The Little Mermaid and the Blaxploitation of Twitter

Black Twitter (aka the mostly-LGBT and Female African American contingency on Twitter) has become the cultural social media equivalent to 4chan and Reddit. It’s where all the shit is stirred, irreverent humor shared, tea sipped, and memes are generated.

Just like any other organic underground counter-culture, we seem to forget that the media–not to mention the social media platforms themselves–are fully aware of the existence of these things and how they can manipulate them to their advantage.

This is their game now. And we’re seeing it a lot more, recently. From the “Betsy Ross Nike” story where Colin Kaepernick supposedly got a worldwide chain to drop a patriotic shoe design because the 13-colony American Flag is “racist”…to “Why are there black people in ‘Star Wars?’…to “How dare they make Ariel black in the new live-action Little Mermaid reboot.

A company, usually Disney or Twitter itself (on behalf of Disney) will start a hashtag implying that racists are going crazy over something, then because of the anger generated on both sides, people start to get hyped up over it, slowly getting the attention of prominent media figures and journalists, who then pen articles and statements about the disgusting racial divide over our classic works of fantasy film. It’s a trick.

…After this media blow-up, people think they are now morally obligated to either see the movie to get back at 5 angry people who just got worked up on Twitter, or morally obligated to protest this condescending takeover of media with simple patronizing color-switches.

It’s usually a huge tell when you see one trending topic that actually represents a real (or fake) news story with 150,000 mentions and people voicing their opinions and sharing articles…and another trending topic just sparked from a random blog post with 40 mentions, difficult to find details, and utter confusion across the platform.

Twitter, Facebook, and Google are all working in tandem to create these narratives; and they’ve gone almost as far as to blatantly admit it.

In any respect that the frustration over casting Halle Bailey (a young black singer and actress) in The Little Mermaid is real, I believe the division is sociopolitical and not strictly racist. Certainly there are racists utilizing social media as well as those who indulge in race-hate-baiting for their own personal entertainment. But these groups make up such a small percentage of the conversation that they aren’t even worth mentioning in any serious sense.

Disney and the now-mainstream social platform-oriented Media want to grow the number of minority characters in our family films, and increase the number of female characters in our adult-oriented films.

There is nothing particularly wrong with either of those things on the surface, but the rationale and methodology is a bit more insidious. It is largely an attempt to erase and degrade what they see as a white male dominance across the entertainment industry both behind the scenes and on screen. Their existential solution acts as both contrition and self flagellation for the practices that they themselves created.

The problem, of course, is that now their focus has switched from making entertaining and universally successful products to making sure they check all of the “I’m Sorry” boxes.

For example, Disney knows that minority characters (black and hispanic) tend to not do as well overseas for the most part. There are always exceptions to the rule–for example Will Smith, despite the audience disapproval of his appearance in the live-action Aladdin, is very popular overseas.

They also know that their animated non-white character films tend to generate more universal appeal than, say…a live action movie about a black mermaid…or a live-action film about a Chinese woman who pretends to be a man in order to defeat the Hun army invading China. Mulan will be a financial disaster. Disney knows this and is trying to make up for it now.

In an attempt to make up for what they know will be huge financial bombs (read: these movies will still make money but not be the revelations that they get through Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar) the “we mean well” apologists drive a sociopolitical division in the West. “You NEED to see this movie or the racists WIN!” It’s the only way they can recoup their losses.

The business as it exists today is really about trying to manipulate the zeitgeist of sociopolitical division inherent in the West. If you’re looking at things from the standpoint that the media is trying to shove “diversity” into everything instead of creating honest and interesting new stories that everyone can enjoy together, it’s understandable that you’d feed into this #BoycottTheLittleMermaid nonsense, or whatever the hashtag is now.

