The North American Viruses

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By ANNATERESS FABRIS*

Commentary on the Imagination of the US Entertainment Industry

The end of World War II brings with it the consolidation of a new economic and political order, in which the United States will play a key role. Experiencing a privileged situation in relation to the rest of the world, the country is entering one of the best periods in its history, when – as Antonio Pedro Tota writes – everything is dictated “by the pace of money-generating capital”. Social peace, in this context, is guaranteed by the “generalization of consumption”, while some words acquire a “mythical meaning [...]: progress, science, technology, abundance, rationality, efficiency, scientific management and the American standard of living”.

“Way of living”, in the words of Paulo Roberto Ferreira da Cunha, the American standard of living is a “set of aspirational values”, constituted from the combination of mass production, financial concentration and technological progress. In this standardized and idealized model, there is room for those who want to work and progress, enjoying all the achievements of modernity, especially in terms of consumption. The dream of consumption, however, is accompanied by fear generated by growing tensions with the Soviet Union, which gave rise to the Cold War (1947-1991). Anticommunism becomes an element of national cohesion in the face of the prospect of the outbreak of a new world conflict, which would be primarily defined by the possibility of atomic attacks.

Torn between consumption and fear, the American population is continually exposed to a vast array of still images (photographs, illustrations, posters and advertisements, strips and comics) and moving images (cinema and television), which punctuate the existence everyday life with messages of strength and vigor and with the ostensive association between family, happiness and an abundance of consumer goods, all of which are absolutely necessary for a comfortable lifestyle. In this battle to convince the population that they lived in the best of all worlds, but that their right to happiness and life could be jeopardized by communism, animation cinema and comics played an important role in the last years of the decade 1940s and the following decade.

Disney Studios, which made countless official propaganda films during the Second World War, could not be left out of this context, but their participation is ambiguous and must sometimes be sought between the lines. On April 21, 1951, the short film cold war, directed by Jack Kinney, starring a domesticated Goofy, who took on the person by George G. Geef.

The transformation of the character, who is no longer a silly type, as the original name indicates (Goofy), had begun to be sketched in the late 1940s, in some films of the series How to...1, in which he is represented as an ordinary suburban man, conformist and satisfied with the comfort achieved. The change in personality is accompanied by the physical transformation of the character: Geef's face gains a more refined appearance, with the removal of hair from the chin, the protruding teeth and pendulous ears, with the apposition of a vast head of hair and a pink coloration. of the complexion; the expression becomes more intelligent thanks to smaller eyes with eyebrows; informal clothes are replaced by business suits and, in some films, the traditional white gloves disappear. In addition, he gains a human-shaped wife, whose face is not shown, and a son, who lacks canine ears.

As Christopher Lehman states, Disney seeks to “reinforce social conformism” through this new Goofy persona, since for him this trait represented “a fundamental aspect of American society”. As the title indicates, the film deals with Geef's war against a cold, which he had carelessly caught when he opened the office window, exposed himself to a draft of cold air and the attack of a funny-looking paratrooper virus. . Hearing him sneeze, the boss asks him to leave and disinfects the room. Geef comes home completely broken and sneezing; he does not find his wife who has gone to play bridge. In the bathroom he looks at himself in the mirror, while the virus tickles the tip of his nose. Feeling a chill, Geef goes to take a pill, which falls into the glass, bubbles and produces a small pink mushroom cloud. She then puts another pill in her mouth, but this one slips and falls into the sink drain, causing a small explosion.

After this sequence, which explores the character's clumsiness very well, the animation reveals a hilarious contrast between cold and heat. Feeling very cold, Geef makes a foot bath; he gets hot and turns on the fan, which leaves him frozen and teeth chattering. After feeling a new warmth, he goes to bed. Back home, the wife takes a series of drastic measures to get rid of her husband's cold: she checks his pulse; gives him a handful of pills; she puts a hot water bottle on his feet and another with ice on his forehead; measures your temperature; put a patch on his chest; give him a spoonful of syrup; squirt some medicine into his mouth and drip drops into his nose; she shelters him with a scarf; give him inhalations. Geef finally sleeps peacefully and the virus, defeated, leaves. Recovered and back at the office, he exposes himself to a new contagion, because, feeling hot, he opens the window, the virus returns and he starts sneezing...

