Though this sequence serves primarily as a character witness to Daniel Hillard's morality, the response of Lou emerges as indicative of the response of society at large to cartoons and children's films. Lou 's "this is a cartoon" elides the difference between adult judgment and that of children: adults see the cartoon for what it is, a cartoon, fiction, play; children do not. Hillard is correct about the message sent unfettered by qualifications to the children who view the cartoon--it is morally irresponsible.
Yet the film industry aligns itself behind Lou, the producer who speaks about costs, and indirectly, about profits. The Motion Picture Association of America has developed an entire system of ratings based on adult standards of what constitutes suitable viewing for children. Those standards are then replicated in society at large when the ratings determine who does and does not have access to a film. Hillard registers a complaint about this system, about Lou and society's definition of a "cartoon," in his recognition that although by law cigarette manufacturers must print the surgeon general's warning concerning cigarette use on all packages and advertisements, no such standard exists in the manufacture of films, outside the rating system which inevitably rules cartoons suitable for general viewing. In this piece I wish to take Hillard's interdiction of the film industry's attitude toward cartoons and apply it to the subjectivities developed for the villains and villainesses in Disney cartoons, for though the films do not advocate something harmful to physical health and well-being such as smoking, they do consistently proffer what I refer to as Queer Negativity in their depiction of evil characters.
The analysis requires some preliminary expletives and leaps of faith, as it were, for never to my knowledge has Disney created an acknowledged or out queer character, whether villain or no. However, many of the Disney cartoons depict characters with seeming queer sensibilities or relations between characters that smack of homosexuality, such as those Vito Russo notes in The Celluloid Closet between Honest John and Gideon in Pinocchio , who seduce Pinocchio with the lyrics "an actor's life is gay" in the song "Heigh Diddley Dee," or between Jock and Gus-Gus in Cinderella, who are admonished to leave the sewing of Cinderella's dress to the women and who lean on one another as Cinderella relates the story of the handsome prince. Like the example of Pudgy the Parrot, both these examples rely on a recognition of the queer sensibilities by the adult audience--a recognition that in many cases would most likely be lost on children. However, when it comes to the creation of villains or villainesses with queer sensibilities, the question needs be raised as to whether or not it is like sending children a proverbial pack of cigarettes to invite their negative judgment of queer attributes or mannerisms and to indirectly contribute to society's continued condemnation of such characteristics, for Disney's protrayal of queer sensibilities in its villains and villainesses has been replicated ad nauseam and never once accompanied by a warning label.
The queer attribute most frequently associated with Disney's evil ones concerns the repetitive creation of villainesses who resemble drag queens, as if some tag of masculinity must be attached to a woman of evil intent. The earliest example of this can be seen in the Disney classic 101 Dalmatians. Based on the Dodie Smith book,101 Dalmatians relates the story of Pongo and Perdita, a pair of perfectly matched Dalmatians, and their respective "pets" Roger Radcliffe and Anita. Roger and Anita meet in the park one day as a result of the actions of Pongo who winds his leash around the both of their legs and sends them careening into a pond so that he has the opportunity to meet Perdita. The dogs and their pets fall in love and soon all live together with the anticipation of puppies. At this point in the narrative, the audience meets the villainess, the enigmatic Cruella DeVille, one time school chum of Anita, heiress to the DeVille fortune.
Never does the storyline lead the viewer to believe that Cruella is actually a man in drag, however, her masculine attributes could not be more exaggerrated, as Leonard Maltin notes in his book The Disney Films. Maltin states that Cruella "revels in the stylistic exaggeration of reality" with a "bony and angular" face. He calls her design a "caricature."  But a caricature of what? a stylistic exaggeration of what reality? Certainly not the ideal of femininity. Perfectly flat-chested, Cruella struts around in two-tone hair, drives a mile long convertible like a bat out of hell. Her voice, wonderfully performed by Betty Lou Gerson, is one of booming tones and terrific accent as she rolls through "Anita Dahlings" and "Mahvelous, Mahvelous'" that put Billy Crystal's to shame. But it is perhaps Roger Radcliffe's analysis in a song he writes after Cruella pays a pre-birth visit to Perdita which most calls into question the nature of our villainess. Roger calls Cruella the "devil-woman" in an interesting, even if already nominally apparent, cross-gender equation--the devil is typically personified as male. She's the "spider waiting for the kill," and when she admits, like many a good drag queen, that she "live[s] for furs; worship[s] furs," we realize not only her intended use of Perdita's puppies, but that the only reality Cruella could be exaggerating is a queer one, and not in any positive terms.
