge the content by the evil cover, and if so, then, it would seem, why not to educate the youth in this direction? However, it is worth as much as possible to understand what is really a systematic mixture of evil with the good by “Disney” for its viewers, children and adolescents.
What does “good evil” teach?
The theme of “good evil” obviously connects the motives for justifying evil, which from the educational point of view are not intended for the formation of a moral outlook, since morality – is a concept based on the division of good and evil. “Morality is the spiritual and soulful qualities of a person, based on the ideals of goodness, justice, duty, honor, etc., which are manifested in relation to people and nature.” In the confusion of evil with good, there are no guidelines for distinguishing them in reality as contrasting, morally opposite concepts. And if the ideals of good and the “ideals” of evil are not on different sides, then, in essence, the notion of morality, which has lost its important foundation, is also rejected.
It is worth turning to what is so important, the well-known archaic victory of the understandable good over the understandable evil, the beloved “happy end”: firstly, it emphasizes the separation of good and evil, points to them as opposing poles (one wins, the other loses ), and, secondly, offers life guidance. The good side in history (“good”) in fact = it’s just the right life principles and following them in real life will help a person, and the opposite bad side (that “evil”) = these are destructive life principles, which adherence will harm the person. And the fact that the understandable good in history wins the understandable bad, it teaches appropriately to orient oneself on the constructive. This, in fact, programming a person for life’s victories from the very youngest.
If a thief, a monster, a murderer, an enemy, a demon and so on are well represented in “Disney” and history is not seriously devoted to their unambiguous repentance and transformation (and this is not really proposed in the cases under consideration), then the positive landmark naturally builds in its direction and towards all those phenomena and concepts that follow its type. For villainous archetypes always follow the meanings corresponding to them, which are historically formed. Thus, what exactly is hidden behind deceptively good thieves, kind enemies, good demons, what does this mean? The bottom line is that if a good thief-hero is good, then stealing is good as well, if the enemy is good, then the betrayal of the Motherland is a positive phenomenon, if a demonic hero is good, then a positive attitude is drawn to the occult and Satanism, etc. Behind any type of evil follows the specific meanings accepted in the society, on which, in fact, they try to hang a label “approved”, mostly for unconscious spectator. In addition, the positivity of this or that evil by Disney stories can also be further affirmed: for example, very similar heroes-thieves, Aladdin from the cartoon of the same name (1992) and Flynn Rider from “Tangled” (2010), are fully advancing to personal happy-ends thanks to their thieves’ abilities, which helping both, even happily leading to true love. Or Casanova Oscar Diggs in the film “Oz: the Great and Powerful” (2013), who achieves the final success due to the fact that, “walking” on a number of women, has associated himself with the most suitable.
Obviously, when it comes up in such a way that black and white phenomena are falsely confused: “good evil”/”white black”/”moral immorality”, then instead of setting the distinction between bad and good as mutually exclusive concepts, the viewer is offered morally (rather IMmorally) intermediate system of values. The mixing of black and white moral categories naturally turns into a morality of gray color. The phenomena of good and evil are no longer opposed, therefore, their separation becomes insignificant, thereby, the evil eventually hides in the ideological fog, as if it is not necessarily a distinction.
The non-discrimination of evil, inadvertent or intentional, is one of the most dangerous kinds of its justification. Not to distinguish evil from good – means to justify evil, to consider it acceptable.
However, systematically, depicting the evil caused by some sad prehistory or innate (Disney heroes: Theodora, Maleficent, Lady Tremaine, Robert Callaghan, Elsa, Ralph, Stitch), “Disney” offers the idea that the “carrier” of evil cannot be responsible for evil, but it’s someone else. The evil was born this way, the evil was done so and this message is repeated from the product into the product, hypnotizing the viewer. Superficially, it may seem realistic or even connected with the idea of charity, but from the point of view of education through regular demonstration to children/adolescents of forced, conditioned by something evil, the idea of responsibility for evil is completely erased. It is shown so that someone else is to blame, and not a villain character. Hence, one of the worst lessons that one can teach a person is to transfer personal responsibility to third parties, assuming the role of a victim. It is not my fault, it made me to do “like that”: others, circumstances, moods, emotions, etc.