The subliminal ideological message becomes more evident when the character's adventures are compared with another animation that also has the cold as a theme. Its about How to catch a cold, sponsored by Kleenex and directed by Hamilton Luske. Released on August 10, 1951, the short film has as protagonists the “Common man with a common cold” and “Common sense”, which points out errors and solutions. The causes of the cold that left the common man broken lie in imprudent behavior: he exposed himself to a draft of cold air even though he was sweaty and danced for hours on end; played golf in the rain; on the street he had contact with people sneezing.

He himself became an agent of contagion by sneezing on the bus and contaminating other people, as Common Sense didactically demonstrates. Cleanliness is the best medicine to fight the cause of the common cold: washing hands, dishes and clothes are indispensable measures. In addition, washed clothes must be exposed to the sun to ensure the extermination of germs. There is finally the cure, which consists of staying in bed, reading and listening to the radio. As the aim of the design is to encourage the use of disposable tissues, Sense Comum attaches a paper bag to one side of the bed. In the end, from so much caring for Man, Common Sense catches a cold and lies down beside his pupil.

The didactic purpose of the animation unfolds in a series of posters that refer to its three main themes. “Like catching a cold” is represented by four situations: “Sit near a constant cold breeze”; “Take your time in the rain”; “Forget to cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing!”; “Take it from others”. In turn, “How to ward off cold germs” is condensed into the message “Fight them with soap-water-sunshine”. Finally, “Go to bed – get better faster” corresponds to the theme “How to help cure a cold”.

This type of action cannot be dissociated from a government policy aimed at inculcating hygiene habits in the population to keep them healthy, to which were added vaccination campaigns. In the 1940s, the association between female beauty, eating and hygiene habits, physical exercises and health had already been disclosed in two books by Veronica Dengel, Personality unlimited: the beauty blue book (1943) and Hold your man! (1945)

In the second title, the author attributed to women the task of improving society and the world by managing the home and caring for the family. A clean and well-maintained home was also essential to ensure protection in the event of a nuclear explosion. A documentary made in 1953, The house in the middle, shows tests carried out in Yucca Flats (Nevada) that proved that the house of the title, clean and painted with reflective white paint, would be able to resist an atomic attack, unlike the houses that flanked it, less well cared for and full of easily flammable materials, which end up on fire. The message of the documentary – which gets a color version the following year – was that cleanliness was an essential part of defense readiness. This is evident in the final sequences that show children picking up trash, men doing repairs and painting the exterior walls white, and a woman tending to the garden.

These concerns are not the north of the animation starring Geef, allowing to indicate the way in which Disney Studios are inserted in the ideological debate of the moment, starting from the title, which refers both to the common cold, if “cold” is considered a noun, and to the “Cold War”, if the term is seen as an adjective. The design has a set of characteristics that authorize a non-naive reading of Mr. Geef's vicissitudes: a virus with anthropomorphic traits that takes advantage of an oversight to lodge itself in the host; the evocation of a nuclear explosion in the gags relating to pills that the character cannot master; the determined intervention of the woman, guardian of the nation's values ​​in the domestic sphere, who manages to quell the infection; the danger of a new attack when proper care is not taken. Naive and inattentive, Geef is a character conceived to subtly reinforce in the North American public the danger represented by the communist threat and by the bomb endowed with an unprecedented potential for destruction.

In the 1930s, Goofy had participated, as Mickey's supporting character, in a story published in daily strips, in which there was talk of a "new source of energy discovered by man, with a terrible force". Prof. Tiraprosa (Doctor Einmug), an extravagant scientist inspired by Albert Einstein, is the creator of a formula that could give humanity "the power to explode the planet", from the alignment of atoms, "so that everyone pulls in the same way". direction and at the same time!

To protect the formula, the scientist created an island in the sky, as he does not trust the use that could be made of it. Its atomic force could make the world “rich and happy”, but he is sure that humanity would use it for war. Mickey Mouse's argument that if his country had the formula "the wars would end... because everyone would be afraid to start one!" In the end, after a series of adventures and dangerous situations, the scientist decides to transfer to another planet, as the world was not ready for the formula. Ted Osborne and Floyd Gottfredson, authors of the screenplay, script and drawings for “Island in the sky” (“The island in the sky”), published between November 30, 1936 and April 3, 1937, claim that they invented the entire situation; however, it is more likely that they were inspired by the news released by newspapers and magazines regarding research into atomic energy.

