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  • Lance Mannion
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mac macgillicuddy

To a certain extent, the root cause of this problem is Shakespeare. But let's not blame Shakespeare for it. The root may be Shakespeare, but it's actually everyone's misreading of one particular scene in Hamlet, made even worse by misreading it OUT OF CONTEXT, in which Polonius tells his son, "To thine own self me true." (I can never recite this line without remembering the Gilligan's Island episode in which they did a musical version of Hamlet, and sang, "Do not forget, stay out of debt!") Polonius' advice reads like an aphorism, like a moral from Aesop -- but it's actually intended to be a moral from a sop. Polonius is a fool, and he is advising his foolish son. Shakespeare most likely did not for a minute expect his audience to take this "advice." He most likely knew that, with an Elizabethan sensibility, everyone would understand that in this context, they ought to do exactly the opposite. And, certainly, if they had children, they would never give this advice to them and expect good results.

So, too bad people take their advice from Gilligan instead of the context of Shakespeare's "Hamlet."

By the way, do not forget that Hamlet spends most of the play struggling with following his heart and doing his duty, and wondering even if his duty is just a figment of his dark heart's imagination. No wonder he wants to kill himself but rapes Ophelia instead.


Could it possibly be that these movies -- the Disney direct-to-video swill you somehow keep buying -- are just cynically churned-out anaesthesia meant to milk egregious profits out of the need for parents to stun and hypnotize their children so they can have five seconds of peace? I mean, you say that kids learn a lot from the stories they're told, and that's absolutely right, but would you be so cavalier with their diet? "OK OK OK, here's something I picked up on impulse at the checkout line at Target. Now eat this and shut up." The imagination can be stunted or nourished just like the body.

The morality vs. art argument can wait, methinks. Get your kids some better stories. And if they scream and cry about what they want -- well, it's a perfect time to put your heart theory into action, right?

mac macgillicuddy

Well, that's not being very nice!


Christopher Hitchens wrote a funny column about the Woody Allen Business that said (paraphrasing), "Take any popular saying/proverb/whatever containing the word 'heart,' substitute 'dick' and you'll have a much truer statement."

The Dick is a Lonely Hunter
I Lost My Dick in San Francisco

And, of course, Woody's famous justification: "The (dick) wants what it wants."


a plague on all their houses. Who exactly lets their kids watch this stuff? Why not just purchase large quantities of soporific drugs and be done. I believe that you sir(lance the m) just recently ranted against watching videos in the car. If people are learning their life lessons from disney fantasies, this explains the last election. Although, your blog is still excellent (what's a little hypocrisy among friends).

j. bryant

OK - so many disagreements with you -- but let's start with this: I think you describe Mulan saying she does the right thing by going against the norm ("duty" apparently being to follow the norm) by saying in this case she is trying to save her father's life. So you say she is kind of following her heart but not the way they mean it in Mulan II (although you haven't seen it but you're saying you've seen its ilk). I haven't seen it either so I don't know if it's good or bad but...Doesn't Mulan I's father starts out trying to explain what his duty is and he follows it but - it is not at odds with his heart (full of bats, spiders, etc.) I think the parental job is to help shape the immature heart so duty is part of it....and their heart has to tell them what real duty it to society's petty mores (should we bring in Age of Innocence?), is it to the real Christianity (I'm not talking the cherry-picking Bush type), is it to - I don't know - the Hitler Youth (how do you overcome that kind of teaching at a very young age) - would women have ever gotten the vote if they followed duty because I do believe I know what their "duty" was considered at the time. Luckily there is a strong backlash against feminazis and maybe we can have women back doing their duty - perhaps getting those good marriages their parents help them with to the guy with the most money, their good careers as their husbands often (to this day) want them to have as housewives....Okay - I'm going way off now - I'll just say I disagree that duty and heart are mutually exclusive.

