Reading Walter Benjamin’s Mickey Mouse fragment after the Talks at the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art by way of the Cultural Revolution and rural urbanization in Shenzhen reminds us that the revolutionary and the subversive refers to potential here and now, not any particular artistic form or genre. Anyway, I was reminded that the Mickey Mao pun is compelling and not actually shocking: they really do go together like vinegar and oil on a global word salad. Anyway, I was playing with photoshop and mashed up Mickey and Mao and came up with Steamboat Mao, a tribute to Benjamin that plays on Mao’s status as the Great Helmsman and Mickey’s former status as the ultimate underdog:
The Mickey Mouse fragment comes from from a conversation among Walter Benjamin, Gustav Gluck and Kurt Weill:
Property relations in Mickey Mouse cartoons: here we see for the first time that it is possible to have one’s own arm, even one’s own body, stolen.
The route taken by Mickey Mouse is more like that of a file in an office than it is like that of a marathon runner.
In these films, mankind makes preparations to survive civilization.
Mickey Mouse proves that a creature can still survive even when it has thrown off all resemblance to a human being. He disrupts the entire hierarchy of creatures that is supposed to culminate in mankind.
These films disavow experience more radically than ever before. In such a world, it is not worthwhile to have experience.
Similarity to folk tales. Not since fairy tales have the most important and most vital events been evoked more unsymbolically and more unatmospherically. All Mickey Mouse films are founded on the motif of leaving home in order to learn what fear is.
So the explanation for the huge popularity of these films is not mechanization, their form; nor is it a misunderstanding. It is simply the fact that the public recognizes its own life in them.