The story, which also involves a very malicious João Bafo-de-Onça, was published again in February 1949 in the magazine Four Color (no. 214). Under the title of "Mickey Mouse and his sky adventure”, the narrative is redesigned by Bill Wright and undergoes some changes, starting with the appearance of Prof. Tiraprosa on the first page of the comic sequence. The atomic question, however, had already been addressed in comics produced by Disney Studios, sometimes indirectly, sometimes explicitly.

In the first category can be remembered the plot written and drawn by Carl Barks in 1946, "Volcano Valley" ("In the country of volcanoes"). Starring Donald Duck and his nephews, the story is published in the no. 147 of Donald Duck Four Color (May 1947) and, apparently, refers to one of the many predicaments in which the protagonist manages to get involved. Having mistakenly acquired a bomber, Donald and the boys are taken by Major Pablo Mañana to a country threatened by the volcano El Carranca (Old Ferocio). As the laws of Vulcanóvia only allow the departure of heroes from the homeland, the duck tries to accomplish some feats, all unsuccessful, becoming a “national threat”. In the end, Donald and his nephews manage to escape the country after having covered the crater of the volcano with popcorn, which bury all of Vulcanóvia, without the inhabitants waking up from their siesta.2

How does this plot relate to the nuclear issue? The apocalyptic ending of the story is seen by Donald Ault as a metaphor for the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 6 and 9, 1945), with the torrent of popcorn playing the role of “symbol of nuclear fallout”. Another example of an indirect approach is in a story by Barks published in the No.o. 275 of Donald Duck Four Color (May 1950) and titled “ancient persia” (“Ancient Persia”). Drawing inspiration from the myth of Frankenstein and horror films starring Boris Karloff – The mummy (The mummy, 1932), the old dark house (the sinister house, 1932) –, the author presents, in the words of Thomas Andrae, a “scary image of a radioactive disaster”.

Having as its motto the figure of a mad scientist who arouses the curiosity of Huguinho, Zezinho and Luisinho, the plot shows the preparation of a formula that the triplets consider a “terrible chemical substance to blow up the world”. The scientist kidnaps the boys and their uncle, taking them to Persia, where they learn that the formula was used to resurrect the dead. What the scientist wanted to know was how the people of Itsa Faka had been dehydrated in life and turned into dust and finally discovered that the process had been produced by radium vapor. After finding the urn with the product, he screams maddened: “The end of humanity is approaching! I thought. The substance that turns people to dust.” Donald breaks the urn and prevents the scientist from taking over the world, as he is overtaken by the substance's vapor and turns to dust. The association between radium and dehydration subtly refers to the nuclear issue. An ingredient in the atomic bomb, the radium that turns people to dust suggests the effects of nuclear radiation that incinerates victims.

Another subtle reference to the atomic question can be found in “The hammy camel” (“A free camel… is expensive”), published by Barks in n. 160 of Walt Disney's Comics and Stories (January 1954). Donald's adventures with Abdul, the camel he had received from his nephews as a Christmas present, have as a backdrop the search for uranium, one of the components of the atomic bomb, sponsored by the US government in the early 1950s, in which geologists, miners and ordinary people engage.

Donald and the boys set out with Abdul into the desert in search of the precious raw material, but the camel is unwilling to play the role of a useful mascot. A sweet tooth, he sniffs out the location of a roadside soda stand and shows off to tourists to win candy. Cast out by Donald, who fails to subdue him, he reappears later wrapped in a luminous halo. The ducks believe that he drank water from a uranium spring, but discover that the camel had been sprayed with phosphorescent paint by employees of a light signaling firm, whose snacks he stole for food. The story ends well for the ducks, as Abdul is hired by a TV show to play ghost, earning the family $XNUMX a week.