While Cruella DeVille's appearance seems no more than a given, the next time Disney portrays a villainess, more than twenty years later in Madame Medusa in The Rescuers, appearance becomes more of a performative act. The Rescuers begins at the fictive Rescue Aid Society housed within the United Nations building in New York. The Society's members, mice of every nationality and variety, ride in on the coattails and in the briefcases of United Nations delegates, gathering for what appears to be a usual meeting. However, front and center on this particular meeting's agenda stands a green bottle found by the Society's janitor, Bernard. The meeting commences with a reading of the message sent by an orphan girl named Penny who was recently kidnapped by the malicious Madame Medusa and taken to live on her boat in the swamps of Devil's Bayou. The society agrees to take up Penny's cause and elects the French delegate, Lady Bianca, to the mission, and she in turn appoints Bernard as her assistant. The rest of the cartoon covers the daring rescue of Penny, whom, because of her small size, Medusa utilizes to crawl down abandoned caverns in search of a diamond of outrageous proportions called the Devil's Eye.
Like Cruella DeVille, the characteristics of Madame Medusa defy classically defined femininity (as opposed to Lady Bianca who is petite, polite, soft-spoken, elegant and always in control). She's lanky and clumsy, Geraldine Page gives her a booming voice, she drives like a bat out of hell (again) in a convertible (again). Unlike Cruella, however, Medusa does not personify her namesake and no mention similar to Roger's song about Cruella exists of it in the film. Her head does not seethe with snakes, though her hair sometimes resembles snakelike movement and she does keep crocodiles for pets; she does not turn men to stone when they glance upon her; and, unfortunately, no burly hunky Jason comes to chop off her head. For Medusa, the femininity of which she is in possession seems a performance. Whereas Cruella's appearance is always intact--with the exception of the one time we view her in bed in curlers, an interesting twist seeing as her hair is habitually straight and stringy prompting Maltin to describe it as "moplike."  The Rescuers reveals Medusa's as a put on. When she packs to leave New York and go to her steamboat in the swamps, she leaves the straps of a bra hanging out of her suitcase (unlike Cruella, Medusa has breasts, and is, in fact, a bit top heavy) providing Lady Bianca with a ride similar to bungee jumping as she grabs them to tag along.
But this "performance" of gender appears most flagrantly on the steamboat itself. One evening Medusa calls the orphan Penny to her chambers to inform her of her task for the following day. Penny enters the room in the middle of Medusa's disrobing process to find Medusa to have lips on only one side of her face, the side with lipstick, and to witness her take off her false eyelashes to reveal a hideously plain, very masculine figure. Interestingly, Medusa's parody of femininity is later parodied by Penny as she grabs a mop and effects the drag-like characteristics of Medusa for Bernard and Lady Bianca: the gait, the affected speech and facial gestures, the deep voice, all to the amusement of her audience, without whom there would be no show. That Medusa's appearance, her assumption of femininity in a drag-like manner, would become the object of ridicule further demonstrates how Disney cartoons take a queer sensibility and distort it providing children with a negative image of aspects of queer existence.
With the appearance of Ursula the sea witch inThe Little Mermaid in 1989, the Disney studios enter into a full out imitation of known drag icons for the creation of an evil character. The Little Mermaid tells the story of Ariel, the youngest daughter of Triton, king of the sea. Ariel desires more than anything else to be a part of the human world, but being forbidden contact with humans by her father, she clandestinely collects all sorts of human brick-a-brack lost at sea and goes to her seagull friend, Scuttle, to have the items identified. On one such expedition, Ariel encounters the ship of the handsome prince Eric and falls in love with him on sight. When the ship enters stormy waters, Ariel manages to save Eric from sure drowning, and he comes to on the beach to the pulchritudinous silhouette of her face and the lingering echoes of her song of longing to be a part of his world.
