Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Medieval Disney

I am not ashamed, and proud to state that I love Disney cartoons. Maybe the fact that I am well acquainted with Disney is the reason that I see references to the cartoons even when there are none. In either case when studying Middle Ages I tend to find many medieval themes best shown and battled with in Disney cartoons. 

For example this is how J.Y.Gregg describes the medieval male attitude towards women
'As both the object and stimulus of sexual desire, women presented a ubiquitous peril. Like the devil, drawing men to their spiritual death under a variety of ingenious or pleasant guises, woman appeared to a celibate clergy as a perverse, demonic paradox.' (Gregg 1997:99)
Now compare it with the lyrics of “Hellfire’ From Hunchback of Notre Dame 

The idea of ‘The Other’ plays an important role in medieval studies. In essence the other was anyone who was not a white Christian male in other words ‘The Other’ was not of the same type as the dominant human ‘not like us’. I still believe that the idea and its consequences are best summed up in these two songs from Pocahontas.

I have to admit that this fascination with Disney and bringing everything to Disney found its way in to one of my essays where I talked about hybridity and ended up comparing this:
Abraham’s vision, St John’s Psalter (England, c. 1270-80)
Cambridge, St John’s College, MS K.26, fol. 9
With this

And here is that conclusion:
The artist who made the illumination for St John’s Psalter did not intend for the Trinity to look monstrous, the image is pleasant and if the three heads are ignored its physiognomy is that of the perfect human. However Vultus Trifon is a very explicit type of deformity, as the whole form rather than a detail is distorted. Besides without a context it can be interpreted as good or evil. Interestingly the idea that the good and the evil should have completely different forms is still manifest today. A parallel can be drawn with contemporary children’s cartoons where the representations of good and bad characters should be noticeably different to help the young viewers. For example in Disney’s Little Mermaid the negative character is the only one to have an octopus’ lower body, this distinguishes her from the positive merpeople. Her dark colour palate further emphasises the difference and intensifies her evil nature. This parallel can be further extended by the observation that in the cartoon both the good and the bad are hybrids. Hybridity in itself is not bad, as was already mentioned angels in essence are hybrids, hybridity helps intensify the divinity, and create a feeling of wonder. However the same form cannot be used to represent both ultimate good and ultimate evil, for God and for the Devil.
And again I feel obliged to conclude that Disney makes everything better and it is everywhere.

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