Donald is also the protagonist of a story in which the nuclear issue is at the center of the plot. Conceived by Barks for an oblong book to be distributed as a gift by General Mills Corporation in 1947, the narrative is entitled “Donald Duck's Atom Bomb” (“The atomic bomb”). Using a pinch of ground meteorite, two spoonfuls of comet powder, lightning juice, a cat's whiskers and flint, Donald makes an atomic bomb in his home laboratory. When doing a test with a few drops, he only hears a “Fut!”. Ridiculed by his nephews, Donald looks for Professor Erasmo Lécula (Mollicule) who examines the invention: “It smells like an atomic bomb… It squeaks like an atomic bomb… But it doesn’t boom!”. Advised to add another cat whisker, the duck makes a new test, but the bomb makes "Fut!" again. Erasmo Lécula concludes that the invention destroys something that he does not know how to define: “The rays of the explosion travel through the air and dissolve what they have to dissolve. If it dissolves steel, it will be the most valuable weapon in the world.”

Prof. Fritz Fission (Prof. Sleezy), invited to see the bomb, predicts that it will dissolve "guns, tanks and even ships". In a building of enthusiasm, Erasmo Lécula says that the explosion will disintegrate “entire cities”. Fritz Fission, who was a foreign spy, steals the artifact and formula, but throws the bomb into the river after realizing it was armed and that he had dropped a spark on his beard used as a disguise. The effect of the bomb is finally known: several people lose their hair and a little dog, her hair. The spy is arrested for "cutting hair without a license". Donald does not listen to Erasmo Lécula's advice to continue with the experiment, as he decides to sell Prof. Duck.

The final frame shows Donald manning the cash register, while a nephew sells bottles of the tonic for a dollar; near the counter, another nephew advertises the product that will “grow hair on anything”. Disney is irritated with the story, which he considers “petty”, and with Donald's attitude, which he defines as “cruel”. It is possible that this negative view was determined by Erasmo Lécula's cold attitude towards the possibility that the bomb had a great destructive power and by the encouragement given to Donald to continue his research in the name of money and fame. When the story is republished on no. 571 of Walt Disney's Comics and Stories (May 1992), the ending is changed: the duck gazes raptly at a pile of bottles, a nephew hands out free samples of the product, while another boasts about its qualities.

In number 81 of Walt Disney's Comics and Stories (June 1947), Barks comes very close to a straightforward approach to the effects of the bomb. The plot ofDonald mines his own business” (“The treasure map”) shows the duck going to look for a gold mine in New Mexico, after having found a false map drawn by his nephews. Upon reaching the site, he sees that the valley in which the mine should be had been painted as a target and is almost hit by a missile that was being tested. Terrified, Donald runs towards where the V-2 was coming from, but ends up being saved by a miracle: hit by a rain of stones, he takes one of them as a souvenir and discovers that it was made of gold. A long-range ballistic rocket, invented by scientist Werner von Braun, the V-2 had been used as a “weapon of revenge” by Germany since September 1944 to hit cities like London, Antwerp and Liège, but it became a symbol of the atomic bomb in the Barks plot. The author, in this way, would be reminding that the bomb, conceived as an instrument of protection for the people of the United States, could represent, in Andrae's words, "an imminent and, perhaps, inescapable danger", at the moment when Donald runs towards the missile.

Another more direct reference to the atomic bomb is in yet another story by Barks published in the n.o. 17 of the magazine Uncle Scrooge (March 1957), "A cold bargain” (“The rarest element in the world”). The narrative marks the debut of a new fact in the history of the fictional Cold War: the creation of Brutopia, an imaginary country, whose name derives from the combination of “brute” and “utopia”. Characterized as an enemy country of Duckburg, eager to dominate the world, Brutopia is a blatant caricature of the Soviet Union, as shown by its coat of arms, consisting of a hammer and shackles.3. According to Thomas Andrae, the characterization of the Brutopia ambassador – a corpulent, bald man with thick eyebrows and high cheekbones – resembles a Russian, if not the figure of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, famous for his rudeness and belligerence.

Barks recycles this negative image, giving it the aspect of an anti-capitalist ethos and presenting the imaginary country as a despotic dystopia. The atomic danger is represented by bombastium, a fictitious chemical element, orange-brown in color, the size of a soccer ball, which must be frozen so as not to melt. Similar to radioactive material, which must be kept in cooling tanks to prevent overheating, bombastium is taken by Scrooge to the North Pole, where it is stolen by a brutupian. Brutopia, who wanted to own the material in order to dominate the world, ceases to be interested in it when he discovers that it was only used to make ice creams of different flavors. Scrooge sells the only existing bombastium ball, found in the Belgian Congo, to the Leacky Ice Cream Company, demonstrating, once again, the superiority of North American consumer culture in relation to the rigid and puritanical ideology of the Brutopians, who did not eat ice cream.

