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People Abandoned Disney Over Terrible Storytelling, Not Primarily Politics


Which is more important for a movie: a compelling story or ideology?

If you found yourself among those with an internal monologue, you likely answered “compelling story.” If so, I’m sorry to inform you that this means you are a mouth-breathing troglodyte — at least according to the folks over at Disney. 

Responding to recent criticisms of Disney and its CEO Bob Iger, an executive at the House of Mouse suggested to Puck writer Matthew Belloni that moviegoers’ latent bigotry is to blame for the studio’s many flops in recent years.

“Everyone says, ‘It’s the movies, stupid,’” the unnamed executive said, “which is an easy thing for people to say.” 

“More appealing movies are a great way to jump the political issues. But more and more, our audience (or the segment of the audience that has been politicized) equate the perceived messaging in a film as a quality issue,” the executive continued. “They won’t say they find female empowerment distasteful … but they will say they don’t like those movies because they are ‘bad.’”

He concludes, “‘[M]ake better movies’ becomes code for ‘make movies that conform to regressive gender stereotypes or put men front and center in the narrative.’ Which is what you’re seeing now, and what Bob [Iger]’s pivot is about right now.”

The simple fact of the matter is that, overwhelmingly, people don’t actually care if their entertainment is ideological, but they do care if it sucks — which many of Disney’s recent releases do. Disney’s lackluster success in recent years has little, if anything, to do with their products being ideological. It has everything to do with the elevation of ideology over storytelling.

Suffice it to say that Disney’s ideological messaging over the last several years is a cultural cancer that deserves to be booed, jeered, and boycotted, but the reality is that people don’t mind patronizing a business with which they disagree so long as they receive a quality product, which Disney movies no longer appear to be.

Prioritizing “the message” while neglecting the mechanism that effectively conveys it is why people have checked out. Countless movies successfully launder ideology into the masses while not compromising on the story.

Recent releases like “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” and even classic films like “Casablanca” (Rick fought for the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, after all), have clear left-wing sympathies, but that isn’t why they were so successful.

They were largely successful because their stories were compelling and insightful and took precedence over “the message.”

Disney could very easily correct course and, once again, delight people instead of patronizing them. It simply requires understanding what stories are for and who they are meant to serve. But this would require self-awareness and respect for those who helped them become the monolith they are; the studio has neither and has chosen to bronze the gold bar that was its cultural carte blanche. 

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