Mickey Mouse: Soldier of Satan, by John Ostrander
As reported here on ComicMix last Monday by Matt Raub via AP : “A sheik from Saudi Arabia, a former diplomat posted in Washington, has put out a fatwa on Mickey Mouse, calling him the new enemy of Islam. ‘Mickey Mouse is a soldier of Satan, and everything he touches becomes impure,” said Sheik Muhammad al-Munajid.
‘Mickey Mouse has become an awesome character, even though according to Islamic law, Mickey Mouse should be killed in all cases. According to sharia law, the mouse is a repugnant and corrupting animal,’ he said during a show broadcast by Al-Majd television.”
So. There’s a fatwa on Mickey Mouse.
It should be noted that a fatwa, in and of itself, is not necessarily a death sentence. As Matt noted, “a “fatwa” is a ruling on a point of Islamic law that is given by a recognized authority.” In that respect, it’s not that different when the Pope speaks ex cathedra. It certainly isn’t different that when the Popes called for the Crusades to free the Holy Land.
This is not the first time that Disney has butted heads with religious types. Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association began a nine-year boycott of Disney, citing they were too friendly to gays. The Southern Baptists were part of that boycott and if there was ever a group in Western culture that I think was capable of issuing fatwas, it would be the Southern Baptists.
It’s all part of a continuing war on pop culture that is usually conducted by the conservative and/or reactionary elements of society. It’s not only religious groups, either. The comic book medium in the 1950s came under the scrutiny of Congress who felt that comics were degenerative and an unwholesome influence on America’s youth. To fend off possible Congressional controls, the comic book publishers of the day instituted the Comics Code – a straitjacket that bound and confined the comic book medium for decades and stunted its artistic growth.
Go back a little bit further. From early on, movies were considered to be morally dangerous in many cases and Hollywood was the real “Sin City.” William H. Hays was brought in to clean it up and the Hays Code, written by a Jesuit priest and based on Roman Catholic theology, was created to outline a moral code. The mid 30s established the Production Code Administration, overseen by Joseph I. Breen, and for decades every film had to have a PCA certificate of approval before being released. Eventually, this system was replaced by the rating system we still see today.
Every facet of popular culture has been affected at one time or another. A play could be “banned in Boston” – which often meant better box office elsewhere. Mae West’s 1926 play Sex got her arrested in New York City after a year’s worth of performances to some 325,000 patrons. The police finally decided it was obscene after watching it a few times and Ms. West was convicted to ten days in the pokey, of which she served two.
We’re still titillated by this stuff. Daniel Radcliffe of the Harry Potter films is making his New York stage debut this week in a revival of the play Equus and the big point of discussion is the nude scene he has in it and how you can see Harry Potter’s magic wand.
Rock and roll is constantly under attack, of course. If it isn’t, then it’s not doing its job. When Elvis Presley first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, the TV cameras shot him only from the waist up because his hip gyrations were considered too obscene. My mother used to fume about my watching Shindig or Hullabaloo on TV a decade later, saying I just wanted to watch the female dancers shake their bodies. All true, of course, however much I played the innocent.
Want more recent upheavals? How about the thunderous indignation that followed Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during half time at the Super Bowl a few years back? It was a stunt and a stupid stunt at that but, oh!, the howls of moral indignation. The children! Won’t somebody please think of the children! Excuse me, but isn’t the Super Bowl mostly a male thing? The women I knew who watched it usually did because they wanted to see how tight the tight end’s end really was. For the kids who might have been watching – one bared breast with pasty was going to warp them more than the endless violence where a really good tackle might be defined as popping the opponent’s helmet off?
The war on pop culture goes on because the conservatives, politically or religious, feel their values are being attacked. Their values are “traditional” values that they feel are being undermined and are tempting their children – won’t somebody please think of the children – their spouses and possibly themselves. Tempting them with wicked ways, suggesting that drinking, eating, experimenting with sex or drugs are all fun, exciting, and glamorous. How do you keep “em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?”
You might say, “Then don’t look. But don’t tell me I can’t look if I want.” The problem is that, for the faith based, what is at stake is the soul and if a soul gets corrupted it goes to hell and makes Satan stronger – even the soul of a godless heathen like yourself. So no one should be allowed to see these corrupting spawns of the devil.
For the more secular, it’s the same thing only it’s society about which they’re worried and it’ll all get controlled by the godless Commies or liberals who are really the same thing.
Whether its Moslem cleric, Southern Baptist minister, or conservative Republican, pop culture is perceived as corrupt and corrupting. Won’t somebody please think of the goddamn children?! Maybe it is. Pop culture challenges our notion of what is culture. Pop culture is either ephemeral or it produces change in what culture is. That there is the problem, Clem.
Culture is really our identity, more than flag or borders, I think. The political clash in this country is as much a clash of cultures as anything else. Not Republican versus Democrat although both have their own cultures. Not red state versus blue state – each of those states, especially the large ones, often have cultural clashes going on within it. City versus suburbs versus country starts to capture some of it. East Coast versus West Coast, North versus South all have traditional cultural clashes even if within each of these groups there are sub-cultural groups. For example, there’s the South and then there’s the Deep South. There’s the “new” South such as Atlanta versus more traditional South like Alabama. Miami is geographically south but its Latino in culture and specifically Cuban, which is a very specific culture within the Latino community.
The political clash occurs not when one group tries to establish its culture as predominant over others as when one culture feels another group is trying to do so. Culture is very personal and people will take perceived attacks on their culture very personally – intended or not. The Southern Baptists feel that Disney and Hollywood are trying to impose their gay-embracing values on them. Given the world saturation of Disney, the Muslim cleric may feel that Disney is trying to impose its Satanic soldier of a mouse on his culture.
Maybe we are. Not because of any hidden agenda by a cabal of Satanic gay loving masterminds at Disney. Pop culture is powerful because, well, it’s fun. Pop culture winds up infringing on other cultures because it is popular.
Maybe that’s worth a fatwa or two.
Vaunted comics writer and playwright John Ostrander continues his fatwa here on ComicMix every Wednesday.