Ice cream consumption is not the only element that draws a dividing line between Patópolis and Brutopia. In the auction where Scrooge and the representative of the fictional nation compete for the bombast ball, the tycoon offers the highest bid – three trillion dollars and six kitchen sinks –, thus defeating the competitor, who proposed the same amount of money and an indefinite number of toilets of the "happy people" of Brutopia. What might seem like an absurd data, only justifiable in the particular universe of comics, is, in reality, a fundamental piece of North American national identity, which locates in the domestic sphere a possibility of demonstrating the superiority of its standard of living in relation to the soviet model.

With his plot, Barks ends up anticipating the “kitchen debate”, which opposed Vice President Richard Nixon and the Soviet Premier during a visit to the American National Exhibition, held in Moscow between July 25 and September 4, 1959. an instrument of cultural diplomacy, the event, which attracts three million visitors, was an exaltation of the American standard of living through the most diverse consumer goods: automobiles, boats, sports equipment, tractors, canned food, furniture, model houses , four futuristic kitchens, plus fashion and artwork.

Started at the kitchen table of General Electric, the debate between Nixon and Khrushchev continues in a television studio, having as its guideline the defense of their own way of life by the two leaders and involving very different elements, such as washing machines and nuclear war. . Nixon's argument that the US capitalist system had created a true classless society through the expansion of consumer culture is critically analyzed by Cécile Whiting, who points out that social achievement was measured by conformity to the economic standard of society. suburban middle class. The myth of economic equality brushed aside all living standards that differed from the middle-class norm, ignoring the 60% of the population that did not fit this model.

Insinuated or made explicit in animations and comics, the nuclear issue constituted a constant concern for the American population, fearful not only of a Soviet attack, but also of the effects of the atomic tests carried out by the United States since the end of the warlike conflict. Between 1946 and 1958, the Marshall Islands alone were the scene of sixty-seven nuclear tests, which recent research has shown to be more radioactive than the occurrences at Chernobyl (April 25-26, 1986) and Fukushima (March 11, 2011) . In 1954, a test with a hydrogen bomb on Bikini Atoll had great repercussions in the United States, because, as Andrae recalls, residues of strontium 90 were found in the food supply and in the crew of the Japanese fishing boat Lucky Dragon, which was in the vicinity of the detonation site.

In order to dispel such fears, several directors, including Disney, participate in a campaign to exalt the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, developed after the speech "Atoms for peace", given by President Dwight Eisenhower at the United Nations General Assembly. on December 8, 1953. In 1956, the book The Walt Disney story of our friend the atom. Published by Golden Press, the book is aimed at children and young people, demonstrating, through numerous illustrations, how atomic research, if used wisely, could become a tool that generates an almost infinite source of energy and how its beneficial rays would help produce more food and promote the health of mankind. On January 23, 1957, as part of the television series Disneyland, the animation “Our friend the atom”, directed by Hamilton Luske, in which the German physicist Heinz Haber describes the benefits of nuclear energy.

The climate of suspicion generated by the Cold War is also explored in several comics produced by Disney Studios. The figure of the spy is represented in a grotesque way, in the case of male characters, and as an insinuating beauty, when the protagonist is a woman. With a script by Chase Craig and drawings by Al Taliaferro, “counter spy” (“Counterspie”), published in Premium Cheerios: Set X n. 1 (1947), is a good demonstration of the distrust that a somewhat different neighbor arouses in Donald and his nephews. Convinced that the new neighbor, with a strange and unfriendly physical appearance, is a spy about to plant a bomb, the duck gets involved in confusion until he discovers that the dangerous artifact was a bowling ball and that the suspicious guy was the owner. next door, who wanted to verify that the tenants were right to complain about the noise of the family orchestra led by Donald.

