that most important of choices, the marriagerndecision. It was once axiomaticrnthat, since Similia simili gaudet, the wisestrncourse was for hke to marry like, forrnthe background of your spouse to resemblernyour own to foster a harmonious, empatheticrnmarriage. The widespread violationrnof this common-sense axiom inrnrecent decades is surely one of the reasonsrnfor our extremely high divorce rates.rnYet the Disney canon has reveled morernand more in pitting parent against childrnanent this most crucial decision, and reveledrnstill more in bestowing victory uponrnthe wayward know-it-all child.rnIn Disney’s recent The Hunchback ofrnNotre Dame, the artistic reality of thernHugo novel has been snatched, and notrnmerely revised, but replaced. MinisterrnFrollo is obsessed with eliminating thernGypsy presence from Paris. He is a pietymouthingrnhypocrite who is capable ofrnany cruelty in the name of law and order.rnQuasimodo is his prisoner in the belltowerrnof Notre Dame, brainwashed intornbelieving he is a “monster” who can neverrnparticipate in the outside world. Thernlink between Quasimodo and the Gypsiesrnis explicit. “I’m not—normal,” sadlyrnexplains Q to his gyrating gargoyle palsrnVictor, Hugo, and Laverne. Just as Q isrnfar more sympathetic a character thanrnthat champion of normality, Frollo, sornthe Gypsies are shown to be unjustly maligned,rninnocent outcasts who pray forrnGod’s help for “people who are different”rnwhile the “straight” Christians bayrninstead for riches, fame, and glory.rnEsmeralda is a beautiful aquamarineeyedrnGypsy girl who dances like a hourirnbut is pure, even frigid at heart. She entrancesrnthe foul Frollo, who vows to havernher even if all Paris has to burn. She alsornwins Quasimodo’s heart, and, in perhapsrnthe film’s weirdest scene, a productionrnnumber worthy of Springtime for Hitler,rnthe gargoyles egg him on to believe herncould win her, too. Meanwhile, CaptainrnPhoebus has come to Paris from thernprovincial wars as Minister Frollo’s second-rnin-command. Looking exactly likernthe Disney John Smith of Pocahontas,rnPhoebus reprises the Smith role of blondrnsap set up to lure the audience into thernfilm’s agenda, another eye-rolling, jivetalkingrnstooge for the relentless ressentirnentrnof the outcasts, who convert him torntheir side in no time flat. Phoebus,rnvoiced by Kevin Kline, and Esmeralda,rnvoiced by Demi Moore, are the mostrnobnoxiously modern pair of smart aleckrnlovers yet hatched by Disney. Samplernrepartee: “You handle a sword well—forrna woman.” “Funny, I was just going torntell you the same thing.”rnAll the action comes to a head onrn”Topsy Turvy Day,” Disneyspeak forrnthose pagan/peasant festivals of “thernworld turned upside down” that set servantrnover master for a day. To Disney,rnhowever, every day should crown thernclown king; cartoon anarchy should reignrnsupreme, not merely leaven the dailyrnbread won of toil, tears, sweat, and blood.rnDisney affects to want a society dedicatedrnto the Gypsy Prinzip, but Gypsies dornnot build societies, they parasitize them,rnat best colorfully and entertainingly; andrntheir “Christianity,” contrary to the Disneyrnfantasy, is far more Haitian thanrnParisian, or so all civilizations familiarrnwith real Gypsies have concluded.rnVictor Hugo’s novel has much in commonrnwith Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,rnwhich preceded it by 13 years. Eachrnseems to be an inescapably tragic visionrnof the outsider’s longing for love and assimilation.rnWhile the reader’s heart mayrnbe rent by the pathetic account, theserngreat novels do not shrink from hardrntruth. Only death pacifies the longingrnfor what cannot be. Disney’s Hunchbackrnmust have it both ways, of course, feedingrnFrollo to the demons of Hell, wrappingrnPhoebus and Esmeralda in eachrnother’s arms and sending Quasimodornhappily off to play with some children, asrnif that will compensate for never knowingrnEsmeralda’s love. A happy, Disneyfiedrnending, it would seem.rnTo Paul Goldberger of the New YorkrnTimes, The Hunchback of Notre Dame “isrnmerely the latest and most spectacularrnevidence of how our popular culturernis literally devouring itself, a mawrnthat grinds all in its path into a form ofrncommercial entertainment.” Disneyrn”doesn’t seem to believe that audiencesrncan handle pain, or hard edges, or ambiguity.rn[The film is] not high culture,rnwith its tradition of complexity andrnambiguity; yet it isn’t quite pure, justfor-rnfun pop culture, either. Maybe wernshould call it Disingenuous Culture.”rnGoldberger’s critique is insightful butrndoes not go far enough. The sentimentalizedrnending is not the principal subversionrnintended by Disney. There is arnclear direction, an agenda to the recentrnDisney oeuvre, and it merely uses literaturern(and history) for “name recognition,”rnto provide both hook and cover tornsell its propaganda. And we continue tornbuy because, borne on the momentumrnof the expressive and technical breakthroughsrnmade by eariier generations ofrnartists, musicians, storytellers, and lyricists,rnDisney can surf that ebbing inertialrnwave with style. Hunchback’s score, reminiscentrnof Mary Poppins and Beauty andrnthe Beast, is well crafted, and the computer-rnenhanced animation is gripping;rnthe credits list literally hundreds of animators,rnassistants, roughness inbetweeners,rncleanup artists, visual effects animators,rncomputer and digital technicians,rnscene planners, checkers, color stylists,rnpainters, compositors, editors of everyrnsort, choreographers, technical managers,rnFoley artists, production assistants,rnetc., etc. (no mention of Victor Hugo).rnThe principal subversion is not thernhappy ending, but the stylized hatred ofrnstraight, mainstream, adult society. Backrnwhen actual adults were in charge, thisrnvision of kids in control, of the inmatesrntaking over the asylum, was a harmlessrndistraction. But now look who’s president.rnAnd look at the ugly chaos spreadingrnthroughout the school system andrnwherever else youth congregates; nihilismrnis no longer just a cartoon.rnWhat next for Disney? The trajectoryrnis only too calculable. If Beauty can marryrnthe Beast, if Princess Jasmine can marryrna street Arab, if the minister is a monsterrnand the monster a mensch, surelyrnLord of the Flies is ripe for a remake.rnRewrite the bits biased against the pig’sheadrnbrotherhood, leave out thoserngrownups showing up and spoiling thernfun in the end. Or perhaps the heartwarmingrntale of two gay mice (one black,rnone white) living and loving in GreenwichrnVillage.rnThen there is the temporarily stalledrnproject to build “Disney’s America,” arnsort of virtual reality Washington, D.C.rnAfter the professional wrecking crew atrnDisney gets finished with our nationalrnhistory, Pocahontasizing the Europeanrnencounter with Amerindians, deletingrnthe stubborn ambiguities of the slave systemrn(just as the classic Song of the Southrnhas vanished from the Disney canon),rnsetting noble animatronic FDRs and BillrnClintons to preside over the “progressive”rnversion of America, extolling the joys ofrnunlimited immigration with an “It’s ArnSmall World” gala, the body of our pastrnwill have been truly snatched. Now thatrnDisney has bought Capital Cities/ABCrnfor $18.8 billion, making it for the momentrnsecond only to the Time WarncrAurnerrngiga-entity as the world’srnlargest entertainment conglomerate, thernNOVEMBER 1996/47rnrnrn