We here at Cracked certainly aren't strangers to overanalyzing pop culture. In fact, we once suggested that the Harry Potter books imply that one of the characters was sexually assault by centaurs. But we always assumed that such humorous wastes of time were below actual smart people with, like, Ph.D.s and bow ties.
Unfortunately, it turns out that many well-adjusted, serious academics really are spending their free time running around and ruining the stuff we loved as kids with their brains. Unfortunatelier, when you actually hear their arguments, you almost want to agree with them that ...
Aside from being an uncredited creator of Inception, Donald Duck is one of the most beloved cartoon characters in the world. But Ariel Dorfman (an Argentine-Chilean novelist/activist) and Armand Mattelart (a Belgian sociologist) have this crazy theory that the comic book adventures of a violent, pantsless sailor might actually be inappropriate for children.
Like a hysterical news story, we present this out-of-context screenshot as evidence.
According to the authors, Donald Duck cartoons might as well be the talking-duck version of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. In their book How to Read Donald Duck (Para leer al Pato Donald), the Dynamic Deconstruction Duo claim that Donald and friends teach kids that a person's value is dependent entirely on how much money he or she has, and that in the pursuit of money, there is no room for things like family or love, only for blind self-interest.
"He knew no weapons but to pay for what he wanted. While pantsless."
Why It's Not That Crazy:
Have you ever noticed that there aren't any parents in Donald Duck cartoons and comics? Scrooge, for example, is Donald's uncle, who in turn is an uncle to Huey, Dewey and Louie, a first cousin to Gladstone Gander and a boyfriend (but never husband) to Daisy, who herself has three nieces, April, May and June (because fuck it, picking out baby names is hard). That means that the world these characters live in is essentially devoid of any real families and populated solely by orphans. Without parents and nepotism, each duck is left alone to constantly compete against the others for wealth and status. That's basically an ideal stage for, yes, really sad nightmares, but also capitalism: If you start with what you believe to be a completely level playing field (in this case, a world without parents where everyone starts out with the same chances in an orphanage), those who are strongest and smartest, and work the hardest, have the best chance of succeeding (where "succeeding" here means "making all of the money in the world").
"And while you're at it, see if you can't bump up the Mouse's copyright a few years."
The anti-capitalist characters in Atlas Shrugged are portrayed as spineless, worthless moochers. Likewise, Donald is depicted as an eternal loser because he can't hold a steady job and is always in debt to his uncle. Scrooge, on the other hand, is the richest duck in the world, happily spending all of his free time becoming even richer. In DuckTales, every single episode is basically about Scrooge and the nephews hunting for treasure or protecting Scrooge's money or diving into giant swimming pools of coins (something that almost certainly would have happened in Shrugged had it not been cut to make room for 25,000 words about the tensile strength of railroad tracks).
The comics aren't any better: In Dorfman and Mattelart's analysis, the entire plot of 75 percent of the comics centered around the ducks looking for money and gold. The other 25 percent were about "competing for fortune," which is apparently considered different.
"Maybe start by handing over that crown."
In Atlas Shrugged, extraordinary people demonstrate their extraordinariness by making all of the money in the world and sharing it with no one. The conclusion reached by the end of the novel is that anyone who isn't a superman should either worship the supermen or stay out of their way, and if the unfortunately average people die in the process, oh well.
This must be where Scrooge differs from Shrugged, right? It's not like Scrooge would ever be that heartless, right? What's that? Scrooge acquired his wealth by conducting genocide in Africa? Oh.
"Of course my culture is worth squat! How did you know?"
In the December 2000 edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the joint teams of Dalhousie University's Pediatrics Department published a study that diagnosed the characters in Winnie the Pooh with crippling mental problems. No, we also have no idea why would they do such a horrible thing.
This group of trained doctors diagnosed Pooh with ADHD; Eeyore, obviously, with depression; Christopher Robin with schizophrenia ...
The doctors themselves were diagnosed with too much free time.
... and Tigger with hyperactivity-impulsivity, among others.
Why It's Not That Crazy:
It's not like they had to stretch to find the appropriate diagnoses. These are the primary colors of the crazy spectrum, and each character embodies his specific disorder with pretty much every single line.