"Serum to Codfish Cove” (“Accidental Spy”), published by Barks in Walt Disney's Comics and Stories no. 114 (March 1950), sees Donald involved in a dangerous plot because of his braggadocio. Boasting to be a great skier, the duck is tasked by the mayor of Patópolis to take a vial of vaccine to Gansópolis, isolated by a blizzard. Two foreign agents exchange the vial of vaccine, which Donald's nephews had gone to get at the hospital, for another one containing the “blueprints for the new American space rocket”, which should be handed over to a spy and taken outside the United States.

As a reluctant Donald heads towards Gansopolis, an American counterintelligence agent comes to his house and tells the boys that spies have switched the medicine bottle for the stolen plans. Named “Uncle Sam's secret agents”, Huguinho, Zezinho and Luisinho go looking for their uncle and save him from the attack of the spy who was waiting for him. Using the latter's gun, one of the nephews fires a shot and Donald flies to Gansopolis with the vaccine vial properly replaced in his pocket. In the end, the trio is forced to listen to their uncle recounting his exploits over the months. According to Andrae, in this story, Barks ridicules both the foreign agents, represented as bearded and smiling types, in a satirical retake of anti-communist propaganda, and the American counter spy, who would symbolize the presumption of the national security service, thus subverting the paranoia of the Cold War.

Stereotyped and caricatured are also the spies that populate the plot of “dangerous disguise” (“The secret agent”), in which Barks, unlike previous stories, gives them a human aspect to make them more believable. The only exception is Donaldo El Quaco, Donald's look-alike, who becomes involved in a plot full of twists and turns due to the climate of tension created by the Cold War. Published in no. 308 of Donald Duck Four Color (January 1951), the story is inspired by an animation project not carried out by Disney, Madame XX (1942). In the script conceived by Barks, Donald was in charge of delivering secret plans to the war office, but he was intercepted by the seductive Madame XX, a foreign agent inspired by the figure of actress Veronica Lake.4

The comic begins on the French Riviera, where the duck and his nephews are on vacation. Looking around, Donald says that there were all kinds of people in the place: “Swindlers, smugglers, blackmailers… and spies! I bet half the spies in the world are here, passing secrets around!” Generally sensible and sensible, the boys share their uncle's paranoia and begin to see spies everywhere. Donald is intercepted by a spy who asks him to deliver lipstick to a girl. The boys realize that the lipstick contained a note, buried in the sand by the pretty young woman who had charmed Donald. After digging up the note, they give it to their uncle who reads their message: “Madame Triple-X, deliver the stolen Q bomb plans to agent 4-X in Touranha5. Agent 4-X is known as Donaldo El Quaco, the bullfighter!” After dissuading the boys who wanted to notify the police (“The case is too big for them!”) or sending a telegram to the FBI (“The spies can tap the lines!”), Donald decides to go to Touranha in order to steal the plans.

On the train, the group is attacked by the counter-counter-counter spy Menos-X, who is thrown out of the carriage by one of the boys. Madame Triple-X, who had jumped with a parachute, is received by the quartet, but when Donald tries to approach her bag, he pulls out a dagger and orders the group to jump out the window. After several adventures, Donald and his nephews arrive in Touranha, where the duck takes the place of the bullfighter. To get the plans, Donald must enter the arena, where he is acclaimed by the public for making a clown's bull with his antics. Back in the locker room, he asks the spy for the plans, but El Quaco, who had escaped the nephews' surveillance, warns her that Donald was an imposter. Madame Triple-X removes a microfilm from a false fingernail and hands it to El Quaco who, elated, says that Brutus of Ferrolia6 will “conquer the world!” with the pump formula.

He realizes, however, that the microfilm contained the formula of an insecticide against termites and throws himself out the window shouting: “Brutus is going to send me to the salt mines! Goodbye Cruel World!". Madame Triple-X scolds the ducks with harsh words, defining them as "spy-hunting fools". Back on the beach, the boys see a man photographing a battleship, but decide not to say anything to their uncle, who is looking disheartened.

Thomas Andrae recalls that Barks wrote the story in June 1950, a particularly sensitive moment in US history. In February, Senator Joseph McCarthy said he had in his hands a list of State Department officials who were members of the Communist Party. Although the senator did not present the list, the news was widely reported by the press, sowing "a national panic about the dangers of a communist infiltration in American life".

