by Tom Luongo, Tom Luongo:
We live in an age of maximum arrogance. When you watch companies with some of the most marketable brands in the world torch them on an altar of political correctness, it’s easy to just think them stupid or going with the flow of history.
But they aren’t.
Because not only do we live in an age of maximal arrogance, we also live in the biggest self-created false realities in human history.
It is the height of irony that the biggest brand in storytelling, Disney, has succumbed to its own arrogance and self-delusion, becoming trapped in a false reality that Disney should dictate the direction humanity should accept.
That’s what lies at the heart of Disney’s troubles today. It arrogantly believed it has an obligation to decide what is and is not culturally acceptable to a majority of its customers. It completely misread the room in thinking a large percentage of its business comes from the insufferably woke suburban moms who are just as fucked up as the kids they’ve raised.
The good news is Disney got the message loud and clear that they are not the arbiters of when it’s appropriate to groom children for adulthood. The bad news is they may not have heard it.
Social media, political pressure and simply the massive extended echo chamber that is California politics suffused Disney’s board and its corporate culture with the mind virus of egalitarianism, eschewing any basic faith in humanity itself.
Since they’ve rejected all forms of god, or submission to a higher authority that wasn’t man-made, Disney decided it was time to undermine all of its properties by coming out of the closet, as it were.
Disney chose poorly.
The Phildickian Nightmare Made Real
I’m a huge Philip K. Dick fan.
Dick wrote dozens of short stories and at least half a dozen important novels focusing on this very problem of false realities leading to a crisis in faith. In Dick’s work those false realities were tangible: You could visit them through drugs or meditation, meet your analogue from an alternate Universe or by nearly dying get trapped in a hellish landscape of someone else’s design.
But in reading these tales, we recognize that they exist as metaphor, like all stories do, to teach us lessons about how to navigate our conflicts and emerge transformed into something better. For all of his wacky situations and conceits, Phil Dick’s stories are all about the most important issues we all face: empathy overcoming shame, pride justifying violence, selfishness justifying nihilism.
Dick’s protagonists are all suffering basic crises of faith. The modern world has let them down, led them on a false path experiencing deep mid-life bouts of ennui as their carefully constructed coping strategies to numb their pain are shattered.
And like all great storytellers Dick chose the fantastical and the weird not just to hide real human stories as enticements, but also, I’d argue, to make them far more memorable than they would have been otherwise.
UBIK, for example, has been hailed as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century and whose ideas populate hundreds of derivative works of Hollywood. It’s what we will remember him for. By contrast all of his ‘real world’ literature which covered the same topics, couldn’t get published during his lifetime.
The Storyteller’s Apprentice
The alchemy of the fantastic with the mundane is what makes for great storytelling. It’s what made Disney into Disney. It’s what gave Dick’s science-fiction work its heft and power. It’s what makes stories something worth retelling.
Taken to its extreme stories and legends become something larger than individual chapters. In an oral tradition the stories handed down would morph to suit the challenges of the day, their sequels can and would contradict what came before. Continuity wasn’t a thing. It wasn’t important, what was important was the underlying lessons, the underlying truth.
Read any anthology of ancient stories and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.
Dick created novels like UBIK and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch to be purposefully insolvable puzzles of nested realities. They can be seen as examples of modern storytellers submitting to the higher power of stories themselves, knowing that the puzzles they present bring people back to them over and over.
And guess what? You get exposed, again and again, to the deeper message, the deeper meaning. It’s what happened to me. I used to re-read UBIK every June 5th, the day the novel opens, because the book is that important to me.
It’s why we watch beloved movies multiple times. You may have come for the superheroes or the lightsabers but you come back for the story.
The point being is that stories which last have resonance and speak truth. Some become so big they grow beyond their origins into something that cannot be untangled. They become myth, legend. When the stories in the Bible or the Norse myths were being passed down through the ages, there wasn’t any care about continuity, only imparting lessons to the next generation who heard them.
Jordan Peterson has made the point that it is actually the lack of continuity, the lack of logic, that makes Creation Myths capable of sustaining a culture and a society from falling into chaos and civil war. He frequently uses the example of the Egyptian stories of Osiris, Set and Horus as the big example, which sustained ancient Egypt, apparently, for thousands of years.
Even Christianity can’t claim that…yet.
This is the responsibility Disney took on when it acquired first Pixar Studios, then Marvel Studios and then, most importantly, Lucasfilm. It already owned ESPN and ABC. It was now a story generating conglomerate so large that it owned all the modern mythmaking franchises sans DC Comics.
And with its overtly dipping its wick into the obvious political fray over Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law it betrayed that responsibility as a repository and generator of new stories capable of becoming myth to its core.
Disney, who used to stand apart from Hollywood’s descent into depravity and violence, became the ultimate symbol of it overnight.
The War Over the Stars
Star Wars I would argue, is one example of a modern story which is looked on by many today with that same kind of reverence. Star Wars’ inherent weirdness is what makes it so very accessible. The comic mythologies of Marvel and, in particular, DC have these same echoes.
Both have been subverted to serve the ‘Woke’ agenda of the World Economic Forum and their Great Reset of all things human into all things Transhuman, which I’ve discussed at length in the past.
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