Latest News: Posts Tagged ‘how to read donald duck’

“Dorfman and Mattelart on Disney and Imperialism” — HOW TO READ DONALD DUCK featured on Always Already

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

“In this episode, Emily, James, and John enter the Worrisome World-Making of Disney (™) via How to Read Donald Duck, a 1971 Chilean Marxist critique of the American imperial-capitalist project of Disney, republished in 2018. Our trio approaches the book in form and content, and they discuss its social opposition through state censorship — whether as literal book-burning under the Pinochet regime or the banal violence of copyright infringement litigation in the United States — as well as praise the clarity of its cultural studies analysis of the Donald Duck comic strip (1938-1995). The comic, let us remind you, depicted the bourgeois imaginaries of the ne’er-do-well Donald Duck; his miserly ol’ Uncle Scrooge McDuck; everyone’s pal Daisy; our favorite triplets Huey, Dewey, and Louis; and all the aspiring burghers of Duckburg…and the realms beyond.

Does the ‘fantasia’ and ‘magic of Disney’ truly serve to mystify the processes of primitive accumulation? Is Scrooge McDuck’s Monroe-Doctrine, Robber-baron aesthetic the farcical return of Hobbes’ Leviathan? What might the fetishization of gold teach children about the value of labor? Why are there only uncles and aunts in Duckburg? What happened to production, reproduction, labor, class, and social antagonism? What does Donald Duck make invisible, and what does it seek to make natural? Is Donald Trump Scrooge? Is the Marvel Cinematic Universe the bourgeois ideology machine of our time?”

Listen here.

“ The book has a rambunctious humor that complements its polemical spirit.” —The New Yorker in review of HOW TO READ DONALD DUCK by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

Dan Piepenbring reviews How to Read Donald Duck by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart for The New Yorker

“How to Read Donald Duck,” published in 1971, was an instant best-seller in Chile. But, in 1973, Augusto Pinochet seized power from Allende, in a violent military coup; under Pinochet’s rule, the book was banned, as an emblem of a fallen way of thought. Donald and Mickey Mouse became champions of the counter-revolution. One official pasted their faces on the walls of his office, where, under his predecessor, socialist slogans had once hung. Dorfman watched on TV as soldiers cast his book into a bonfire; the Navy confiscated some ten thousand copies and dumped them into the bay of Valparaíso. A motorist tried to plow him down in the street, shouting “Viva el Pato Donald!” Families of protesters swarmed his home, deploring his attack on their innocence while, less than innocently, they hurled rocks through the windows. In the fifties, Dorfman’s family had fled to Chile to escape an America gripped by McCarthyism; now he would return to the U.S. an exile from Chile. He wouldn’t go back for nearly two decades.

Meanwhile, the world grew curious about “How to Read Donald Duck.” The book was translated into nearly a dozen languages, including English, and sold half a million copies. (John Berger lauded it as a “handbook of decolonization.”) But American publishing houses blanched at the prospect of a lawsuit from Disney, which was known to litigate early and often. In 1975, a small imprint agreed to a modest run of about four thousand copies. The books were printed in the U.K. and shipped to the U.S. But, when they arrived in New York, Customs impounded them, on suspicion of “piratical copying.” The books reproduced panels from Disney comics without permission. Customs invited lawyers from both sides to plead their cases. Disney argued that parents might pick up the book thinking it was a bona-fide Disney publication, unwittingly delivering radical propaganda to their children. Customs ultimately sided with the authors—but, citing an obscure nineteenth-century importation clause that was intended to curb the arrival of counterfeit books from abroad, the agency admitted only a miserly fifteen hundred copies into the U.S. No publisher tried again until this past fall. A new edition, from OR Books, offers Americans a new chance to discover, as the book’s translator, David Kunzle, puts it, “the iron fist beneath the Mouse’s glove.”

Read the full review here.

“Now, the feisty New York-based imprint OR Books has released HOW TO READ DONALD DUCK in America.” —Ben Terrall reviews HOW TO READ DONALD DUCK in January Magazine

Monday, March 25th, 2019

Of Imperialists, Bigots and Cartoon Waterfowl

When How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic was first published in Chile in 1971, the book’s authors, Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart, were leftist academics committed to supporting Salvador Allende’s project of advancing democratic socialism in Chile. After Allende won a free and fair election to Chile’s presidency, the country’s military and other right-wing elements stepped up their assault on the new government with key backing from the Unites States. The Nixon administration exulted when Allende’s Popular Unity government was overthrown in a military coup on September 11, 1973.

