One of the precipitating events of the Taliban’s rise to power in the mid-1990s was a small civil war between two non-Taliban warlords over a young boy they both fancied. A Taliban squad rescued the boy, which helped their reputation.
When the Taliban came to power, they implemented reforms to prevent this sort of thing, much to the amusement of Andrew Sullivan, who chortled in 2001:
THE TALIBAN’S DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL: All the rest of NATO may have given up on policing their militaries for homosexuals, but the United States can rest easy knowing that one military that still supports U.S. policy is the Taliban. Any consorting with beardless young men in the army is strictly forbidden. This story from the Daily Telegraph tells of a weird and fastidious obsession.
Uh, Andrew? Please tell us you didn’t realize that “consorting with beardless young men in the army” is a euphemism for an old Afghan custom. James Michener’s informative 1963 novel Caravans refers to it frequently, such as in a description of the butch-femme warrior couples Michener frequently saw. Call me “weird and fastidious,” but on this one issue, I’ve got to come down on the same side as the Taliban against the alliance of Andy Sullivan and the armed pederast warlords.
Will S. finds an article claiming that Disney princess movies have been softening up children for gay marriage with their “impossible desire” plotlines. If species is a bigger deal than sex, and Ariel and Belle can fall in love with men of other species, then surely it wouldn’t be far-fetched for them to marry each other instead, right? The Atlantic article quotes cite lots of examples, none of which would seem to have anything to do with homosexuality to anyone not already obsessed with the topic. (If socially forbidden love is always implicitly gay, then a whole genre going back to the Middle Ages stands condemned.) I stand by my position that Disney has done a pretty good job of preserving gendered archetypes in the face of feminist pressure, and warming children to the idea of monarchy to boot. But there are bigger issues at stake here.
Of course, interspecies romance has always been with us. If you are a hero, you must expect that sooner or later, a fairy, wood nymph, mermaid, Martian princess, Olympian goddess, or elf maiden is going to fall in love with you. Should this happen to you in real life, you don’t have to marry the girl, but for heaven’s sake have care for her feelings and don’t act shocked or disgusted. Should you encounter it in fiction, don’t be scandalized. The author is most likely not trying to win you over to a gay or gender-bending agenda. And even if he is, you still needn’t worry, because his tools betray him. Maybe Hans Christian Anderson wrote The Little Mermaid as part of a secret hundred-year plot to normalize sodomy. I doubt it, but it wouldn’t matter if he did. Hollywood being what it is, no doubt most of the teams who worked on the Disney movies that have appeared in my lifetime have “gotten with the program” on the gay agenda. That also doesn’t matter, because what makes The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and other stories with similar premises work dramatically is the intuition that sex is actually more fundamental than species. To use them to deconstruct “gender” is to destroy them.
To explain this, I turn to a true expert on interspecies romance: Captain James T. Kirk.
When you’ve been a Star Trek fan as long as I have, you’ve heard your fill of the Star Trek narrative, the story we tell to justify the enduring popularity of, it could be claimed, a rather silly sixties television show and its spinoffs. The popularity of the show is supposedly explained by our being inspired by Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision of humanity’s future, in which mankind defeats war, racism, and poverty through technological wizardry and liberal platitudes. There are a lot of smart Trekkies out there–I’ll bet Mr. Spock was the childhood hero of half the people in my physics department, myself included–many of whom would give some credence to this story, but it’s not true. Roddenberry’s human utopia is so boring, so repellently inhuman, that even liberals can’t take much pleasure in it, and the shows almost completely ignore it in favor of the more interesting and appealing alien races. The most popular aliens, the Klingons and the Vulcans, are extremely illiberal. The Klingons are a warrior race with strong kinship groups, while the logical Vulcans are strictly patriarchal (wives referred to as property, must obey husbands), mystical, and ritualistic. Nor does anybody value Star Trek for its social commentary. Contrary to how the show’s creators like to remember it, there actually wasn’t much, which is good, because fans never liked the “preachy” bits, even when the message was unobjectionable.
Hollywood is, as everybody knows, controlled by our enemies. And yet somehow, movies have overall been pretty good to the cause of monarchy. School teaches us to have negative associations with words like “monarchy”, “authority”, “feudal”, “medieval”, while movies end up giving us positive associations with “king”, “queen”, “princess”, “knight”, and “royal”. This needs explaining.
