Friday, September 08, 2006

Disney Profiteers Betray our Trust

There is probably very little that hasn't been said yet about "The Path to 9/11", ABC/Disney and Scholastic. I haven't read everything that is out there. I don't plan to. I have my own thoughts to share and hope you will bear with me.

Most reactions lean toward outrage. Outrage that parts of the 9/11 tragedy are being fictionalized. Outrage that President Clinton is being shown in a less than favorable light. Outrage that real people are depicted as doing and saying things they never did or said. Outrage that the director, writer, producer are all Republicans/evangelical Christians/right-wing propagandists. Outrage that there is an inaccurate portrayal of history being sold as a docudrama, instead of simply a work of fiction.

That's a lot of outrage.

For me, it isn't that this horrific event in our nation's history is being dramatized. Movies were already being made about Pearl Harbor a year after the attack. I don't know how they were sold to the public, but there were quite a few made in 1942. I doubt very seriously that every conversation portrayed actually took place. I doubt that every step and misstep that are depicted in these movies are accurate. Were Americans outraged when these movies came out? Was it political finger pointing, or just Hollywood as usual?

I guess, I just don't have a problem with a fictionalized version of events, as long as it is sold as fiction. I don't have a problem with Bill Clinton having to bear some of the blame for lack of intelligence or faulty intelligence. He's an adult. He is a man with many faults just like the rest of us. He can take care of himself. Madeline Albright is a pretty tough woman and I'm fairly certain she can take care of herself as well. If they are depicted in a dishonest way, it won't be the first or last time a public figure has to deal with this.

It doesn't bother me that Republicans wrote, produced and directed this docudrama. Is there a rule that says only Democrats can make movies? I don't care that the director has links to an Evangelical Christian group. Are they not allowed to direct movies? Is that a job reserved for people of only certain religions or ethnic backgrounds? Do we know the ethnicity and religious affiliation of every person who writes, directs or produces other documentaries, docudramas and fictional movies? Are we entitled to know that?

All that being said, there is a reason to feel outrage. Actually, there are two reasons. Scholastic and Disney.

As a mother of middle school daughters, I've watched my children grow up on Disney videos, stuffed animals and books. I've ordered thousands of dollars in Scholastic books and materials for school and personal use. These two names are respected in the world of moms and dads and kids. We trust them. Lending their names to any portion of a faulty portrayal of our nation's history tells me that they don't value our children the way many parents probably thought. They only value our pocketbooks.

I grew up loving Disney. I grew up reading Scholastic Books. I still want to trust them.

That trust is gone. The Disney brand has suffered what I feel is a serious blow. The message has been sent to parents that they don't care what our children learn as long as their tax rate stays low and they get favorable treatment in Washington. It isn't that I didn't know that Disney is a for-profit business. Trust me. I've contributed my fair share to their bottom line. I knew they wanted my money, but I also truly believed that they cared about the children they target with their brand. Apparently, that isn't true. Today I feel a sense of deep disappointment that I can no longer trust the Disney brand.

I realize that ABC has its own management hierarchy and probably operates fairly independently of Disney. I doubt Mickey has a speaking role and Tinkerbell won't fly around Cinderella's castle and wave her wand to start the show. Most children won't know that the ABC production has anything to do with Disney. I could be wrong. The problem is that I know. I know that Disney owns ABC. I know that with all of the controversy surrounding the fictionalized 9/11 tragedy being sold as a "docu"drama, Disney executives must be aware and they have chosen so far to do nothing. Nothing at all. It is this lack of desire to either show the movie as a work of fiction or to pull it completely that tells me they don't care about our children. They, however, aren't the only company letting our kids down.

