(ANALYSIS) I’ve never been crazy about Disney. I’ve never been to any of their theme parks, either as a kid or now as a parent of two, and I’ve never binged on their movies much in my life. I’ll freely admit that puts me in the minority, both in the United States and globally, when it comes to drinking Disney.
I was, however, once a Disney employee. No, I haven’t worked in one of their stores. Instead, I was employed at ABC News in New York, where I worked for the digital unit that managed the website and other internet assets such as social media. It was a great place to work – although not “the happiest place on Earth” as the official Disneyland States slogan. It was, after all, a newsroom – but one of the perks was free tickets every year to Disney theme parks.
I say all this in the context of the ongoing dispute over Florida “Parental rights in education” bill, which is now law after Governor Ron DeSantis signed it into law. This is the much-discussed bill that prohibits classroom teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade “in a way that is not age-appropriate. or development of students in accordance with state standards”.
The law continues to be publicized for two reasons: first, Disney’s involvement, and second, the broader notion that DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, is – everyone chants the media mantra – “engaging in a culture war “. It remains a political story, a business story, and a pop culture story.
Is it also an important religious story? It certainly is – Terry Mattingly addresses this topic in GetReligion’s most recent podcast.
My most recent GetReligion post focused on the news media largely ignoring Republican DeSantis’ Roman Catholic faith when it came to widespread media coverage around the bill, which opponents effectively labeled “Don’t Say Gay” — even though the bill doesn’t never used those words.
At the same time, conservative press coverage around the legislation centered much more on Disney’s belated activism to oppose it. Coverage of mainstream and progressive news sites continues to center on the activist mantra “Don’t Say Gay”.
It’s also something powered by Twitter, despite voices trying to argue otherwise. This carries over to journalism, where the premise of stories is often wrong. At the very least, it avoids giving the “other side” a voice in the story as it might negate the narrative.
This public fight is taking place at a time of misinformation and heightened distrust of the news media in the wake of the history of the hunter biden laptop and Russiagate. The coverage of these stories by major newspapers and TV stations has led to a sobering toll in recent months.
As for the new Florida law, Disney has pledged to work to reverse the measure, but a Washington Post review Lobbying disclosures found no trace of Disney activity on the bill in the House, where the legislation first appeared last January.
What the coverage lacks is that neutral two-sided approach that this important topic warrants. Without it, we get a lot of misinformation and buzzwords like “controversial” to describe what’s going on. ABC News has certainly not hesitate to call it just like that.
Let’s start with the lack of Catholic voices in much of the mainstream media coverage. According to Pew Research, 70% of Florida’s population identifies as Christian. Catholicism is second in this category at 21%, after Evangelical Christians, who are at 24%. Add to that that DeSantis is a Roman Catholic, and it’s clear that voices on this side of the religious spectrum matter.
Bishop John Noonan, who leads the Diocese of Orlando, hasn’t said anything about the new law — but that doesn’t mean the press can’t ask him or the diocese to comment.
So far, we haven’t seen any of that – a strange development given how much press attention has been paid to what various cardinals, archbishops and bishops had to say last year on the question of whether whether President Joe Biden should not take Holy Communion because of his abortion rights proposal.
What about Catholic Disney employees? Much has been made of the woke Disney employees who have pushed the company in recent weeks to take on DeSantis and the Florida Legislature to oppose this bill. As Terry Mattingly noted the other day:
It is very common for Catholic leaders, or individual parishes, to create ministries for Catholics who are active in large institutions and industries. Are there Catholic clergy who are actively involved in ministry to the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of Catholics who are “Disney workers”?
For example, in the past, the Disney Contemporary Resort hosted masses in its ballroom for travelers at Christmas and Easter. Also Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Queen of the Universe is a few miles from Walt Disney World. Surely there are other parishes that contain significant numbers of Disney personnel.