While in hiding from the military, Dorfman watched on television as copies of How to Read Donald Duck were burned in bonfires along with hundreds of other allegedly subversive volumes. The Chilean Navy dumped the entire third printing into the ocean. The book had been a target of the Chilean right-wing since its release: Dorfman had been attacked by an anti-Semitic mob, and a deranged motorist shouted “Viva el Pato Donald!” while trying to run him down.

Unlike many of their comrades, Dorfman and Mattelart (a Belgian sociologist who had been living in Chile) made it out of General Augusto Pinochet’s Chile alive, and Dorfman eventually settled in the States, becoming an American citizen in 2004.

How to Read Donald Duck didn’t fare so well stateside, either. An entire consignment of 4,000 copies was seized by U.S. customs agents acting at the behest of lawyers for the Walt Disney Company. And no U.S. publisher would touch the book, given the Disney empire’s notoriously litigious ways. But away from the grip of Disney, the book sold more than a million copies worldwide and was translated into 17 languages.

Now, the feisty New York-based imprint OR Books has released How to Read Donald Duck in America. The book is a bit of a time capsule, written as it was when Third World leftist hopes were high for movements and governments that could throw off the yoke of U.S. cultural and political hegemony. In a 2008 interview, Arnold Mattelart explained that the book’s title refers to Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser’s Reading Capital(1965), and said that How to Read Donald Duck can be read as an extension of Roland Barthes’ Mythologies (1957).

Dorman and Mattelart examined 100 Disney comics featuring Donald and his fine-feathered family, from which they display panels throughout the book (Donald has nephews and an uncle, but no parents, which in the view of the authors enhances the sexlessness of the comics). Dorfman later commented, “We had intended to roast Disney and the Duck.”

Dorfman and Mattelart did a good job of following through on that intention. They argue that “The world of Disney is a nineteenth century orphanage … The mere fact of being older or richer or more beautiful in this world confers authority. The less fortunate regard their subjection as natural. They spend all day complaining about the slavemaster, but they would rather obey his craziest order than challenge him.” Women play the roles of “humble servant or constantly courted beauty queen; in either case, constantly subservient to the male.” The exceptions to those prescribed female roles are the occasional witches.

How to Read Donald Duck still has useful things to say about life in the United States. In 2017, Dorfman wrote:

Certainly, many of the values we impaled in that book – greed, ultra-competitiveness, the subjection of the darker races, a deep-seated suspicion of foreigners (Mexicans, Arabs, Asians), all enwreathed in a credo of unattainable happiness – animate Trump’s enthusiasts (and not merely them). But such targets are now the obvious ones. Perhaps more crucial today is the cardinal, still largely unexamined, all-American sin at the heart of those Disney comics: a belief in an essential American innocence, in the utter exceptionality, the ethical singularity and manifest destiny of the United States.

Read the full article here

“We should say no to any coup d’etat, no to any military takeover, no to foreign interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela.” – ARIEL DORFMAN, author of HOW TO READ DONALD DUCK: IMPERIALIST IDEOLOGY IN THE DISNEY COMIC from BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

ARIEL DORFMAN on his lived experience of the 1973 Chilean coup d’état and Venezuela today.

“We suffered a coup d’etat against a government which was democratically elected, a socialist government, but was working within the law. We were also the object of foreign intervention, because the United States had blocked and sabotaged our economy, and they were also constantly interfering by sending millions and millions of dollars for the destabilization. These are not my words, these are the words of Kissinger and Nixon, “to make the economy scream.”

We should say, no to any coup d’etat, no to any military takeover, no to foreign interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela, but we should also say no to the anti-democratic oppressive measures which Maduro is taking, and the way in which his corrupt regime has really ruined that country.