The reality is that Disney knows The Little Mermaid is going to be a shitty movie. It was always going to be a shitty movie. Race has nothing to do with it. If you recall, they have been trying to make this movie happen for quite some time with various white leads in talks to be cast. Eventually, they realized the movie just didn’t work, and their only hope was to play the market. Children are undeterred. Little boys don’t care about the Little Mermaid and little girls don’t care about the race of the cast. So they’re out. What’s the secondary market? Millennial Parents. The most easily manipulated group on Earth.

If they had any confidence that their live-action Little Mermaid was any good, they wouldn’t have to employ this tactic in order to drum up false interest. They did the same thing with the new Star Wars trilogy. Drum up anger and divisiveness over the new cast. They know it sucks. So they need to create the controversy.

In contrast–they know the “live action” The Lion King will be good. So there’s no online backlash about the almost 100% Black cast. They know their subsequent Star Wars products will be well received, so that methodology dies down. They know their Disney/Pixar animated movies with diverse casts and minority characters won’t hurt sales at all, so they don’t need to stir up race hatred over those movies. They knew the same thing about Black Panther and about their recent decisions in the Marvel Universe to make female characters more prominent, and make Captain America, Iron Man, and Spider-Man’s girlfriend black. Nobody really cares about anything but quality.

But notice how that narrative changed to “If you support women, you’ll see CAPTAIN MARVEL!” They knew it was a shitty product and needed to add motivation to viewers who felt politically frustrated and attacked by their ideological opponents.

It’s all manipulation. And they know the fastest way to spread manipulative memes, especially when it comes down to racial identity and ideology, is through Black Twitter.

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Disney Pre-9/11 Video Vault: Hocus Pocus

HOCUS 2.jpgIt’s been far too long since the last Disney Pre-9/11 Video Vault–last November, actually! Not to pat myself on the back too much, but I think I picked the perfect film to cover this time around. Disney has recently announced its plan to remake a favorite amongst Millennials specifically for the Disney Channel. But isn’t every pre-9/11 Disney film a Millennial Holy Grail? Of course they are.

In the immediate aftermath of Clinton-era cruise missile attacks on Iraqi Intelligence Headquarters, Gian Ferri committed a mass shooting at 101 California Street leading to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. Weeks later, three things would happen: the Clinton Administration would enact “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” which allowed gays to serve in the military as long as they weren’t being gay about it, Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster was found dead amidst an ethics controversy, and a little horror comedy called Hocus Pocus was released to little critical or commercial success.

Hocus Pocus, directed by Disney superstar, Kenny Ortega, centers around three witches named Winifred (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy) and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker)…the Sanderson Sisters. Walt Disney, himself, would have been endlessly proud of the way Jewish women were portrayed as vain egomaniacal occultists.

We open the film on Halloween night, 1693 in Salem, Massachusetts. Spooky stuff. A boy named Thackery Binx witnesses his sister’s youth absorbed by the Sanderson sisters. When he confronts them, they transform him into a spinster’s fantasy: an immortal cat. This will serve as a strange and forced plot device to bring a good character from the olden times into the present.

In 1693, the Sanderson sisters are hanged–but not before casting a spell that ensures their resurrection on a full moon…on Halloween…when a virgin lights a Black Flame Candle. Spoiler alert: it takes exactly 300 years for this shit to happen. And a Disney movie wouldn’t begin with a hanging until Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. 

If these witches died in 2017, it would’ve taken about 15 minutes to get a virgin to light a black candle on Halloween. And, of course, the real magic in this fun children’s flick was managing to convince young boys that Sarah Jessica Parker was hot.

300 Years Later, it’s 1993 and our main character, Max Dennison (good solid name for every kids’ movie character ever), has just moved from LA to fucking Salem fucking Massachusetts. He’s a wise-crackin’ smart ass know-it-all who makes an ass out of himself in front of his class of teenagers who are unrealistically excited about Halloween. He responds to the utter humiliation by giving Allison–the hottest girl in class, I guess?–a note with his number on it…in front of the whole class!