It turns out that a little research online and a look back at newspaper archives can reveal many religion-related story angles that have been currently overlooked. To be sure, there are Catholic ties to Disney — and there’s no shortage of people to quote who can present the other side of this story and react to the bill and the company’s very public stance against it.
Ben Reinhard, professor of English at Christendom College, wrote an article for The Catholic world which was released on March 22. Here is his point of view:
It could well be objected that I am making a lot of noise for nothing. They’re just kids’ movies, after all – and surely kids don’t understand these things, do they? Kids just want to be entertained by fun characters, flashy colors and catchy tunes; the message doesn’t matter. After all, a six-year-old doesn’t leave Encanto to protest the oppressive evil of traditional family roles, so why bother?
This is an understandable but fatal miscalculation – and almost the opposite of the truth. As philosophers and poets from Plato to Dante to CS Lewis have recognized, stories are an integral part of a child’s upbringing: the story reflects the author’s understanding of reality and recreates in the mind of the public. Therefore, very few things matter as much as the stories we tell young people. They shape the child’s identity, his notions of right and wrong, and how he understands his place in the world.
Thus, whether or not he consciously “captures” the message of a film is irrelevant. He will absorb it again—and all the more powerfully because he is not aware of it. Thus, a child brought up on the regular diet of these films is conditioned to regard any restraint on their freedom of expression as an exercise in tyranny, developing habitual distrust of authority, limits and tradition – especially of the local variety. and parental.
Those interested in this topic can explore the work of CS Lewis (Anglican) and JRR Tolkien (Catholic), focusing on the concept of the “baptism of the imagination”.
Reinhard concludes thus:
A brief acquaintance with recent Disney history leaves little doubt as to the company’s chosen path. Disney’s vague feminism and multiculturalism of the 1990s gave way to strident LGBT and anti-family advocacy in the 2020s. Signs of change are everywhere: whether in the rehabilitation of once evil characters, or in the increasingly evident homosexual subtexts in its children’s films, or in the overt political machinations mentioned above, the Disney company has taken a stand. It is high time for parents to do the same.
Why not interview Reinhard on this topic, whether for print or television, given the media coverage this bill continues to receive?
This may be because it would force some journalists to think twice about their new role as activists. Many journalists do not want to explore the other side of this question because they believe there is none. Many journalists urgently define who is right and who is wrong on these issues.
After all, it’s easier to paraphrase that “bigoted” stance and go into much more detail with sympathetic voices on the “Don’t Say Gay” side, allowing them to drive and frame the coverage.
This may explain why Christians, and Catholics in particular, are not part of the coverage.
Why would journalists want to search for such people with a connection to Disney?
To get started, look at those who help plan trips to Disney. As Easter approaches, visitors to the Disney Park will be sure to want to attend mass as well. A quick Google search yielded several links that help Catholics determine where they can go to church when visiting Orlando.
A link details that a The Catholic Mass “takes place at Disney World in the Fantasia Ballroom located at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.” Interesting. Why not go there and get some Catholics to ask about this issue?
The second link, called Plan Disney and affiliated with the company, offer this advice for travellers.
If you’re going to be at Walt Disney World on Christmas Day or Easter Sunday, in years past Disney’s Contemporary Resort has offered a Catholic Mass in the Ballroom for both days. At any other time of the year, there is an absolutely stunning church about 3 miles from the Walt Disney World property. The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Queen of the Universe offers a vigil mass on Saturday as well as four Sunday masses. You can easily take a taxi or Uber from your resort to the sanctuary.
Yelp, which publishes crowdsourced business reviews, has also provides a list of Catholic churches around Orlando and the theme park, where journalists can easily pick up those Catholic voices in the shadow of the Magic Kingdom.
Critics may call it the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill, but it seems more and more that the media has instead decided ‘Don’t Say Catholic’ every time they talk about this new law that will have implications for the upcoming congressional midterm elections. and maybe for years to come.
This post originally appeared on get religion.