Maduro is giving socialism a bad name. And I have consistently said that Maduro should think also of what he’s doing to the left in Latin America. All over Latin America there’s a nostalgia for dictatorship, for strong men, so I would tell Corbyn that as a man of the left, he should be very very clear, Maduro has problems, serious problems, we should criticize them, we should criticize all the forms of human-rights abuses that he’s got, and at the same time, we have to condemn any form of foreign interference, and any attempt to have a military takeover. ”

Listen to the full radio interview here.

“The clarity of this book nearly five decades on might stun you.” – HOW TO READ DONALD DUCK recommended by the editor of Reader

Monday, November 26th, 2018

Earlier this summer, OR Books rereleased one of the most influential books I have ever read: How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Matellart, which was originally published in Chile in 1971.

Read the full review here.

“Delivered with rigor and irreverence… A lot has changed since 1973. How to Read Donald Duck reminds us of what hasn’t.” – HOW TO READ DONALD DUCK reviewed in the Baffler

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

IN THE EARLY 1970s, the United States engineered an economic crisis in Chile to destabilize Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government. Allende had nationalized the copper industry and was steering the country toward socialism. Washington’s plan, in the words of President Nixon, was to “make the economy scream.” Loans from the Inter-American Development Bank stalled, spare parts for industrial machinery from U.S. companies did not arrive, and the CIA financed a huge strike of truck drivers. During this “invisible blockade,” some foreign commodities did continue to enter Chile: materiel for the golpistas in the army, of course, but also mass culture—TV shows, advertisements, and magazines, including the comic book adventures of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

Read the full review here.

“Caustic and furious… a fascinating book.” – HOW TO READ DONALD DUCK reviewed in Socialist Review

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

Written in Chile in 1971 by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart, How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic has had a troubled existence. Copies were burnt in Chile following 11 September 1973, when the Popular Unity government led by Salvador Allende was overthrown..

Read the full review here.

“An inherently fascinating, ‘time lost’, and iconoclastic analytical study.”- HOW TO READ DONALD DUCK reviewed at Midwest Book Review

Monday, October 15th, 2018

Originally published in 1971 in Chile, where the entire third edition was dumped into the ocean by the Chilean Navy and bonfires were held to destroy earlier editions, “How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic” by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart reveals the imperialist, capitalist ideology at work in one of Walt Disney’s most beloved cartoon characters.

Read the full review here.

“Dorfman and Mattelart offer a lively and persuasive critique, connecting the universe of the comics with Walt Disney’s own unhappy childhood.”- HOW TO READ DONALD DUCK reviewed in The New York Times books newsletter

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018

In July 1975, the United States Customs Service seized thousands of copies of “How to Read Donald Duck,” first published in Chile in 1971. The book fared no better in its home country. During the political turmoil after the coup that removed Salvador Allende from office, the Chilean Navy threw thousands of copies of the text into the Bay of Valparaiso; still others were burned in protest.

Read the full review here.

“How we roasted Donald Duck, Disney’s agent of imperialism.”- ARIEL DORFMAN in The Guardian

Friday, October 5th, 2018

When Ariel Dorfman co-wrote a book finding colonialist intent in the actions of a well-loved cartoon character, it got burned in Chile’s streets and earned him death threats. Now it’s back – and newly relevant in the ‘pre-fascist’ Trump era. He explains why.

Read the full article here.

ARIEL DORFMAN discusses the extraordinary history of HOW TO READ DONALD DUCK at NPR Latino USA

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

Later in the podcast, we learn more about How to Read Donald Duck, a 1970s critique of Disney’s Donald Duck comics written by Ariel Dorfman. The book came out after Chile had the first democratically elected socialist in the Americas. We find out how one small book changed the author’s life—and why the book is hard to find even today.

Listen to the full interview here.

HOW TO READ DONALD DUCK reviewed in The Rumpus

Friday, August 3rd, 2018

See the full review here.

Book-Burning, Trump’s Torchbearers & Reading Donald Duck: ARIEL DORFMAN in Informed Comment

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

The organizers of the white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville last month knew just what they were doing when they decided to carry torches on their nocturnal march to protest the dethroning of a statue of Robert E. Lee. That brandishing of fire in the night was meant to evoke memories of terror, of past parades of hate and aggression by the Ku Klux Klan in the United States and Adolf Hitler’s Freikorps in Germany.

Read more at Informed Comment.