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The fairy tale may be one of the most important cultural and social influences on children's lives. But until Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion, little attention had been paid to the ways in which the writers and collectors of tales used traditional forms and genres in order to shape children's lives - their behavior, values, and relationship to society. As Jack Zipes convincingly shows, fairy tales have always been a powerful discourse, capable of being used to shape or destabilize attitudes and behavior within culture.
From wicked queens, beautiful princesses, elves, monsters, and goblins to giants, glass slippers, poisoned apples, magic keys, and mirrors, the characters and images of fairy tales have cast a spell over readers and audiences, both adults and children, for centuries. These fantastic stories have travelled across cultural borders, and been passed on from generation to generation, ever-changing, renewed with each re-telling.
In his latest iconoclastic work, Douglas Brode--the only academic author/scholar who dares to defend Disney entertainment--argues that "Uncle Walt's" output of films, television shows, theme parks, and spin-off items promoted diversity decades before such a concept gained popular currency in the 1990s. Fully understood, It's a Small World--one of the most popular attractions at the Disney theme parks--encapsulates Disney's prophetic vision of an appealingly varied world, each race respecting the uniqueness of all the others while simultaneously celebrating a common human core. In this pioneering volume, Brode makes a compelling case that Disney's consistently positive presentation of "difference"--whether it be race, gender, sexual orientation, ideology, or spirituality--provided the key paradigm for an eventual emergence of multiculturalism in our society. Using examples from dozens of films and TV programs, Brode demonstrates that Disney entertainment has consistently portrayed Native Americans, African Americans, women, gays, individual acceptance of one's sexual orientation, and alternatives to Judeo-Christian religious values in a highly positive light. Assuming a contrarian stance, Brode refutes the overwhelming body of "serious" criticism that dismisses Disney entertainment as racist and sexist. Instead, he reveals through close textual analysis how Disney introduced audiences to such politically correct principles as mainstream feminism. In so doing, Brode challenges the popular perception of Disney fare as a bland diet of programming that people around the world either uncritically deem acceptable for their children or angrily revile as reactionary pabulum for the masses. Providing a long overdue and thoroughly detailed alternative, Brode makes a highly convincing argument that with an unwavering commitment to racial diversity and sexual difference, coupled with a vast global popularity, Disney entertainment enabled those successive generations of impressionable youth who experienced it to create today's aura of multiculturalism and our politically correct value system.