Sunday, December 4, 2016

My Favorite Disney Protagonist (Male)

            I have not been posting nearly enough this year and I want to steer back from that.  To that end I have found a 30-day blog challenge and fluffed it out to 31 entries (since December has 31 days).  I have done a 30-day challenge before for movies, though that one was poorly executed (I started it in the middle of a month, at one point I posted 2 entries on one day, it is a mess).  I did another one just this year in August on Video Games, that one was better, go read it after this one, all of it.  Or don’t, no pressure.

            Today is day 4 and the topic is “Favorite Male Protagonist”.
            Unlike with the female protagonists I do not have any sort of hesitation in this selection.  While there are plenty of characters I enjoy one has been going thru a visitation by me (prior to my starting this blog series) in regards to an ongoing cultural shift.  My favorite (currently) is Basil of Baker Street from “The Great Mouse Detective”.
Ironically the deerstalker hat was not part of the original Sherlock stuff.
It was in a film adaptation and became part of the pop culture image.
The Plot
            After a little girl sees her father taken by a menacing figure with a peg leg she is taken by a kindly doctor to the home of a genius detective.  After displaying his penchant for being a dangerous and moody—but high functioning—psychopath, the detective is on the case.
            While chasing down clues and leads they are led to the menacing camp gay villain and arch-nemesis of the detective who is out to take over the nation thru the use of a steam punk doppelganger of the queen.  One death trap and a dramatic confrontation later the heroes return home to find the promise of future adventures—adventures Disney apparently will never deliver on.

My Thoughts
Basil is a mouse version of Sherlock Holmes, it is not hard to see and it is nothing to lament.  Sherlock is a character that has such appeal that he has been undergoing a renaissance since the 90’s because of the growth of forensic investigation in network television—thanks “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” for helping people to think crawling around on the floor with a flashlight looking for blood stains was fun.

And people say the Marvel Cinematic Universe is too expansive.
This thing doesn't even show all the NCIS stuff.
The growth of forensics is a positive cultural force in that it focuses on actual evidence and thinking rather than BS and racism, but bad in that a lot of these shows give the general public a stupidly high bar for forensic proof when they are on juries—guys you don’t need to match fibers or DNA for 99% of cases—and it has made criminals much more conscious of all the shit they leave behind, meaning they leave fewer clues to find—till they get home and post evidence of their robberies on facebook.
The bigger factor in Sherlock being such a monumental cultural force right now: the character moving into the public domain.  This greater access to for people to create their own stories with the character has allowed several programs and films starring him in many different interpretations.
As an aside, I would like to point out that Disney is the primary proponent of extending copyrights, wanting to keep characters created by Walt in the House of Mouse and part of their merchandising empire—ironic when you consider that modern interpretations of public domain material is unquestionably their most profitable creative outlet, and had they not been making copyrights tougher and tougher, Superman and Batman would be public domain now, meaning Disney could make movies out of their rival studios’ most profitable and iconic characters.

Back to Basil and Sherlock, characters based around intelligence hold great appeal to me.  And Basil is another instance of highly educated person using their exceptional intelligence to make the world a better place, but also finding it hard to connect with the people around him who just can’t see the world the same way he does.  Which makes them both aspirational and identifiable, it is the central appeal of these characters—some others would be Ender from “Ender’s Game” or the popular image of historical figures like Leonardo da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin.
Basil encapsulates this perfectly and I am shocked that in this era of Sherlock, Disney has made no attempt to bring the character back in some way.  I think an animated series would be perfect, as we all know police procedurals lend themselves to episodic installments as the 10,000 episodes of “Law and Order” can attest.  Kids’ television is as sophisticated as it has ever been, and the steam punk elements of the story that tie into the mouse society mean that there can be plenty of adventures with cool set pieces, like was the case with “Rescue Rangers” back in the 90’s.

(They name check Holmes in the song.)

            To go back a second I would like to once again emphasize how much I appreciate the use of harder science in police work and that being an expectation.  Unfortunately, there was a trend in the 90’s to glorify BS in the form of Profilers.  People who used a lot of pop-psychology and guessing to find criminals thru a romanticized trick of, “seeing it thru the eyes of the killer,”—see the Hannibal Lecture series of films, “Profiler” TV show, and even “The X-Files” had Mulder working as a profiler prior to being assigned to the supernatural—now all that stupid crap is in the past as the Thrilling aspect of modern crime drama tends to be finding or manipulating evidence rather than bullshit head tricks (though those still show up to the sound of my eyes rolling).
Where once the psychological profile was the key to catching dangerous serial killers… Now it is actual science being used to gather evidence and seek convictions that are conclusive rather than being based on, “He fits the profile”.  This article by Malcolm Gladwell gives a better explanation for why that shit doesn’t work, and I want more people to take time to understand why it doesn’t work.
Conversely, the growth of forensics has resulted in wrongful convictions being thrown out and reversed, saving many innocent people from life in prison or a death sentence.  And maybe all of those factors are why I am looking on Basil so fondly.  He was my first exposure to this sort of thinking and as I see science vindicated in the popular sphere I look back more and more positively on “The Great Mouse Detective”.
A cartoonish and over the top version of what science is.
But, the IDEA of experimentation and seeking truth is still front and center.
The Beg for Attention
            Share your own thoughts on this in the comments.  I know I am not the only person out there who is nostalgic for Disney products, and I am sure many people disagree with my selection for today’s entry, I spent most of it talking about the character this character is based on, cultural trends, the nature of public domain characters, and how psychologically profiling people is stupid.  None of that is very Disney.
I picked this stuff for a 31-day blog challenge because I knew there was so much of it to talk about and it lends itself to discussion in the comments.  So please, tell me how my opinion about cartoon movies is biased and how your opinion on cartoon movies is objectively right.  Or your opinion on the idea of the Public Domain.  Whatever.
Keep in mind that Public Domain has allowed for the creation of lots of new and interesting things.
You could rename this book "Public Domain Action Force".
If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

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