Disney’s Arabs

February 21, 2008 § Leave a comment

Here is an image I scanned from Dorfman and Mattelart’s 1971 out-of-print book “How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic.” The above strip depicts the “Aridians” or Disney’s comic-book version of Arabs. Here is an excerpt from the book (parentheses are included in the actual text):

Moby Duck and Donald, captured by the Aridians (Arabs), start to blow soap bubbles, with which the natives are enchanted. “Ha, ha. They break when you catch them. Hee, hee.” Ali Ben-Goli, the chief says “it’s real magic. My people are laughing like children. They cannot imagine how it works.”

“It’s only a secret passed from generation to generation,” says Moby, “I will reveal it if you give us our freedom.” (Civilization is presented as something incomprehensible, to be administered by foreigners.) The chief, in amazement, exclaims, “Freedom? That’s not all I’ll give you . . .” The Arabs consent to their own despoilation. “We have jewels, but they are of no use to us. They don’t make you laugh like magic bubbles.” While Donald sneers “poor simpleton,” Moby hands over the Flip Flop detergent . . .

There they are in their desert tents, their caves, their once flourishing cities, their lonely islands, their forbidden fortresses and they can never leave them. Congealed in their past-historic, their needs defined in function of this past, these underdeveloped peoples are denied the right to build their own future.

Dorfman and Mattelart’s analysis of the role of the female in the Disney comics is equally interesting:

Since [the men] can never fully possess [the women], they are in constant fear of losing them. It is a compulsion of eternal frustration, of pleasure postponed for better domination. Women’s only retreat in a world where physical adventure, criticism, and even motherhood has been denied her, is into her own sterile sexuality. . . Her only raison d’etre is to become a sexual object, infinitely solicited and postponed. She is frozen on the threshold of satisfaction and repression among impotent people.


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