Republicans generally have no understanding of the appeal of monarchy. They think that a monarchist must be either an aspiring tyrant who secretly sees himself as the coming king, a fool who imagines that only exceptional men will ever occupy the throne, or a childishly servile fellow who “can’t handle” the freedom of adulthood. There’s no sense that monarchy may actually enable a certain type of human excellence, that loyalty to a leader–not because of his personal charisma, but because of an order of legitimacy that transcends both ruler and ruled–can be a manly, virile, and intelligent attribute.
This is a weakness of the republican consensus. The idea of a brave and loyal subject is intuitive to most boys. Progressive doctrines, republicanism included, take a very extreme, and thus difficult to defend position–that rival positions have absolutely nothing to be said for them. So it is that a historian will complain when a Civil War documentary gives the Northern justification 15 minutes and the Southern justification 15 seconds, not because of the imbalance, but because the South was allowed a say at all. So it is that sodomy marriage advocates feel compelled to say not that their arguments are better, but that their opponents don’t have any arguments at all. Not a shred of ambiguity, not a single trade-off or shade of grey, is allowed in the official narrative. Only their control of the media makes it possible for them to advance such a fragile position.
One more, and then I’ll put the “princess” theme to rest for a while.
Watching fairy tale movies with the little kids for whom they are made gets one thinking. They deal extensively with things beyond the experience of children: falling in love, battles to the death, marriage. Since I’m on a Disney kick, think of that beautiful scene in Sleeping Beauty where Prince Philip meets Princess Aurora in a forest. We know from experience what draws men and women together, and we can read that understanding into portrayals of love at first sight. How does a child understand it?
Foolish thought! The opposite would be closer to the truth, that the fairy tales of my childhood made it possible for me to one day understand sexual attraction.
Man never experiences even his own biological urges unmediated by understanding and imagination. I cannot imagine what hunger would be like to one who doesn’t know about food. Take the intentionality away, and all that would be left would be some inexplicable discomfort. By the time I reached the age of sexual maturity, my mind–and, more importantly, my imagination–had been made ready for it. I had just enough knowledge about marriage and babies, and I had an aesthetic intuition from all those images of how masculinity and femininity are drawn together. So the sexual urge came to me not as some new meaningless physiological trigger, but already humanized and mythologized. I knew it as the yearning for intimacy with a woman and experienced it as such. Without this preparation, the sex urge might be experienced as just some strange new sort of itch, which we can all agree would be monstrous and degrading. This is not to say that having a properly mythologized sex drive will keep one out of trouble–through my own grievous fault, mine led me into plenty of sin–but it is the start of a sensibility that can see the logic and beauty of chastity.
What must it be like for the coming generation, so many without both biological parents, growing up in a culture that has abolished the sexual archetypes and “heteronormativity” in the name of equality?
If there’s one thing feminists and traditionalists can agree on, it’s that Hollywood needs more stories about strong, independent female monarchs.
Writing about The Princess and the Frog, I was pessimistic about the long-term prospects of Disney princess movies in a hostile feminist environment, but having seen Tangled and Frozen, I see that I had underestimated the cleverness of the Disney storywriters. (Insightful reviews of Frozen by antiliberals can be found here and here, but really, these movies are a lot of fun, and you should just go see them.) What’s remarkable is that these movies strike me as less PC and more gender-realistic than anything since Disney started trying to deflect feminist criticism (circa Beauty and the Beast). How are they getting away with it?
A year or two, I was taking Julie shopping for new shoes. I thought we’d get a nice solid color, or maybe a character she would recognize like Elmo. Then she saw the Disney princess sneakers: three princesses stuffed together (I don’t remember which), silver glittery swaths, and the word “princess” on the side. First she insisted on trying them. Then she wouldn’t take them off. Then we bought them. Two things struck me. First, the group princess merchandizing strategy was new to me. I had imagined that one could get Snow White shoes or Beauty and the Beast shoes, but combining them? Very smart. Second, it was interesting that princesses had such an allure for a girl who hadn’t seen any of the movies yet.