1. Disney has come a long way. The princesses don’t just save themselves, but they also save China or their whole island. Princesses even save Queens. Stoicism has also come a long way. In the beginning, Stoicism was for everyone, but philosophers have a hard time convincing the masses that people should be treated equally. The problem with Disney though is that it just doesn’t give kids a realistic view of how things can go south and, despite everyone’s best efforts, in real life, people still die tragically. What if Anna had died saving Elsa? Yes, that would be tragic but couldn’t a lesson still be learned? Didn’t Cato sacrifice his life for the Republic and even that didn’t save the Republic? But his actions were still excellent. What if Elsa couldn’t stop her freezing powers so her act of love to save Arendelle was to drink hemlock? Yes, it would be sad but doesn’t that count as a true act of love? If Stoicism could make cartoons for children, it could teach children that despite our best efforts, everything still can go wrong, but we can have our peace in our inner citadel even if no one survives. If in the end we have eudaimonia, then isn’t that what is truly important?
2. When you learn about Stoicism, you learn about imperfect rulers or influential people who, despite their best efforts, don’t succeed. Often, they’re doing their best but bad outcomes occur. Take Seneca. He tried to get Nero to think rationally and be a good ruler. Unfortunately, it became obvious to Seneca over time that Nero was unfit to be ruler and would never learn from his mistakes. Seneca distanced himself from Nero but eventually, Nero accused Seneca of a failed coup and so, Nero forced Seneca to kill himself. Same lesson with Marcus Aurelius – despite Marcus Aurelius’ best efforts to keep the Roman Empire at its best, he couldn’t teach his son Commodus to be an effective ruler. So, when Marcus Aurelius died, Commodus took complete control of Rome and put on ridiculous gladiatorial stunts just to make himself appear super magnificent. Commodus was not inclined to make a good Empire last. Is the reason why we never see bad outcomes in Disney movies because we think kids can’t handle that kind of ending? Sure, I understand not exposing children to over-the-top violence, but can’t we at least prepare them for situations where things don’t end nicely?
3. Disney has never lured children into philosophy. Yes, we see that Disney does inspire children’s imagination, does use Belle as a princess to inspire a desire to read, does inspire a sense of adventure, and does help one relate with the good characters over the bad. But it’s a massive missed opportunity not to inspire kids to read the classics. How come Belle never had a copy of Plato’s Republic? Why have none of the Disney characters ever had a Socratic dialogue over first principles? Stoicism does not have this problem. It wants everyone to become a philosopher, to examine life, and learn to live life correctly by examining our fundamental principles.
4. Disney is an entertainment monopoly. Stoicism is not an entertainment monopoly nor is it even a monopoly on ideas.
5. Disney’s Hercules does delete the story of Zeus as going behind Hera’s back and begetting a child with a mortal. It inserts the more favorable story of Zeus and Hera legitimately having Hercules. It can be maddening for some that Disney would edit out this myth. Interestingly, Stoicism seems to discuss Zeus only in a positive light. From the way the Stoics talk about Zeus, you’d think he never did anything extramarital. But I think the Stoics were aiming at making their pantheist philosophy compatible with the Olympian myths than trying to gloss over unfavorable Olympian mythology. So, while Disney did cover up a mythological fact so that Zeus wouldn’t look so petty, the Stoics were trying to connect Zeus to their philosophy of pantheism mostly so that their philosophy could still be digestible to Zeus myth believers. The Stoics knew that Zeus, as a mythology, was committing certain vices and I don’t think they were trying to change the myth of Zeus because they certainly also enjoyed the myth of Hercules and thought Hercules had admirable qualities. The Stoics knew what they were doing. They knew that Stoicism is a secular philosophy that would need to appeal to people with a religious background. So, they took Zeus and made him the Universe but were smart enough not to cut all ties with his mythological definition. It was basically a way of safeguarding Stoicism from accusations of outright atheism.
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