Let's start with the obvious and look at some Eeyore quotes:
1) "I'm telling you. People come and go in this forest, and they say. 'It's only Eeyore, so it doesn't count.'"
2) "Good morning, Pooh Bear," said Eeyore gloomily. "If it is a good morning," he said. "Which I doubt," said he.
"Why, what's the matter?"
"Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can't all, and some of us don't. That's all there is to it."
"Can't all what?" said Pooh, rubbing his nose.
"Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush."
"Well, that's nice. We're off to find out where wind comes from. Suck it!"
Let's take a look at Piglet, who, as the study claims, "Clearly suffers from generalized anxiety disorder." According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, some of the criteria for GAD include excessive worry, inability to control said worry and an impairment of occupational/social areas of functioning. Now, here's a quick recap of some of the Piglet-centered episodes from Pooh's animated TV series:
"Pooh Oughta Be in Pictures" -- Piglet becomes frightened that monsters from a movie he saw are real.
"Gone With the Wind" -- Piglet becomes afraid of going outside.
"A Very, Very Large Animal" -- Piglet worries that he is too small so he leaves the forest.
"Goodbye Cruel World" -- Piglet commits suicide.
You can't be depressed when there's free bacon laying around, Eeyore.
OK, we might have made up that last one, but it's not that far off, seeing as studies show that generalized anxiety disorder is often a side symptom of major depression and substance abuse.
It's for this reason that Piglet should at all times be kept away from Tigger, who the researchers diagnosed with ADHD of the hyperactive-impulsive subtype, based on his history of risk-taking behavior. For example, when Tigger first arrived in the Hundred Acre Wood, he had no idea what Tiggers normally eat, so he tasted fuck everything he could find, including thistles.
And fat, useless bears.
The diagnosis is also based on the fact that he regularly barges into people's houses, commits crimes so he can later play detective ("Tigger, Private Ear") and once even endangered the entire forest by keeping a vicious termite as a pet ("Tigger's House Guest").
To be clear, the researchers aren't just arbitrarily psychoanalyzing these fictional stuffed animals. The point is that each character clearly represents the different extremes in mental illness. It's almost like they're trying to provide children with a way to articulate their own budding illnesses. It's much more likely that a 6-year-old will say "Mommy, I feel like Eeyore today," instead of "Mommy, I fear I suffer from clinical depression."
"Don't worry, I totally got this."
A book as bizarre as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, with its winged monkeys and self-mutilating cyborgs, had to attract some crackpot interpretations over the years, the most popular of which is that L. Frank Baum's 1900 classic is secretly about the Populist movement.
The late-19th century Populists fought for the rights of the poverty-stricken Midwestern farmers and industrial workers, who are supposedly represented in the book by the Scarecrow and the Tin Man. Dorothy, the only normal character in Oz, was the everyman, and the twister that carried her from Kansas was meant to represent the "storm of Populism" sweeping across the states in the 1890s.
Some people dismiss it as one big straw man argument.
Why It's Not That Crazy:
A big part of 19th century Populism was adding silver to the nation's gold standard in order to help the economy, and, well, did you know that in the book, Dorothy's magic slippers were actually silver instead of ruby? And what does the main character do with this silver object of great power? She "walks over" the Yellow Brick (i.e. gold) Road. Right over it.
The economy back then was selfishly guarded by Technicolor dwarfs.
Then there are the little touches, like how "Oz" is actually an abbreviation for an ounce of, for example, gold. And Dorothy walks all over a road of yellow bricks down to a path that is ultimately unfulfilling. The road of gold leads to an empty promise (and also there are monkey attacks).
Then there's this guy:
Sir Thaddeus Snoot von Deadeyes.
That's William Jennings Bryan, a leader of the Populist movement who was occasionally portrayed in the press as a lion.
The only guy with a mane and a comb-over.
Because Bryan was also often accused of being "cowardly" for opposing the war with Spain and annexing the Philippines to the U.S., some think that the character of the Cowardly Lion is actually based on him. Conversely, the Wicked Witch of the West is allegedly representing the backers of the gold standard because she controls the winged monkeys with a magical golden cap.
We are the 99 percent! Occupy Oz!