Enter Ursula the sea witch who, having been banished from Triton's castle, has turned to making seedy deals with merpeople and collecting their souls in payment for whatever benefit she offers them. In exchange for her voice, Ursula offers Ariel the opportunity to become human for three days, on the condition that if she cannot make Eric plant the kiss of love on her by sunset on the third day, she will become an addition to Ursula's garden of souls. After a rousing series of adventures and musical numbers, the prince, despite Ursula's attempts to foil the enterprise, does finally give Ariel the kiss of true love and all ends happily.
Unlike her predecessors, Ursula lacks the seeming morphological or mythological implications of her name, so she bears no immediate connection with evil. The studio creates her malevolence, however, by emasculating her, so much so that at times Pat Carroll's voiceover on the soundtrack sounds as if it were a man speaking the part. The King's impresario, Sebastian the crab, further emphasizes this emasculation by referrring to Ursula as both a demon and a monster, typically masculine associations similar to that made between Cruella and the devil. The animators in charge addmitedly drew on Divine as inspiration for the character, and like Madame Medusa, Ursula performs a number for Ariel while attempting to coerce her into the deal. During this performance, Ariel witnesses Ursula sprucing up her hair and her lips with an array of underwater beauty products--a scene just opposite of Penny's witness of Medusa dressing down. After her make-up is complete, Ursula goes on the grab her two eels, Flotsam and Jetsom, strangely akin to Medusa's twin crocs Brutus and Nero, utilizing them as a feather boa as she shimmies her steatopygous figure across the ocean floor.
While drawing the connections between Ursula's predecessors and drag queens may seem to be exaggerating the reality slightly, Ursula's Divine-inspired animation makes the connection inherently visible--Disney repeatedly uses drag inspired characters as villainesses, positing queer negative images as suitable viewing for children of any age. Most likely, a four-year-old will not stand up in the middle of The Little Mermaid and shout, "Look Ma, it's Divine," that association being unfamiliar. In other words, children will fail to recognize these characters for what they are, for their queer identities, but will leave the theater with an understanding that such identities are affiliated with evil, and this understanding needs be tempered first, and eliminated second.
As if portraying drag queens, who some would argue are marginal queer characters at best, in negative light were not enough, the Disney studios go on in their most recent smash, The Lion King, to present both an easily construed queer villain, and a damaging portrayal of homosocial relationships. The Lion King tells the coming of age story of Simba, son of Mufasa and heir to the Lion's throne at Pride Rock. The villain of this story is Mufasa's dark and gangly brother, Scar, who jealous of Simba's inheritance and his own imminent supplanting as heir, arranges for Mufasa to be killed before Simba's eyes in a wildebeest stampede. Convincing the naive Simba that none of this would have happened were it not for him, Scar admonsihes Simba to leave his Savannah home and never return. Simba perfunctorily exits and ends up maturing in the company of the meerkat Timon and his flatulent warthog pal, Pumbaa, until Nala, Simba's childhood friend and betrothed, finds him and persuades him to return and claim Pride Rock, setting all to right again.
Though wrought from entirely original material, The Lion King's tropic coming of age formula elicits tropic characterizations, such as the villain Scar. Voiced by Jeremy Irons, who critic David Denby claims "draw[s] on British theatrical traditions. . .[to give] his lines fey, nasty twists,"  the evil brother resonates atavistically Sterling Halloway's performance of Kaa, the snake in The Jungle Book, He even comes to resemble the actor. From his first spoken line "Life is not fair," Scar exhibits sterotypically effeminate behaviors and speech patterns, including the perenially elevated pinky finger attached to an incessantly limp wrist. When told by Mufasa that Simba will rule over even Scar, Scar retorts "I shall practice my curtsy." Moreover, the stereotypical characterization reproduces equations such as queer equals victim. Scar does not marry; he's the admitted weaker brother, the one who tells Simba he cannot jump for joy at Simba's impending ascension because of a "bad back, you know." The only characters around whom he seems strong are those he himself considers "idiots." When Simba tells him he is weird for all these traits, Scar retorts, "You've no idea," making the comment made by the king's assistant Zazu, "There's one in every family" all the more telling. Contrast Scar with Mufasa in both voice, Mufasa's provided by James Earl Jones, and animation, and Disney's portrayal is clear: the villain is ugly and weak; resorts to dubious schemes and tactics; is condemned to association with the dregs of society, in this case hyenas; and his crowning attribute-- He's Queer, surprise, surprise.
