On Jan. 21, 2022, Fox “News” resident white nationalist — well, one of them — Tucker Carlson went on the air with an impassioned rant about a serious, major, weighty issue for our times: the redesign of the cartoon characters promoting M&M candies. Those changes, Tuck complained, are such that the characters are no longer of the sort that he’d want to buy a drink for, and possibly cuddle up in bed with later. And by golly, he’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore.
Less than a week later another Fox mastermind, Jesse Watters, weighed in on another dire travesty: Disney’s earth-shaking decision to attire Minnie Mouse in a pantsuit rather than a skirt. You may recall that a few years earlier, a beaming Watters had proclaimed, shortly after the Electoral College selected Former Guy as the next president, that, thanks to Former Guy (who had not even been sworn in yet, much less profoundly altered the course of history by golfing while in office), Americans were now allowed to say “Merry Christmas” again — which of course they’d been expressly forbidden to do on pain of flaying during the dark reign of Barack Hussein Antichrist.
This time, to warn the public about Disney’s dastardly demonism, he brought on an extra special guest to chime in half a dozen sarcastic sentences: a certain vacuous Youtuber who has become a darling token black among right-wing demagogues, because there is not a single dumb or hateful narrative she is unwilling to pimp herself out for if it will buy her a little more time in the spotlight. What better expert to pontificate on all things Mickey Mouse than the person who said that the Southern Strategy is a myth, and that Hitler’s big sin was just invading other countries? And this time she didn’t disappoint:
Oh, I’m just so glad. I’m so glad they’re doing this. Let me just tell you, Jesse. It goes back to, like when they did this to the M&M’s and now they’re making her more masculine and I’m glad that they’re now saying — realizing that this needs to be addressed. You know, all of us were traumatized when we saw Minnie Mouse and she was looking like a female as we were growing up. …They’re taking all of these things that nobody was offended by and feel like they have to get rid of them and destroy them… They’re trying to destroy fabrics (sic) of our society, pretending that there’s issues. So everybody looks over here, look at Minnie Mouse. Don’t look at inflation, Jesse, look at Minnie Mouse. The world is going forward because we’ve got her in a pantsuit. Never mind, that you can’t get anything at the grocery store and you can’t buy a piece of bacon unless you’ve got $30 in your pocket. At least, we’re addressing the real problem, which is Minnie Mouse.
The stupid and silly are too thick to hack through with a machete. The idea that a woman in a pantsuit no longer looks like a woman. The idea that entertainment companies and candy companies should not retool their products or promotions unless they first tackle the world’s problems– or that their activities detract from addressing those problems. The idea that those companies (and of course Thuh Lefft) consider such decisions to be of major consequence. And on and on. People like her, and Watters, don’t seem to notice that only they are making major issues out of such matters.
Watters seconded her: “They’re bored out of their minds, and they’re just making it all uncomfortable for the rest of us.” Uncomfortable. Somehow, the latest looks sported by cartoon characters are making people “uncomfortable”. Remember that word. We just might encounter something like it again.
Minnie’s wardrobe makeover, by the way, was something that was done only by Disneyland Paris for its 30th anniversary, and the change was only temporary. Nor was this the first time that Minnie had boldly experimented with her attire — she’s done so repeatedly over the decades. No matter. These days, businesses who make changes of any kind, for any length of time, anywhere in the world, are obviously part of some vast George Soros Deep State conspiracy to make smug, privileged American right-wingers “uncomfortable”.
These episodes, alas, are far from uncommon. They are among the frequent salvos in what right-wingers call the “culture war(s)”. Which is a major misnomer, at least in the sense intended, since a war requires an exchange of aggressions between two or more parties. While right-wingers are certainly waging a battle against culture, culture doesn’t fight back. Nor, generally, does “The Left”, which is too busy taking care of business. And that business has nothing to do with erotic fantasies about animation.
During the same news cycle in which these three cartoonish characters on Fox lamented the changes in other cartoon characters, a cartoon book about the holocaust was being banned from some schools because, goshdarn it, a few smug white parents were uncomfortable with its discussion of certain historical events. (In Texas, one school official even recommended that negative teachings about the holocaust be balanced by an opposing viewpoint. No, I’m not making that up.)
Books are being banned right and left — well, actually, it’s always the right doing it — and in some cases literally burned. School boards in several states are being besieged by angry “parents” (almost always riled up by Fox “News”) to remove Critical Race Theory from schools where it has never been taught, even though none of them have the faintest notion what Critical Race Theory is. Good ole Florida has even advanced a measure that would make it illegal to cause white folks “discomfort” about racism. (No, I’m not making that up, either.) No such law exists protecting the comfort level of any other ethnicity, but hey. One measure, clearly illustrating the problem with public education, expressly forbids the teaching of certain specified “tenants” — though it doesn’t say anything about landlords.
Aside from being part of an imaginary war, these incidents have certain traits in common: notably both stupidity and silliness. These two characteristics, though they often go together, are two different things.
Stupidity is lending credence to gross misinformation and/or glaringly inept arguments. It’s stupid to display a photo of a large MAGA rally and say it’s proof that Biden couldn’t possibly have won the election because he couldn’t draw a crowd like that. It’s stupid to say that the moon landing was faked. It’s stupid to say that global warming and COVID must be hoaxes because a few Youtubers and cable TV personalities say so. And it’s stupid to say that marketing decisions by Disney or Mars are part of some plot to destroy society.
Silliness is more a matter of making a mountain out of a molehill — and right-wingers even target anthills in their screeds. Silliness is saying that because some people say “Happy Holidays” instead of (or in addition to!) “Merry Christmas”, it means there is an all-out War On Christmas. Silliness is saying that it’s somehow a matter of grave importance to the rest of the world that design changes in cartoon characters prevent a couple of cable TV freaks from getting their Pop Rocks off.
But in addition to silliness and stupidity, there’s another trait permeating these incidents: brilliance. Sheer brilliance. Huh? How can they be brilliant while also being stupid and silly?
To be sure, there is no hint of brilliance to be found in the citizens who mindlessly perpetuate these narratives. There isn’t even a hint of gray matter. But it’s a different story when it comes to the public figures who manipulate the masses into repeating the idiocy.
In reality, people like Tucker Carlson and Jesse Watters are not nearly as concerned about changes in their beloved cartoon characters as they pretend to be. Their goal is simply to keep their fans worked into a froth — as much as possible, as often as possible. The big stupid things, like the myth of a “stolen election”, don’t come along very often. So instead, they have to keep the daggers sharp on lots of little stupid (and silly) things like “culture wars”. Which actually might be even easier to get people worked up about.
Now it’s entirely possible that these figureheads really do have an interest in the major right-wing battles like trying to overturn an election. Certainly, Tucker Carlson, as a habitual white nationalist, has an interest in distorting (and suppressing) the history of racism in the United States. But first, foremost and always, these individuals have a commitment to simply stirring up a hornet’s nest. They derive an orgasmic satisfaction — even greater than that they derive from seeing Minnie Mouse in a short skirt — from getting the crude masses to make a stink about anything at all or nothing at all. The culmination of this pointless crucible of anger in mob violence such as occurred at the Capitol is the cherry on the sundae.
These people live for the adrenaline rush of provoking mindless outrage. The way they use stupidity and silliness as means to that end is, as a certain disgraced former White House Occupant might say, pure genius.