How To Read Donald Duck (4th Edition)
Ariel Dorfman, Armand Mattelart
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How to Read Donald Duck
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How to Read Donald Duck
Author Ariel Dorfman
Original title Para leer al Pato Donald
How to Read Donald Duck (Para leer al Pato Donald in Spanish) is a Marxist political analysis by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart on what they perceive is cultural imperialism in popular entertainment, published in 1972 in Chile (then headed by Soviet-aligned Salvador Allende during the Cold War). Written in the form of essay (or, in the authors' words, a "decolonization manual"), the book is an analysis of mass literature, specifically the Disney comics published for the Latin American market. It is one of the first social studies of entertainment and the leisure industry from a political-ideological angle, and the book deals extensively with the political role of children's literature.
4 Further reading
The book's thesis is that Disney comics are not only a reflection of the prevailing ideology at the time (capitalism), but that they are also aware of this, and are active agents in spreading the ideology. To do so, Disney comics use images of the everyday world:
"Here lies Disney's inventive (product of his era), rejecting the crude and explicit scheme of adventure strips, that came up at the same time. The ideological background is without any doubt the same: but Disney, not showing any open repressive force, is much more dangerous. The division between Bruce Wayne and Batman is the projection of fantasy outside the ordinary world to save it. Disney colonizes the everyday world, at hand of ordinary man and his common problems, with the analgesic of a child's imagination".
This closeness to everyday life is so only in appearance, because the world shown in the comics, according to the thesis, is based on ideological concepts, resulting in a set of natural rules that lead to the acceptance of particular ideas about capital, the developed countries' relationship with the third world, gender roles, etc.
As an example, the book considers the lack of descendants of the characters. Everybody has an uncle or nephew, everybody is a cousin of someone, but nobody has fathers or sons. The only mother shown on a regular basis is Beagle Boy's mother, who lives outside the law and who almost never shows affection to her offspring. This non-parental reality creates horizontal levels in society, where there is no hierarchic order, except the one given by the amount of money and wealth possessed by each, and where there is almost no solidarity among those of the same level, creating a situation where the only thing left is crude competition. Another issue analyzed is the absolute necessity to have a stroke of luck for social mobility (regardless of the effort or intelligence involved), the lack of ability of the native tribes to manage their wealth, and others.
Thomas Andrae, who is an author on Carl Barks, has criticized the thesis of Dorfman and Mattelart. Andrae writes that it is not true that Disney controlled the work of every cartoonist, and that cartoonists had almost completely free hands unlike those who worked with animations. According to Andrae, Carl Barks did not even know that his cartoons were read outside the United States in the 1950s. Lastly, he writes that Barks cartoons include social criticism and even anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist references.
f e r e nt n owadays. To ro b the natives. Trusti ng th e ducks as they d i d thei r without pay ment is ro bbery u ndi sgu ised. Taki ng Duckburg predecesso r, the natives enter i n to a n with pay ment is no ro bbery , but a favo r. Th us a l l i ance with the good fo re igners aga inst the bad the co nditions fo r the sale of the o rn aments and foreigners. th eir i m po rtation The mo ra l Manichaeism serves to into Duckbu rg are never i n affirm fo re ig n sovereignty in
mitive li fe, without the intervention of wo rkma n and tool . The Duckbu rgers have a irpla nes, submarines, radar, hel i copters, rockets; but not so much as a stick to open u p the earth. "Mother Earth" is prodi gal, and taking i n the gold is as i nnocent as breathi ng in fresh a ir. Natu re feeds gold to these creatu res : it is the o n ly su stenan ce these aurivores desi re. Now we u nderstand why it is that the gold is fou nd yonder i n the worl d of the noble savage. It can not appea r
the Coca Col a sta nds a whole i t , a particu l a r k i n d of prese n t a n d As we i mpo rt the i n dustr i a l p rod uct con ceived, packaged a nd l a be i l ed abroad , and so l d to the prof it o f th e r i ch fo rei g n u ncle, at t h e same ti m e we a l so i m po rt t h e foreign c u l t u ra l fo rms of that 98 society , but without the i r con text : the advanced capitalist social conditions u pon which they are is h isto rica l l y p roven that the depen It base d . dent
peo ples is se rved u p as a spectacle for per ma nent en joyment in the utopia of bo u rgeois l i berty. The n on-stop buffet of recreation and redempt i o n offers a l l the wholesome exoti ca of u n d e rd e v e l o p m ent: world. u n ba l a n ced World misery Th ird the of the of diet bal anced a The is packaged and can ned to l i berate the masters who produce it and consume it. Th en, it have had to use is th rown -u p to the poor as the onl y food they forms to present
ntry , as pol it ical parties ' to p ick u p th is ex pe rie nce and l o ng as Don a l d is power and our col lective re- a l l ow i t to fi n d i ts fu l l h u ma n e x pressi o n . IT's MUCH SElTERIO BE THE OWNE R OF ALL iHE SAl'S AN D BALLS lHAN 10 PLAY WITH WEM . J CAN INVENT A LL 1l4 E RULES O F THE <;I\ ME AN D PRAC ...-_---- WHY SHO ULD neE ALL "THE Wm:HCAAfT I COULD DE$\RE . .---- END WE EVEN TALK ? COU RA GE, BOYS ! NOr tVEN A LrTTLE WITCH CAN PLAY BA LL FO R EVER ON E DAY S