Perhaps in an attempt to salvage this negative portrayal of queerdom and push The Lion King toward political correctness, the story provides a seemingly positive image of homosocial relations in the characters of Timon and Pumbaa, buddies remniscient of Honest John and Gideon and Jock and Gus-Gus, the meerkat and warthog with whom Simba matures. They live and play together, protect one another, put up with each other's idiosyncrasies, even sleep together, Timon riding the rise and fall of Pumbaa's enormous belly while he breathes. Further intimations of the homosocial nature of their relationship emerge when Nala attempts to convince Simba to leave their company and reclaim his throne. Timon expresses a humorous sort of anger at the possible loss of their comrade, specifically related to the possibility that Simba may fall in love with another lion. He talks of retaining Simba on he and Pumbaa's side and speaks of "keeping him," but never articulates for what. Finally, in a song and dance number, Timon admits the fear that the comely trio will be reduced to only two--the club will have lost a member to the ominous other side--the frequency with which gay men have bemoaned the loss of another cute boy upon the date of his engagement cannot even be tallied.
But implicit in Timon and Pumbaa's heartfealt concern for their friend, "He's doomed" they claim, is a judgment on the lives they lead, even on the characters they are. Timon and Pumbaa exist where they are, on the fringes of society, and are happy there only because they cannot exist within society as a whole. They extend friendship to Simba because they view him like they view themselves, as outcasts. If Simba falls in love, he no longer needs their friendship because he has assimilated to mainstream society's expectations, undertaking heteronormative behavior. The underlying message The Lion King sends dictates that homosocial relationships can only exist outside mainstream society, that only outcasts participate in such interactions, a sentiment which matches that expressed by Vito Russo: "The placement of homosexuality or the real possibility of it in an antisocial context is quite natural. Homosexuality when it is visible is antisocial."  Moreover, Timon and Pumbaa's fear at the loss of their friend propogates further stereotypes and misunderstandings concerning homosocial relations. They articulate the commonly held assumption that male- male relations exist within some sort of special club where members are recruited and seduced to remain.
Thankfully for The Lion King, Timon and Pumbaa's appearance in the story does not end when Simba returns to reclaim Pride Rock, for the two friends lend their support to Simba's efforts and are justly reward with positions in his kingdom. At the end of the film they appear alongside Nala and Simba as Rafiki, the shamanistic baboon, presents the future king, Nala and Simba's newborn cub. Their continued presence within the story introduces a new idea to Disney cartoons that characters who participate in homosocial relations may actually be generous caring individuals if given the chance--they're okay if they withstand the trials of friendship. But these two weren't admitted without those trials, and they had to invite themselves along in the first place.
The thesis of this piece rests not so much on a recognition on the part of young viewers of the queer attributes of Disney villains and villainesses, but on the images of evil proferred to and retained by children after watching these films. Parents all over the United States were up in arms over the violence presented in The Lion King, prompting New York Times critic Carin Rubinstein to write that "two, three, and four year olds don't know that what is on the screen is not real, even if it is animation."  While concern rages over the presentation of violence, only Christopher Street published an article indicting the portrayal of homosexual stereotyping, imagery that may be as damaging to a child's psyche and to the peaceful co-existence of members of society as violence. Unfortunately, Christopher Street cannot boast the readership The New York Times can. Moreover, with the immense attention the Disney studios devote to the promotion of their films, the images of queer negativity become reproduced at such excess that eventually queer subjectivities become synonymous with evil for children who then grow to be the law-making adults of this society and a vicious cycle reaches a type of fruition. What remains severely lacking for queers, especially queer parents, and society as a whole, is an awareness of and warnings concerning the queer negative content of Disney cartoons, and while activists respond to the negative portrayal of queers in such mainstream adult successes as Basic Instinct and Silence of the Lambs, our misconception of the innocuity of General Audience films renders their release as reprehensible as a cigarette carton devoid of the surgeon general's warning.