But --- first comment --- Ophelia raped by Hamlet? I know the Polonius blowhardicus speech - I don't know if what he says is of no value but I believe the point is he just likes to hear himself speak and the topics are extremely lofty or they've heard him too many times - whatever. But Ophelia raped by Hamlet...I'm curious about that one.

roy edroso

Seriously, Lance, how do you do this reasonable thing? I start to froth at the mouth as soon as I open Blogger. Is it a Typepad feature?

harry near indy

i'm gonna side with roy on this one.

the trouble with the art that the wingnuts want is that it's boring and makes a point by hitting you over the head with it -- much like the socialist realism school of communism art.

and there are many, many parallels between the wingnut and commie outlook.

in contrast, i remember seeing tootsie back in 1982 and finally realized that i should start treating women with more respect. i got that point from it, altho' it wasn't that blatant. you could always laff at dustin hoffman in drag.

a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in a most delightful way.



You should switch from Blogger. Whenever you open up Typepad's compose a new post page images of pixies and baby animals dance across the screen, mpegs of beautiful women strolling through flowery meadows automatically download, and the sounds of babbling brooks and chirping birds come through your speakers. It's very calming.

Actually, I think the difference is the difference between the guys on the front line and the guys in the rear echelons. You spend a lot of time crossing over into enemy territory, regularly reading the likes of Kate Marie, the ole perfessor, Lileks, and Simon, while I sit back here and play cards with the generals' wives, have my uniforms altered by Saville Row tailors, and wait to read the reports you send back. "Dear me," I say as I look over one of your singed and bullet torn dispathes, "It appears Edroso's having it a bit rough up there at the front again, brave fellow."

Kate Marie

I think many of you are misinterpreting my use of Antigone and The Age of Innnocence to suit your notions, perhaps pre-conceived, of my "right-wing wingnut" ideas. I would never suggest that great works of art like Antigone and The Age of Innocence can be reduced to "bumper sticker morality." My intent was to point out how great works of art take the conflicts they present seriously -- that they don't provide us with bumper sticker notions of concepts like duty and tradition, even when they can be plausibly interpreted as favoring the "other side" (which is arguably the case in The Age of Innocence). My objection was to the stupidity of the endlessly repeated "follow your heart" mantra. Children's or "family" entertainment needn't be vapid and artless. Is that a right wing notion?

Kate Marie

"the trouble with the art that the wingnuts want is that it's boring and makes a point by hitting you over the head with it -- much like the socialist realism school of communism art"

-- But Mulan II is precisely the kind of art (I use the term loosely) that is boring and hits you over the head with its message.

Where in my post do I advocate such a view of art?

Aaron Swartz

"Followed hearts generally do not lead children into good grades, good company, decent colleges, and stable marriages."

What makes you think this?

Jason Miller

Hello, everyone.

Longtime reader...

Lance, as an antidote to what's making you sad, may I recommend the amazing work of Hayao Miyazaki, in particular Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service, and My Neighbor Totoro. Themes of duty to family, responsiblity, kindness, mercy, compassion, tolerance (that is, actual tolerance, not the political variety), and respect blend to form a delicious broth.

Plus, no shock of realizing that Disney's Captain John Smith was modeled after Hugh Grant!

Everybody wins.

Mike G

Dang, I was about to post something about Miyazaki and I see the very last post before me did so. But I will anyway. Miyazaki's heroines usually find their way into the world by finding a job, sticking to it and performing it well, thus demonstrating a growth in maturity. A weirdly conformist ambition for a cartoon heroine, you might say, but it's amazing how satisfying it is in his hands. (Good profile of him in the New Yorker 3-4 weeks back, by the way.)

I agree that some of this is reading way too much into a Disney movie. Which as a genre usually achieve the blissful incoherence of Beauty and the Beast, in which a girl's reward for not being taken in by appearances and status is... a handsome prince. But Miyazaki proves it can be capable of more.


Jason and Mike G, Good recommendations. We've seen and enjoyed Spirited Away and Kiki. Will have to check out My neighbor Totoro.

Disney can't be blamed for the ending of Beauty and the Beast. That's in the original fairy tale. Plus I think we're supposed to see the Prince's handsomeness as metaphorical.

Jason Miller

Ah, yes, Totoro. See it, Lance, and never again look at an ordinary bus without disappointment.

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