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Commercialization of Evil

I have to admit, when I first read the article title “Dreamlight Valley is a waking nightmare and Disney must be stopped,” I thought both that clickbait is getting out of control and… yeah, that’s some quality clickbait that deserves a click. What I discovered is a pretty legit, punchy article that brings up an increasingly odious problem when it comes to Disney and their commercialization of evil.

The TL;DR is that Disney is populating Dreamlight Valley – aka Stardew Valley meets Animal Crossing – with whitewashed villains. For reasons. Probably commercial ones. As the article states:

You can’t sell a backpack with a genuine monster on it, so the various appalling crimes and deeds of the Disney Villains have been meticulously sanded away – these figures reduced to queer-coded girlbosses so gentrified hipsters who love Hamilton can get tattoos of them guilt-free. Earlier this year, Disney released an advert for their doomed Star Wars hotel depicting a mother and her daughter enjoying their expensive vacation by dressing up as space nazis and narcing on beloved revolutionary icon Chewbacca. The pair of them smirk as stormtroopers lead Han Solo’s fluffy best friend away in handcuffs, presumably to either an execution or to be shipped off to a kyber mine as slave labour.

Is this really a problem endemic of the moral failings of society? Probably not. But I was a bit surprised to learn that Disney also has a mobile gacha game called Disney Twisted Wonderland that turns all their villains into anime-inspired versions of themselves. The latest addition is one based on Claude Frollo, whose cartoon bigotry in The Hunchback of Notre Dame has only become more relevant over time, and would probably precipitate a “woke backlash” if it had not already been released 25 years ago.

In principle, I do not have anything against people dressing up as Stormtroopers or whatever. People do that not because they were space Nazis, but because the designs are iconic and, yes, cool-looking. That’s just a win for the Art department. And so I can see the draw for Disney to tap into these hitherto untapped wells of marketing material in the form of villains – demeanor/war crimes aside, they are just as iconic if not more so than the heroes of the films they serve to foil.

So… what’s the big deal? I dunno. Maybe nothing.

Nevertheless, I do feel like something gets lost over time. We probably should not be relying on Disney movies to teach morality to children in the first place, but whatever cautionary tale might have existed in these characters’ stories becomes muddled and unrecognizable through the commercialization process. And what was gained? This is not a Wicked-style introspective on possibly misunderstood villains. It’s just… business cashing in on cachet. Which is what they do, I guess.