Rhetorical Analysis 10 February 2013 In the article The Masks of
Mickey Mouse, Robert Brockway explains how Mickey Mouse was one of
the most important cultural symbols during the twentieth century.
The article discusses how mickey mouse went from being a slap stick
cartoon character like all other animated personalities and grew
into a much more complicated being. He was the sign of hope and
escape during the depression and evolved even more into the
dominating avatar of Disney itself. Brockway begins his article by
describing Walt Disney himself trying to explain the dramatic
success of his simply drawn cartoon character.
It starts the article by showing the reader that even Disney himself is shocked by the massive popularity the animated mouse collects during the 1920s and 1930s. This also sets up the first point the writer pushes which is that Mickey Mouse is no ordinary cartoon character but a diverse, evolving cultural symbol that everyone around the world can relate to. As the author puts it, “He has become an archetypal symbol, not only to Americans but to people everywhere, especially to the generation that was young during the thirties. Brockway goes on to reinforce the initial argument by stating that the entire film industry was shocked by the torrential success of Disney’s character and saying, “Mickey was instantly popular not only among ordinary people young and old, but with intellectuals, artists, and heads of state (Profiles of Popular Culture 80). ” The author continues to press the point of the cartoon’s global influence talking about the king, George V, in England requiring a Mickey Mouse short be watched before every film performances and the Emperor of Japan wearing a Mickey Mouse watch.
Shortly after proving Mickey’s dominance of international culture Brockway talks about how complicated the short, round mouse really is. He claims Disney himself tried to explain the mouse’s popularity simply on his plainness, saying that everyone could understand him easily. Brockway counters this statement by stating, “He is as complex as Disney was himself and as profound in his symbolic and mythic implications as any mythic or fairy tale character (Profiles of Popular Culture 80). ” Another point the author makes about Disney’s character was that it was in the actual shape of Mickey’s body that was a reason for his dominance. He also evokes the mysteries of the circular design which some authorities find profoundly significant as an archetypal figure. Such a phenomenon can scarcely be dismissed as frivolous,” Brockway announces in his article. There is a statement later in the essay that talks about curved shapes having always been a favorite of people even if they don’t realize it. It states that since there is no threat in a curved surface we enjoy them more, unlike a sharper object with points which we see as more of a danger.
For this reason the author deducts that one of the contributing
factors to Mickey’s early competition, Felix the cat, didn’t last
simply because of how sharp his design was. The essay quotes John
Hench, “Mickey has been accepted all over the world, and there is
obviously no problem of people responding to this set of circles.
I’m going to oversimplify this, but circles never cause anybody any
trouble. We have bad experiences with sharp points, with angles,
but circles are things we have fun with- babies, women’s behinds,
breasts. So Mickey was made this way, while a contemporary known as
Felix the Cat didn’t get anywhere.
He has points all over him like a cactus (Profiles of Popular Culture 87). ” Brockway also quotes Ub Iwerks on the shape of mickey’s head, “Mickey’s face is a trinity of wafers- and the circular symbol… always points to the single most vital aspect of life- its ultimate wholeness (86). ” The other contributing factor the author lists as to why Felix the Cat doesn’t go anywhere was that he never evolved from the slapstick comedy that started him out. Mickey also began his career with a slapstick style as did many artists in the twenties.
Unlike Felix though, Mickey didn’t remain in the slapstick genre of comedy. According to Durgnat, slapstick emerges from childlike impulsiveness, dream fantasy and visual poetry. The “slapstick comedians are childlike, and… act out impulses which as adults we suppress (Profiles of Popular Culture 83). ” Disney evolved Mickey Mouse during the thirties because of the tone that America had taken. The economic crisis called for a different kind of comedy a more upbeat type. The bleakness of everyday life called for a cartoon that displayed sentimental escapism.
Brockway claims that Disney seamlessly changed the style of his cartoon to relate to the changing times in America with shorts called Silly Symphonies (84). Brockway writes that this is not the only evolution Mickey must go through to stay relevant. During the second world war, Mickey is matured again to fit with the times. He goes from short films to being the face of the corporate Disney image. Brockway claims he became the “organized man (86). ” Brockway’s final point in the text is that Mickey, as many heroes do, will die out in popularity as the generation that grew up with him also dies.
He states, “Mickey has some impact on younger people but far less than upon those born during the inter-war years. That generation is now senior and it is also diminishing. All gods eventually die and Mickey is no exception. But, being immortals, all gods rise. Mickey, too, may be reborn in some future imaginary character of the popular culture of which he is an avatar… Future generations will encounter him again (Profiles of Popular Culture 88). ” Works Cited Browne, Ray B. , ed. Profiles of Popular Culture: A Reader. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, 2005. Print.