Do you remember bringing home the fliers from Scholastic? We didn't have a lot of money when I was little, but I could always count on my mother to buy me books. I knew that at least a few times a year I would get to order a couple of books. When my children started school I was introduced to the book fairs and they also brought home book orders. We almost always ordered. About five years ago I learned there was a Scholastic outlet about ten minutes from my home. Two or three times each year they have a huge sale. One year I spent over $1000 buying books for teachers, our school and my children. Our personal library is pretty amazing. I thought it was money well-spent. I have always had more than a small amount of trust in Scholastic. I thought they had my children's best interests at heart. Apparently, I was wrong.

When Scholastic chose to produce and promote study guides for high school students without regard to the factual discrepancies in the show - discrepancies that should have been obvious to anyone paying attention over the last five years - they chose to betray the trust of students, teachers, school systems and parents. Scholastic has a strong reputation based on 85 years of involvement in educating and entertaining children through books and other educational materials. Why they would choose to put this at risk just to saddle up next to the right-wing propaganda machine is beyond me. It makes no sense whatsoever.

I have written my letters. I have talked with my children. I won't ban them from ever seeing a movie that has a Disney label. I won't ban them from reading books from Scholastic. But when I can, I will stay away from Disney and Scholastic products. That second trip to Disney? Maybe we'll visit the Grand Canyon instead.

The anger generated over this has poisoned quite a few sites that I visit daily. It's even filtered to BlueNC and made it a little difficult to hang around for extended periods. There's simply been too much anger generated over this. It makes you wonder what the right wing is sliding under our radar as so many are distracted with this docudrama. I don't blame anyone for their anger or outrage. We each have to react and act in the way that we feel is appropriate.

Some will feel the need to protect Bill Clinton or Madeline Albright. Some will feel the need to expose the secret workings of Evangelical Christians and their plans to take over the movie industry. I just want my children to have access to the truth. I don't want Disney and Scholastic - names my children trust - to be responsible for spreading a false history of our nation. When they're old enough, I'll let them read my copy of the 9/11 Commission Report. For now, I will keep them away from "The Path to 9/11" and I'll hope that other parents will do the same.

4 Comments:

Blogger MsViv-AZ said...

I love your take on both Disney and Scholastic. As a parent and now a grandparent, I also feel disappointed that a certain political agenda has violated the trust we have come to expect from Disney and Scholastic. I too will think twice about supporting either company with my purchases. I guess anything is for sale at the right price. Thank you for your input and for saying it so well.

12:29 PM, September 09, 2006  
Blogger Yellow said...

I understand your frustration I feel it ever time I watch Hoosiers.

Just for a point of reference what is your take on other movies/documentaries that recreate/manipulate the truth.

Supersize me
Pearl Harbor
JFK

And correct me if I am wrong but didn’t the religious right boycott Disney for 10 years or so? And aren’t the diehards still boycotting Disney?

11:50 AM, September 11, 2006  
Blogger B. Muse said...

I didn't see Supersize me. I also didn't see Farenheit 9/11. Not a big Michael Moore fan. There are so many Pearl Harbor movies that I'm not sure which one you're talking about. There was a movie that was sold as a movie/dramatization and not a "docu"drama that I thought was OK....but it was hokey. There again....not my kind of movie.

I read history books, but I just don't like that many documentaries. I have read the 9/11 Commission report several times now and I think they did the best they could pulling together the facts. I don't think the entire truth will ever be known.

My point really wasn't that they made the piece, it was how it was sold. Early on they(ABC and Disney) were selling it as "the real story" and then when factual errors were pointed out they backed down from that in the US, but ads were still running in Australia selling it as "the real story". If you're going to fictionalize the events, then do so, but don't sell it as the one true story. That's wrong and I expect better from companies we entrust so much of our children's entertainment and education to.

11:28 AM, September 15, 2006  
Blogger B. Muse said...

msviv-az - Thank you for your comment. There were people angry over this "docu"drama for many reasons. Normally if there's something I don't like on television I simply don't watch, but this was different because of the players involved and the fact that so many teachers use free Scholastic materials.

11:32 AM, September 15, 2006  

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