At the same time, behind all the elevation and the justification of evil promoted in the media, it “clouded up” the question is why the evil characters in the stories are generally needed, what they are in fact. They are not sympathetic and hopeful guys with the charisma of Johnny Depp or Angelina Jolie, whose sad background should be asked, and then regretted, understood, loved and taken as a model, which exaggerated in modern mass culture (and, of course, not only for children, This trend is widely manifested for all ages). Evil characters have to carry their homogeneous, very important and very functional role in the stories: to repel, demonstratively lose to positive attitudes carried through the opposite side of good, which teaches, inspires, further fixes the movement to good (= right life guides). Evil characters show that there is something unacceptable, forbidden, tabooed. Evil is not a role model, as destructive mass culture tries to impose on the modern person, but an anti-landmark, a scarecrow, a deep abyss for light, morality, harmony, etc. Disney’s “complex evil” is deliberately not given the real role of evil. It does not repel the viewer, but attracts, imperceptibly shifting the evil function from itself to … the classic, adequate vision of evil is evil, which is implanted as a subtext in the wrong position. As a result, the new “good” offered to the viewer is the pseudo-tolerant acceptance of evil as good, and the new evil – is the classical and adequate discrimination of evil as evil and its non-acceptance.
The (im)moral mix of good and evil teaches the viewer the indivisibility of evil, as a phenomenon and the fact that evil can be good, remaining as it is. And it is to be, but not to become good, because the stories of the characters mentioned do not tell about the theme of re-education or the reborning of evil into good, but rather, they speak of the perception of evil as good, which is discussed in more detail below.
The imposition of the automatic perception of evil as good
In this relation one specific plot “mechanism”, which is systematically revealed in “Disney” products is indicative. This is the insistent and unfounded attraction of the female character to evil, which is carefully and subtly endorsed by the plots as an example of perception and behavior.
This model is repeated in the following “Disney” products, at least:
- “Pocahontas”, 1995,
- “Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast”, 2014,
- “Frozen”, 2013,
- “Maleficent”, 2014,
- “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”, 2003,
- “Lilo & Stitch”, 2001.
History offers the viewer a positive female character (Pocahontas, fairy Fawn, Princess Anna, Princess Aurora, Elizabeth Swann, Lilo) who somehow chooses a certain evil, which is formed, of course, not as a homogeneous evil, but in confusion with the good that in the result brought to the plot confirmation that such a choice is commendable and desirable.
1) Pocahontas sees the arrival of enemies to their native shores, and immediately as a magnet romantically attracts to one of them.
It is very easy to understand how positive degree of the pattern of behavior in this case. Just study the real fate of Pocahontas. The prototype of the cartoon is an extremely tragic story about a young and badly thinking Indian teenage girl who betrayed her father, her tribe, that nothing good ended for her or her family and friends, but ended well for her enemies. It is obvious that this historical episode should frighten children, and not teach to behave like Pocahontas. The degree to which the depicted phenomenon is positive – the woman’s love for evil is as clear as possible. And the knowledge of the background of this story can help in the evaluation of structurally completely similar subjects.
2) Fairy Fawn from the cartoon “Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast” likes to violate public prohibitions, which is quite reminiscent of Pocahontas, who violated her father’s prohibition to communicate with the British, enemies. Fawn secretly grows a hawk chick, when adult hawks eat fairies, which is depicted as an interesting and adventurous act from her part.
If to think, this is a suicidal act, identical to contiguity to the enemy – affection to something that wants to destroy you. Fawn trying to call for sanity, but in vain. She finds no longer a hawk chick, but an eerie demonic monster about whom there is a terrible legend in her society. However, again: she like a magnet affected by him, despite what is spoken about him, despite his terrible demonic appearance and ambiguous behavior.
