Walt Disney's Swiss Family Robinson
Imperialist Ideology in Family Entertainment
Harold Bloom once mused how Robinson Crusoe (1719) by a “politically incorrect Protestant imperialist” would fare in the “multicultural New Wave” (3). The fact that the imperialist archetype continues to be invoked, as in Bloom's collection of essays and, in popular culture, Walt Disney's Swiss Family Robinson (1960), the comic book Space Family Robinson, and William Hurt's Lost in Space (1998), demonstrates the appeal of “Robinsonade, ” stories of individuals struggling in hostile environments. Historically, Daniel Defoe's novel punctuated the emergence of Great Britain as a result of the alliance of England and Scotland, the Act of Union which Defoe vigorously publicized. In terms of literary history, Edward Said writes in Culture and Imperialism (1993) that Robinson Crusoe is the “prototypical modern realist novel, ” which, far from being an accident, deals with “a European who creates a fiefdom for himself ” (xii). Beyond the British Isles, European culture proved to be equally fertile soil for Defoe's vision of imperialist expansion; therefore, a whole genre of “Robinsonade” featuring castaways on deserted islands took root on the Continent. The contribution to empire and masculinity building made by this adventure tale is incalculable, being simultaneously escapist and expansionist. Imperialist growth—its desire for, thrust into, occupation and often enslavement of alien cultures — is presented as defensive measures, as strategies for survival. Indeed, what better way is there to justify violence against other races than to locate the motive in self-preservation? Johann David Wyss's 1813 The Swiss Family Robinson
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Publication information: Book title: The Deathly Embrace: Orientalism and Asian American Identity. Contributors: Sheng-Mei Ma - Author. Publisher: University of Minnesota Press. Place of publication: Minneapolis. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 38.
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