How Disney Managed to offend me by depicting someone like me on stage – badly

This last week, I’ve been on vacation.  We were on the newest ship in the Disney cruise line, the Fantasy.  I’m not going to go into too much detail about the ship aside from noting that it is a beautiful ship filled to overflowing with Mickey Mouse.  I mean, if Mickey Mouse was a unit of measurement, the ship would bury the needle.  At one point, I was convinced that the propellers were designed to kick up a wake that would look like Mickey Mouse. As with most cruise lines, Disney featured several high quality production shows for evening entertainment.  One of those was a show created for the Fantasy called “Believe.” Disney produces schmaltzy shows.  That is their business.

Most people love that.  Hell, I love that.  I’m willing to watch fifteen different versions of “Be our Guest” because it is all kinds of magical.  They invite your inner kid to come out and play and they have some pretty wonderful toys.

“Believe” was one of the better shows Disney has produced for their cruise line.  They included some obscure music and characters from films that don’t usually get a lot of attention (notably The Sword in the Stone), lots of music that the crowd knew extremely well (“The Circle of Life”) and the production values and performances were fantastic.

I hated it.

The show opened with a father trying hard to get his prized flower to bloom before some people came to evaluate it that afternoon.  His daughter came in and tried to get him to stop working because it was her birthday and he’d promised her that he’d spend the day with her.  In the end, she told him that he just needed to believe in fairies and he said no, he was going to rely on science to solve his problem.  Then he told her that maybe later he’d do something with her but right now, his flower was more important.

Aladdin’s Genie showed up to get him to believe in magic and, because this is Disney, he eventually did. So we have someone who is a scientist needing to be taught how to believe in fairies so his flower can grow.

At one point, he not so subtly dropped to his knees in a position of prayer asking for guidance.  While he is actually asking for help from Aladdin’s genie, the subtext could not have been lost on any of the devout Christians in the audience. Nor could it be lost that the father – while never identified as an atheist – was clearly a non-believer and that was a problem.

Let me say here that I didn’t have a problem with the fact that in the context of the show, magic was real and the dad was being obstinate to a fault.

When I watch a movie which has established magic as part of its reality, I’m fine with it.  Movies are fiction and as such are not required to hold to the laws of nature as we understand them. This show was also fiction.  A dad who doesn’t believe in magic and has to be convinced it is real?  Sure, OK.

Here’s the problem – the implication of the show wasn’t just that he was blinded to a greater reality by science.  The main implication was that his belief in science made him a bad father.

It wasn’t until he realized that his daughter was more important than a flower that he was able to accept that magic was real.  That was my problem with the show and it was one I couldn’t get past.  We have someone who believes science is the key to solving a problem with a plant (something most botanists would agree with) and that belief, somehow, means that he doesn’t notice what a dick move it is for him to be more concerned with a plant than he is with his daughter.

Given the climate in which we live – one were the findings of scientists are regularly questioned by people who think they know more than the people doing the research – it should come as no surprise that we’d see a characterization like this.  Someone who believes in science is an easy target.  The majority of audience members will see nothing wrong with poking fun at someone who is just too serious and in their mind, scientists are just a bunch of humorless non believers.

But when did we lose sight of the fact that science is cool? I continue to believe that evolution is way more interesting than the idea of all the species on earth being planted here like petunias.  I dare someone to watch the way Carl Sagan poetically explores science in “Cosmos” and tell me that it is boring.

Why is a dad who is a botanist a bad dad?  And why does he need to abandon scientific thinking to realize that his daughter is the most important thing in his life?  And why is it that realization that makes his flower bloom?

Hell, if they wanted to teach us the right lesson, he should have said “screw my flower – my daughter is more important” and that’s it.  No magically blooming flower.

If the show had a theme that alienated Christians, it would be edited out after the first performance.  And heaven forbid that Disney – a fairly gay friendly company – would ever depict an openly homosexual character on stage.  They’d be flooded with complaints.  But make an atheist look bad and they know full well nobody is going to say much.

