I know you’re probably thinking “B. F. Freakin’ O.” [Brilliant flash of the obvious.] Of course Mickey Mouse is Everyman. That’s nothing new. In fact, much of the critical research I’ve been reading since starting this dissertation thingy say the exact same thing—Mickey Mouse is Everyman. Why? Because he plays down-to-earth characters in all of his shorts who gets into down-to-earth, albeit hilarious, situations. He has a good heart, and more often than not, does not start his adventure with the intent of hurting anyone. John Hench, I believe, has famously described his mandalic features, suggesting that Mickey is popular because he’s made of circles, which are the most nurturing and gentle of all geometric shapes (and their composition in Mickey’s head stirs up memories of Mommy—I like the idea, but I don’t run away with it).
So I recently scored a used copy of the Disney Treasures Pluto collection, volume 1. As much as I’d love to utilize my D23 membership to get the awesome boxed set that contains almost all of the Treasures to date, it’s super-expensive. Like $500 expensive. But that’s neither here nor there.
The first cartoon I watched on the collection is “The Chain Gang,” which I think is one of Pluto’s first appearances as a police dog. He hasn’t become Mickey’s friend yet, but, as we all know, he does and also is one of the primary Mickey and friends characters. Watching this cartoon really cemented the Mickey as Everyman thing—What makes Mickey Everyman is that he has no clear racial indicator. He is neither black nor white. In fact, he’s both. He not only embraces “the common man” but he embraces all skin tones and cultural backgrounds. This is significant, given that he was born prior to desegregation. Walt Disney seems to be suggesting that Mickey Mouse is American, and that distinction has nothing to do with race, class or creed. He just is.
So this is one more feather in the cap toward Walt Disney’s Utopia. I have long held the belief that the secret to overcoming racial tensions is to stop using any of the negative terms or behaviors associated with them—but this should not be to the expense of diversity. Every culture group should be allowed to embrace it’s heritage, but that heritage should be celebrated and not used against anyone for malicious reasons. I grew up in the South, and while my school district did a really good job of celebrating diversity, I saw a different world on the school bus.
Mickey Mouse stands as a champion of a world without the tension and negativity, which brings me to another crucial point. Rolly May points out that the myths will precede the history. The stories have to become ingrained in our psyche before we can make them happen. Thinking about some other utopias from the 60s (Star Trek comes to mind), is it possible that the Utopia that Walt dreamed about is around the corner?
To wrap up this post, I googled some images of utopia and came across the following interesting tidbits:
|This is a picture from an SMU faculty web page, and looks to be a woodcut of More’s Utopia||And this is a picture of Walt Disney with the original concept of Disneyland. The main similarity is in the heart-shape of the layout. Is this a crucial element of a Utopia?|
And then I found this: Mickey Mouse is Corrupting Our Youth and Destroying Our Childhoods (link). I’m not sure what, beyond shaking my head, to think of this article, but the fear of Utopia is legitimate in our culture of Individualism, no?