Ed. Note: As a father of two young daughters, our television is typically tuned into the latest heaping slop from the likes of Disney, Nickelodeon, Pixar, and other billion-dollar corporations looking to fleece moms and dads (like myself) out of mountains of moulah to keep their youngsters shut-the-hell-up long enough to allow parents to zone out for a few moments each day, I am starting a new review series of our ‘favorite’ children’s entertainment.
As a parent who cares about my children deeply, I often find myself analyzing the good, the bad, and the crazy that abounds in children’s entertainment so that I can choose appropriate content for my kids to watch — all while taking comfort in the notion that good quality family entertainment builds strong moral character. And classic Disney movies have it all.
Re-watching these titles some thirty years later sheds light on society’s norms and values at the time of the films’ release — particularly less-than-veiled values of sexism, misogyny, and racism. These factors surely explain why, in today’s America, we are still collectively backwards sons-of-bitches in our heart of hearts (or is it “hearts of heartses?).
Let’s start this series with one of Disney’s first offerings: 1941’s “Dumbo.”
Dumbo is a story about an underdog. Dumbo is a story about discovery of one’s inner potential. Dumbo is a story of a “chosen son” who overcomes his physical deficiencies through an accidental dosage of hallucinogenic champagne that randomly helped the protagonist discover his hidden talent. Dumbo is a lot of things and more, and after watching this more recently, I realize it has truly helped youngsters dating back from decades ago up through today’s modern society to learn several of life’s key lessons.
As a middle-aged American, I — like many others of my generation — have been subjected to hours, months, and ultimately many years of meticulously crafted entertainment from the Disney Company. Consciously, we view Disney as a hallmark of purity and high-quality family entertainment that espouses only the highest morals and family values. But under the surface, there is more than meets the eye.
Now, as a fatter, older, and surly grey-haired father of two girls, I am subjected to Disney movies and cartoons at an unprecedented rate. Through all of this, I also see a stark formula readily apparent in these films that I watched casually over the last 30-plus years and films that I am now forced to watch religiously. And it is quite troubling.
What is this Disney formula so ubiquitously found throughout its entire catalog? After watching “Little Mermaid” a few times over the past day or two (it’s playing on our DVD player as I type), I realize that from a father’s perspective, this plot is a direct kick-to-the nuts for dads everywhere. It is probably no better for mothers, either, though I suspect many moms grew up loving this freakin’ movie. Most of all, this formula is even worse for the little girls who watch this movie and are thereby expected to pattern their life’s path to parallel a fictional mermaid princess that exists in an absurd universe of fairy tales and magic spells.
I have spent the past week watching over my daughter as the virtual sole caretaker. Through it all, I was aiming for greatness.
When it comes to watching over and caring for their daughters, fathers seek to create a lifelong bond with their female offspring built upon trust, protection and fond moments of truly connecting on the deepest of levels that will remain with us for the rest of our lives.
This is not easy. Perhaps this ideal is impossible and is best portrayed not in reality, but in the dreamscape of television and movies. Some fathers in the real world aim to equal fictional icons like Danny Tanner on “Full House,” those two dads from “My Two Dads,” or maybe even Steve Martin in “Father of the Bride.” I, however, shoot for the best display of fatherhood ever committed to film: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s heartwarming and awe-inspiring depiction of daddy dearest in his role as John Matrix in 1985’s “Commando.”
Most people who have seen this movie remember it fondly for its high body count and fantastic (some say cheesy, I say fantastic) one-liners dispensed from Arnold Schwarzenegger at a pace nearly as rapid as his fully automatic machine gun spits out deadly rounds at his victims-to-be. What many forget is that this story is perhaps the greatest exhibition of a father’s love for his daughter ever, fiction or reality.
While this theme ultimately centers upon merciless revenge enacted upon hundreds of people for conspiring to kidnap his daughter, Schwarzenegger truly shows what it means to be “dear old dad” in the early and oft-forgotten scenes of this cinematic masterpiece. Continue reading →
Shob cheye metal. For those of you who are neophytes to the Bengali language (i.e., anybody who is reading this outside of Bangladesh), the headline translates roughly to “more metal than all.” Why is this, you ask? At the end of the long and winding trail that brought my family and I back to Bangladesh, I am pleased to report that heavy metal music is alive and well in the soul of Bengal.
Contrary to what English speakers of planet Earth or dogmatic adherents of monotheistic religions may believe, music is often referred to as the universal language that binds us and brings us together in unfettered harmony and happiness. Nowhere does this sentiment ring truer than among heavy metal aficionados throughout the world, where mere 64th notes, guitar squeals, and blast beats coalesce into a community of initiates who proudly raise the banner of metal music with vigor in every land.
Can you feel the warm caress of summer in the air? It is almost May and the forlorn days of huddling underneath old quilts while burrowing your behind into the deepening crevice on the couch are all but gone. For many, May carries the promise of picnics in grassy green pastures and worshiping the sun near glistening crystal waters and white sandy beaches.
In a devilish act to deny us these simple pleasures, evil men behind the thickest of curtains endlessly plot to spoil this summer daydream. You see, each May, the Hollywood Movie Machine unleashes a wretched stench of audio visual vainglory that lures the masses from their backyard barbecue pits into cold, darkened screening rooms in every last city, town and hamlet in America. Inside, an array of animation, 3-D, computer-generated special effects, explosions, cacophony, and the familiar plastic faces of celebrity actors eagerly await to separate every man, woman and child – even those under the age of 12 – from their lazily-earned dollar.
This year, the annual ritual continues with the same regurgitated ideas and lack of originality that have overrun Tinsel Town for decades. Worse, movie-goers will never recognize the extent of the sheer crappiness because it will all be disguised in 3-D.
What Can We Expect?
Audiences will once again be treated to stories of obscure comic book superheroes who face their own inner struggles while they battle other beings possessing superpowers. We will also be entertained by shape-shifting alien robots that protect humans from themselves and other shape-shifting alien robots amidst 90 minutes of non-stop explosions and terrible Linkin Park songs. Many of these will be sequels, or even sequels of sequels. Finally, the ubiquitous computer-animated features by Disney, Pixar, and a bevy of other scam artists operating under the guise of “family entertainment” will litter theaters everywhere, simultaneously entertaining six-year-old children and popcorn-inhaling adults alike.