We have to pause for a moment and reiterate something about 90’s Disney movie boys. They are always too cool for school. Even if they’re bullied, it’s because they’re too cool and the bullies are all dorks. And in those rare circumstances where our protagonist is an actual loser, he’ll be vindicated in the first act by doing something anticlimactic like joining in on a prank or catching a baseball.

Moving on–Max’s cool guy LA attitude and his tie-dye shirt are no match for the conservative yet questionably superstitious attitudes of his classmates and he doesn’t get the date. So just as we were rooting for our cool hero, he gets played–hard. Not so cool after all, are we, Max? But Disney won’t stop there. No sir! Enter…the bullies!

Jay and Ernie…I mean…Jay and ICE…are almost certainly the highlight of the entire film. These two mentally challenged teens more than make up for the film’s stale plot and obvious anti-Semitic overtones. They’re pretty stylish for dumb kids, and they smoke. It’s odd, though that they decide to steal Max’s sneakers but not his bike…

When Max returns home, we find out that his parents are just getting moved in to their new home and Max is very upset to have been transplanted from cool tie-dye LA to bland, bully-ridden Massachusetts. Just as Max had finished lamenting his lot in life and settled into bed to masturbate to the memory of being rejected by Allison, we get a surprise introduction to Max’s 8-year old sister Dani (Thora Birch). Not so fast, Max!

Max is forced to take Dani trick-or-treating by his disturbingly-normal-for-a-kids-movie parents. Dani dresses as a witch (of course), and a reluctant Max dresses like a “rap singer” (without the blackface). When the bullies show up again, he is forced to defend his honor and stick up for his little sister, solidifying Max as not just the good guy of our story…but the best guy of the story. His flaws have officially been erased. Now we can get on with our Disney flick.

The two inadvertently wander into Allison’s house where she’s having some kind of weird Eyes Wide Shut meets Amadeus Halloween Party. Dani and Max also introduce us to a new word for breasts: Yabbos.

Allison wants to take Max and Dani on a tour of the Sanderson Sisters House to prove that Salem is all ’bout dem witchez! But when they inevitably break into the house, they get more than they bargain for as shit starts to get real about 30 minutes in.

The Sanderson House is supposed to be some kind of museum to the three witches’ legacy, but it appears like it’s never been in use–covered in cobwebs and dust. Max gets viciously attacked by Immortal Cat and, trying to show he’s not scared, proceeds to light the BLACK CANDLE! He claimed that all that witch stuff is just a bunch of “Hocus Pocus.” Get it? That’s the name of the movie. So Max fucks up and the witches come back, of course–which tells us two things about this universe: Magic is Real…and Max is a Virgin. No wonder he’s been yankin’ it to Allison’s yabbos.

Naturally, the three resurrected Jewish Witches want to eat Thora Birch and Sarah Jessica Parker wants to make Max less of a virgin. She was always my favorite witch as she didn’t really seem all that evil in the grand scheme of things.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen Hocus Pocus but the movie is both intensely suggestive and intensely silly. I suppose once you’ve raised three Jewish Witches from their 300 year slumber, a talking cat is no big deal.

Our heroes run into a graveyard where the witches can’t go. I’m not sure if it’s because they’re demonic or Jewish, but either way, they can’t set foot on Christian Turf. So, instead, they decide to raise a random corpse from the grave to help them catch dem kidz. The dead guy they raise is called “Billy Butcherson“, because why not? We don’t know much about Billy except that he was a “Lost Soul”…whatever that means.

As this nonsense goes on it becomes clear that this film is semi-autobiographical in that Kenny Ortega must use the souls of young gay men to remain so fresh and youthful in the Disney universe. There’s also an oddly out of place scene where the witches wind up at some old Jewish man’s house where they watch TV and piss off his wife. None of this belongs in the film at all and I can’t comprehend why it exists.

About half-way through the movie we get another pair of suggestive and then torturous scenes for a children’s movie. Sarah Jessica Parker is driving a bus while bouncing on the bus driver’s lap when, suddenly and without warning, our Immortal Talking Cat gets run over. Cut to…a close-up of a roadkill cat. Fun for the whole family.

Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 2.33.45 PMBut, just kidding. He’s immortal, right? The cat’s fine. As always happens in fantasy/horror films, the kids quickly realize this situation is entirely out of their control so they go to the adults for help. But the adults don’t believe a word. Also, the fake police officer they go to seems a little too interested in Max being a virgin.

At this point we’ve established that the ultimate goal of the Sanderson Sisters is…to…not die? This seems perfectly reasonable to me, other than added detail that they need the souls of the young to live forever. But don’t we all?

What’s the best way to captivate the kiddos for long enough to suck out their souls? I mean, besides putting on Disney’s Hocus Pocus. How about a lame Halloween-themed concert being attended by Max’s parents? Next best thing. The Sanderson Sisters need to find Max and get their Book of Spells back. Good thing Max decides to take center stage and once again brazenly make a fool of himself, while disclosing his whereabouts to our three witches…at least it’s a good excuse to get Bette Midler to sing.

So while Bette Midler hypnotizes all of the town’s mommies and daddies into dancing all night, the kids make their escape. Every scene in this movie seems more redundant than the last. There was no reason to hypnotize the parents. Sarah finds the kids and lets them go for some reason. And then, the witches wind up finding the kids who have taken refuge in the school…when suddenly another grisly and wholly offensive scene takes place…

Now, read this carefully because it’s…shocking if you don’t recall this scene from your childhood. Max and the kids force the trio of 300-year old Jewish Women into an OVEN and set them on fire. Yes. You’ve read that correctly. I wonder if that scene will be in the remake…

As dawn approaches, the witches kidnap Dani and fly away. Then we get another song. Sarah Jessica Parker sings an enchantment spell that causes all of the town’s children to follow them to their resting place, which begs the question…why did they need DANI at all? Why not just do this from the beginning? And why did they need the spell book?! Presumably they’ve done this before…we know at least once at the beginning of the movie.

For some reason the Sandersons have kidnapped Jay and Ice and are force-feeding them candy…which is a pretty extreme come-uppins for the bullies, but whatever.

All Max needs to do now is use his wit and knowledge of modern conveniences (like car headlights) to trick the Sandersons into believing it’s morning and they’re going to die. Spoiler Alert, they don’t die. At least, not yet. Nothing in this film makes sense, but that’s why it’s a cult classic and not a real classic.

As it turns out, all our heroes had to do was survive until morning…which would have been easier to do if not for all of their scheming.

The ending we get is even more confounding as our zombie friend Billy returns to his grave, our immortal cat actually dies, and the ghost of the young man who embodied the immortal cat has some kind of romantic connection to a drastically underage Thora Birch.

Then, as if it were a last-ditch effort to wrap up loose ends, we see the parents of Salem exiting their house party, while Jay and Ice remain locked in cages. But…what? The spell book opens up once again! Could there be a sequel in the works?

No. Not now. Not ever. Hopefully. The remake will be a Disney Channel Original so it won’t be surprising when it tries and fails to match the appeal (whatever appeal there was) about the original while falling into all the same plot holes.

Look, I know you all remember loving this movie, and that’s fine. Nothing can take that away from you; not even a remake. But let’s be honest, this movie makes zero sense and there is no way anyone will convince me that Mick GarrisNeil Cuthbert, and David Mickey Evans weren’t mentally impaired while writing it.

It was fun watching it again, though! Maybe I’ll give it another shot in 20 more years…

X

 

Talking Nerdy, Ep. 223: United Federation of Malls

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Another edition of Joe’s famous drunk surveys / The King of Prussia Mall is an absolute dystopian nightmare / Dan Mansplains #Supernatural Tweets from Girls on Twitter / Disney Pre-9/11 Video Vault: Man of the House / Shailene Woodley debunks her own Thanksgiving story / Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2A month in review with Billoon45TommyNC2010 gives us a holiday to remember.

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