In this episode, Emily, James, and John enter the Worrisome World-Making of Disney (™) via How to Read Donald Duck, a 1971 Chilean Marxist critique of the American imperial-capitalist project of Disney, republished in 2018. Our trio approaches the book in form and content, and they discuss its social opposition through state censorship — whether as literal book-burning under the Pinochet regime or the banal violence of copyright infringement litigation in the United States — as well as praise the clarity of its cultural studies analysis of the Donald Duck comic strip (1938-1995). The comic, let us remind you, depicted the bourgeois imaginaries of the ne’er-do-well Donald Duck; his miserly ol’ Uncle Scrooge McDuck; everyone’s pal Daisy; our favorite triplets Huey, Dewey, and Louis; and all the aspiring burghers of Duckburg…and the realms beyond.
Does the “fantasia” and “magic of Disney” truly serve to mystify the processes of primitive accumulation? Is Scrooge McDuck’s Monroe-Doctrine, Robber-baron aesthetic the farcical return of Hobbes’ Leviathan? What might the fetishization of gold teach children about the value of labor? Why are there only uncles and aunts in Duckburg? What happened to production, reproduction, labor, class, and social antagonism? What does Donald Duck make invisible, and what does it seek to make natural? Is Donald Trump Scrooge? Is the Marvel Cinematic Universe the bourgeois ideology machine of our time?
Bonus: Find out why you should be simultaneously terrified of the acronym E.P.C.O.T. and grateful Walt Disney’s delusions of grandeur sank right back into the swampy Florida glades from which they sprung. Double bonus: critical mallard studies.
Always Already Medici Club patron Jason H requested we discuss this book, thank you Jason! Requests for texts for us to discuss? Dreams for us to interpret? Advice questions for us to answer? Email us at alwaysalreadypodcast AT gmail DOT com. Subscribe on iTunes. Follow us on Twitter. Like our Facebook page. RSS feed here. Patreon here. Thanks to Bad Infinity for the intro music, “Post Digital,” from their album FutureCommons; always already thanks to B for the outro music. For the mp3 of the episode click here.
- How to Read Donald Duck, OR Books
- Ariel Dorfman in the Guardian
- New Yorker review
- Defunctland: E.P.C.O.T.
- Donald Trump or Scrooge McDuck
- follow Zero Sum Empire podcast on Twitter
- Naomi Klein on the Chicago Boys in Chile
- Jean Baudrillard on Disney, Disneyland, and America, in “Simulacra and Simulations”