As a result, the story leads to a happy ending. Unreasonable affection to the monster, which looks like a real demon from the underworld, is presented as a positive “pattern”. Everything is OK, do not listen to anyone, this evil is safe, come to him, love him, help him.
3) Elsa from the “Frozen” is actually the version of the Snow Queen of Andersen, a homogeneous evil character creating a conflict in history, freezing the heart and plunging the living into a deathly cold. The same does Elsa in the “Frozen”. If you cast aside the subtle details of the plot (“sisters”, homosexual overtones) that do not improve the situation at all, then this standard is revealed again: the feminine attraction to the side of evil. The second character, Anna, is positively fascinated by Elsa, who froze the kingdom which caused serious harm to her personally. Anna decisively, without any doubt and thought, goes to the far end of the earth to persistently give her love to the one who caused her evil, who is unequivocally considered as evil and who was a clear evil in the history-source. It is also worth noting what changes the story has undergone, moving from Andersen’s tale to Disney writers. If earlier it was a love story with kind Kai and Gerda and the evil Snow Queen opposing them, now three characters are replaced by two. Evil is integrated into the good: Gerda became Anna, and Kai and the Snow Queen are united in one character – the suffering evil-good Elsa. Here is perfectly clear that “good evil” is, in fact, ideological contraband for carrying evil to the viewer’s acceptance.
4) The newborn Princess Aurora in “Maleficent”, lying in the cradle, laughs and joyfully smiles at the woman who cursed her, in fact to her murderer. The same happens after years: the grown Aurora, officially acquainted with the terrible “fairy”, automatically considered her a good godmother, although it is obvious that strange behavior and frankly demonic, frightening appearance of such character is very unlikely to cause such associations.
As in the case of the “Frozen”, in the original story, the “Sleeping Beauty” the movie, Maleficent was a common evil character. And again, a similar rearrangement of the characters: if there were three characters – the rescued princess, the prince-rescuer and the evil opposing them, now there are the rescued princess and the new “2-in-1″ – savior + evil smuggler in one character.
5) Elizabeth from the first part of the “Pirates of the Caribbean”, the daughter of the governor of the English city, interested in pirates since childhood. And pirates, if we remember for a second, it’s sea thugs, thieves and murderers. And again the same theme: a noble girl, as a given, groundlessly, magnetically attracts to evil. She sings a pirate song, where the film begins, receives a pirate medallion around her neck, teaches the pirate code of rules, takes an interest in them in every way, and eventually “happily” gets to them in the company both physically and philosophically.
At the end of the story, the girl demonstratively recognizes her love for a young man only after he becomes a pirate (= evil). Her father at the same time utters a phrase that perfectly characterizes the lessons of Disney about evil: “When the struggle for a just cause (= good) makes you become a pirate (= evil), piracy (= evil) can become a right thing (= good)”. When the struggle for good forces you to become evil, evil can become good. Good … makes become evil? Again, there is no boundary between good and evil, no moral guidelines. Shadow value system. Evil can be good, while remaining evil.
6) A girl Lilo from the cartoon “Lilo and Stitch”, coming to the shelter to choose a dog and takes an aggressive evil monster, who does not look like a dog (= again nonsense). It is obvious that something is wrong with him, he behaves strangely and embittered, but she as if by magic likes him very much.
For Lilo’s perception, the cosmic evil mutant, programmed for destruction, automatically becomes an “angel”, and there are no semantic prerequisites for this.
As a result, all the stories, of course, subtly and enthrallingly lead the choice of the female character of this or that “ambiguous” evil to the happy end. And how else? But the fact remains: this theme of the praiseworthy and unreasonable attraction of the female character to this or that evil, built like a good evil is stable traced through the years. And this, in fact, is a great symbol of what the industry, of which Disney is a part, is working for. What does this line mean metaphorically – a female character who chooses evil?
