The Disneyfication of diversity

Written by – Dupont Lajoie
Artwork by – Violette Simard

A preview trailer for the upcoming live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid, starring Halle Bailey, has been unveiled. It would be an understatement to say that it hasn’t stoked a new round of social division and polarised public opinion, yet again.

For some, the casting of a black actress as Ariel the mermaid was celebrated and reflected Disney’s pledge to represent diversity through the characters in its films.

Others perceived Ariel’s racial switching as a slight against Hans Christian Andersen’s original tale and European culture.

Ironically, this argument that has sparked a firestorm on Twitter is directed at the perception of Disney movies’ inherent mediocrity. They offered little more than a sterile and Manichaean lecture about a world devoid of all nuance in which good meets evil – some might even say a woke perception: black against white, oppressor against oppressed, and so on.

We have to understand that Disney has successfully imposed its vision of the original oeuvre on the world by annihilating the initial intent of the author. No one knows The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, but everybody knows The Little Mermaid by Disney.

Similarly, who remembers the original stories of Hercules, Cinderella, Mulan, or Aladdin and their cultural anchorage beside the version proposed by Disney?

In short, our representation of the world and our imagination have been tainted by Disney. This capitalist multinational has merchandised our imagination and shattered our mental conceptualisation.

The standardisation, the cultural homogenisation of fairy tales, has obliterated the real diversity in society. We are witnessing a Disneyfication of the world.

In reality, the debate over the casting of a black Little Mermaid is emblematic of the generational divide between those who yearn for the “good old days,” where “people were chosen based on talent and not their skin colour,” and the new “customers,” a population that views the incorporation of diversity as a triumph and an emancipation from the natural monopoly the dominant group has had when it comes to on-screen representation.

The traditional audience wants Disney to produce cultural merchandise that conforms to their vision of the world (which was ironically carved by Disney).

The new customers, ardent critics of a former empire that supposedly imposed “whiteness” and “white supremacy”, allow a private company to impose on them a conception of the world, to accelerate their integration into a modern empire, a commercial empire, an omnipresent cultural empire… a machine that swallows all particularism only to regurgitate them into a uniform product exportable everywhere around the world, ready to be consumed, along with its batch of merchandising.

Disney is the coloniser of our minds.

Furthermore, Disney manages to give us the illusion of variation by pillaging tales and stories from diverse societal heritage: the Pacific with Moana, China with Mulan, France with the hunchback of Notre Dame, and America with Pocahontas. In reality, all those movies have the same story, the same narrative structure, and the same direction.

Disney’s standardisation of production results in uniformity as opposed to a genuine diversity of cultural values and narratives. The opposite of diversity.

Disney is nothing more than a capitalist multinational that feeds on societal elements to make a profit.

As an example, in 2013, the company attempted to copyright the Day of the Dead, a traditional Mexican holiday, and in 2003, the trademark of the Swahili expression “Hakuna Matata” (no worries) was approved for registration. The Lion King is allegedly a plagiarism of “Kimba the White Lion”, a Japanese anime series. With corporations like Disney, we have allowed ourselves to abandon our folk culture originating from the base (the people) in favour of a pop culture originating from above (a capitalist multinational).

Therefore, who can blame Disney for realising that the only way to turn a profit and stay relevant was to pledge allegiance to this new generation of consumers, the “diverse” target market, and thus mask the mediocrity inherent in its production?

As an added bonus for Disney, Halle Bailey’s “controversial” casting as Ariel prevents any constructive criticism. Detractors are silenced with accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia, and all the other “isms,” depending on the “identity” of the person in question.

Ultimately, this allows Disney to produce low-quality, mediocre movies under the guise of multiculturalism, inclusion and liberalisation. The radical left applauds this superficial race swapping in European folklore, rather than promoting tales and stories from other cultures, in films written, played, and directed with different societal references, such as Bollywood or the Hong Kong film industry.

True cultural diversity died with the rise of mass culture. It has degenerated into a sort of spectacle, an intellectual misery whose zenith was the pointless debate over a mermaid’s skin tone.

This neo-capitalist, Disneyfication of the world, industrialization of culture, and unwavering adherence to it involves the denial of the authentic narratives of other cultures’ histories and traditions.

The debate over The Little Mermaid should not be one of “white vs. black,” but of folk culture vs. pop culture, authenticity vs. superficiality. In reality, we should be neither outraged nor pleased by the skin tone of a fictional mermaid; rather, we should deplore the sheer commercialization of our traditions and cultures.

Dupont Lajoie is a French free thinker and indie author living in London. Currently in his early 40s, he chose his pen name in reference to the drama film directed by Yves Boisset in 1975, known in English as “The Common Man”, that depict a simplistic caricature of ordinary people, the “average Frenchman”: cowardly, racist, odious and murderous.

Dupont has strived to explain the roots of the demonisation of the indigenous working class in his first essay: “Understanding Postmodern Fascism: A brief history of the woke ideology.” The book is a polemical pamphlet recounting the rise of the modern left, the progressive libertarian ideology deriving from the cultural Marxism philosophy.

Beside writing, Dupont enjoyed reading, music and watching political debates