Because, sadly enough, atheists are used to it.

Now I get that Disney is all about the magic and the fairy dust.  If fairy dust and happy thoughts could really make you fly, nobody would need to walk off one of their ships.

But their target was an unfair target.  Believing in science is not something that should be portrayed as shameful.  You don’t have to believe in magic to be a good parent.

Especially when the very clear subtext of the entire show was magic = god.

About Petsnakereggie

Geek, movie buff, dad, musician, comedian, atheist, liberal and writer. I also really like Taco flavored Doritos.

8 responses to “How Disney Managed to offend me by depicting someone like me on stage – badly”

  1. danielwalldammit says :

    Wow, that is pretty disgusting. The sad fact is that it’s a caricature that many people are prepared to believe in, no pun intended.

  2. americansecularist says :

    Pretty sad commentary on American life, if you ask me. Unfortunately, Disney knows its audience; I’m sure the cruise was filled with Bible-believers and their kids – if you need a bad guy for your ‘belief’ sketch, it has to be the unbeliever.

  3. John says :

    I dunno, Tim. It seems to me that he was a bad father. Period.
    He also just happened to be a scientist. OK.
    Now, you saw the show and I didn’t, but I think that he could be a good father and a Scientist, or a bad father and a Scientist … he could be a good father and a Theist, or a bad father and a theist … a good father and straight, or a bad father and straight … a good father and left-handed, or a bad father and left-handed.
    Maybe seeing the actual depiction would change my mind, but I don’t see the connection between his two characteristics as far as either one causing the other.

    • Petsnakereggie says :

      The entire show is based on the premise that he needed to believe in magic. When he didn’t believe, he neglected his daughter. When he did believe, he didn’t. So yes, I think it is quite easy to infer that his failure to believe in magic was directly correlated to his poor parenting choices.

  4. Youdontneedtoknow says :

    Your an ass. You are overanalyzing a simple little show for a cruise. No one said being a scientist made him a bad dad. All they are saying is that he was one person that was a bad dad. One god damn person. You need to lighten up. I’m sick and tired of people finding the littlest things to pick on Disney about. It makes me sick. Just shut up.

    • Petsnakereggie says :

      Please use the correct version of “You’re.” Come on.

      You know, I asked my wife about my response after the show and she had the exact same thoughts that I did. Doesn’t make me right or wrong or (in your opinion) any less of an ass but I did talk it over with another person to see if I was completely out of line.

      Also, I don’t go out of my way to find fault with Disney. Saying that proves you don’t have the slightest clue who I am so let me fill you in on a few facts:

      I’m a member of the Disney Vacation Club. I go to Walt Disney World approximately once a year. I’ve been on Eight Disney Cruises. I own pretty much every Disney Animated film ever released. Even The Black Cauldron.

      I Love Disney. That doesn’t mean that I must love everything they do. If you have a problem with that then you’re right, I’m an ass.

      • Youdontneedtoknow says :

        I’m not saying you’re the only one who picks on Disney like that. I’m just saying this is stupid and by making the assumption that Disney is saying bad things about who you are makes you an idiot. And you’re right you don’t have to love everything they do. I don’t love everything they do either. It’s just that this is ridiculous. You don’t even know for sure if they purposely made it seem like magic=god. That’s just stupid. I’m sorry you feel that way. Just try not to be so oversensitive.

      • Petsnakereggie says :

        Hey wow! Thanks for resorting to name calling! That is super mature. I’m no longer an ass – now I’m just an idiot.

        Please don’t apologize to me for how I feel. That isn’t an apology, it is just being condescending.

        Did they purposely make that analogy? I don’t know. I wasn’t invited to the story sessions. But when you have someone in a clearly Christian pose of supplication, the implication is there, whether it was intended or not.

        So I may be an over sensitive idiotic ass, but I saw what I saw, I responded how I responded and I’m not the least bit sorry for how I felt.

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