It can be interpreted as follows. There are so-called female and male “principles”, called in some traditions of Yin and Yang. The male principle is action, the expression of oneself outward, the material realization of something, and the female one is the opposite in meaning. This is a kind of passive, internal action in different variations: tuning in to your feelings/acceptance as such/saving something/filtering the external through your perception/art of distinction.
The most important manifestations of the female principle are distinction and choice. Just in the spirit of the above examples – a female character evaluates and chooses something. So the well-functioning female principle (= well-functioning perception and assessment) leads a person to adequate orientation in the world, helps to build a better life. When the principle is violated, a person is not able to “filter” outwardly through his perception, is incapable of distinguishing between “good” and “bad”, “yes” and “no”, thereby not being able to choose the good by sifting out the bad. Disorientation begins, and life becomes at best chaotic, and at worst leads to hopeless dead ends, where it is difficult to get out.
And “Disney”, repeatedly offering this stamp in its products. The automaticity of perception of evil as good, clearly works to early knocking off from people the principle of evaluation and choice. The company, choosing obvious villains as patterns of behavior for small viewers, tries destructively to encode their distinction filters, adjusting the adequate perception of good and bad, good and evil in life. When you get used to seeing evil as good on the screen, you begin to automatically follow this in life.
The mixing of good and evil through good villains + the idea that responsibility for evil can be somewhere far beyond the carrier of evil + programming the automatism of perceiving evil as good => leads to the formation in the viewers of the non-distinction of evil + the automatic perception of evil as an insignificant phenomenon and as a result – an appropriate way of life, not associated with morality, with concept based on the separation of the phenomena of good and evil.
Through the trend of complex/good evil in general, we get education in the audience of what is today called “moral flexibility”. Moral flexibility is a kind of worldview based on the inessentiality of evil – when ethical and moral principles on the basis of which a person acts are never determined definitively and can always be revised depending on anything: situation, mood, order of the boss, fashion or anything yet. Good, evil – anyway, you can show “flexibility”, as in the stories of “Disney”:
“Not the heroes or the villains reconciled the two kingdoms. The one who has merged both evil and good has reconciled. And her name is Maleficent”; In the first part of Pirates of the Caribbean, Elizabeth asks: “Whose side is Jack?” (Pirate captain), implying that he is on the side of good either on the side of evil, and then, without even finding out the answer, boldly strives to fight on his side. The character, who set as an example for viewer is do not care about good or evil. Good and evil are united in a common, morally gray plane.
On a scale through faith in such unseparated nature of the phenomena of good and evil, their immateriality from a moral point of view there can born a generations of morally flexible, loyal to anything people, ready to take without value what was offered to them by someone. Such people, who are not accustomed to operating with moral principles, are very comfortable to manipulate.
What is especially cruel, Disney, as the main children’s media authority, “catches” to the network of its destructive information agenda at the most vulnerable stage – at the beginning of the way, in the period of maximum susceptibility and insecurity. And when children’s/teenage films and cartoons must be good helpers of growing up, they must inspire, motivate, help shape the first best qualities, the quality of the winners, Disney’s visually beautiful but meaningfully destructive stories from the point of view of forming a worldview basis are something like rotten scaffolding, which necessarily “drop” the viewer who trusted them on his life path.
P.S. I would also like to add this specific moment: a woman who chooses evil is a clear portrayal of the well-known story of a Babylonian harlot sitting on a beast (= i.e. a woman, who deliberately chose evil through her perception) and passes evil through herself to a certain mythical city, which apocalyptically destroys it. This is absolutely the same pattern, a pattern that we see in the Disney examples that teach the automatism of the choice of evil through its perception and appreciation. Thus, it is easy to imagine the scale of this cultural “agenda” – the massive non-distinction of good and evil in society, which is actively imposed by “Disney”, as well as other media authorities.
Do not show “Disney” products to your children!
Translated by Valeriy Petrov