A scathing satire of the “boundless paranoia that surrounded the McCarthyist witch hunt”, Barks' plot involves some aspects considered taboo at the time: Donald's covetous glances at the beautiful women on the beach; death scenes disguised as funny sequences, like the spy thrown from the train and El Quaco's suicide. Another scene alluding to death is presented right at the beginning of the plot, when six spies, counter-spies, counter-counter-spies, etc. they fight each other, annulling any distinction between East and West agents and between good guys and bad guys. Andrae draws attention to Madame Triple-X, drawn as a seductive and dangerous figure, reminiscent of the Spider-Women of cinema. Black. Armed with a dagger, “a symbol of the anguish of castration and the feminine power of emasculation”, it threatens the ducks, but, in the end, she reveals herself to be a “good girl”, despite the profession she pursues, which exposes “the ambiguity and lability of moral definitions during the Cold War”.

The duality of Madame Triple-X refers to the transformation of gender roles, which were largely subverted during the war period, when women were asked to take on most of the men's tasks. The return of men in the post-war period was an invitation to return to the domestic sphere, but many refused to return to their old roles, triggering a crisis in gender identity. The author believes that the strategies of “stopping women in the domestic sphere and communism in the public sphere work together to subdue deviance and tame subversion”, having been captured in Barks' plot, which reveals these two forms of transgression. .

Goofy/Geef's clumsiness to fight the cold and Donald's dealing with dangerous bombs and spies can be placed under the aegis of a manifestation that Frances Stonor Saunders defines as “a neurotic obsession with what was foreign, unknown, the 'Other'"? It is not easy to answer this question, as there is no uniform guideline at Disney Studios, despite the notorious anti-communism of its founder. Physical humour, abundantly used in cold war, fails to disguise a hyperbolic vision of the communist virus, continually lurking and ready to take advantage of any breach in an individual's defense system. The caricatured tone adopted by Barks and the absurd situations in which Donald gets involved represent, at times, a counterpart to this neurosis with the evocation of the catastrophe that could befall humanity, if atomic energy continued to be used as a weapon of destruction. war.

Vulcanóvia as a metaphor for the destruction of Japan, mad or amoral scientists, grotesque and sinister spies and counter-spies are part of a set of images in which the “revolutionary and unique” technology of the nuclear bomb is not evoked with the idyllic tones employed by the Brigadier General Thomas Farrell, who had attended the first test in the New Mexico desert, which took place on July 16, 1945. In Barks' stories there is no reference to "unprecedented, magnificent, beautiful, stupendous" effects, only to "terrifying" ones. that complete the description of the military. The designer does not describe a “golden, purple, violet, gray and blue” light, and even less does he propose a parallel with the beauty dreamed of by poets, but described by them “in a very poor and inadequate way”.

Contrary to the culture of consensus, which saw the bomb as a symbol of cohesion in terms of protection and security, Barks seems to espouse the assumptions of the culture of dissent, for which the artifact represented “the 'germ' of destruction” in the order of the country , bringing “insecurity, immorality, insanity and rebelliousness”. The culture of consensus imposes itself, however, when the author deals with the representation of the Soviet Union. The names invented for the fictional countries against which Uncle Scrooge and Donald are fighting – Brutopia and Ferrolia – speak for themselves.

The first refers to a dystopia; the second immediately evokes the Iron Curtain, created in 1945 with isolationist objectives. After all, as Margot Henriksen recalls, who analyzes the cultural fragmentation of American life brought about by the bomb, the Soviet Union had become the “incarnation of evil”, leaving the Truman Doctrine (March 1947) to defend freedom, anywhere and at any time, against the “oppressive powers of communism”.

Several viruses, therefore, circulated in the United States. That of communism, sneaky and conspiratorial, always ready to attack and cheat. That of anti-communism, continually kept in a state of alert by symbolic representations and official government propaganda. That of the nuclear danger, publicized as a dramatic image of North American power and its engagement in the protection of peace and freedom, whose main target was the Soviet Union. Even through satire and criticism, the Cold War has the features of an idea that, like a virus, takes over the mind of each individual in an insidious way, leading him to confuse fiction with reality and to perceive an enemy on every corner or in anyone who does not fit the model defined by the American standard of living.

* Annateresa Fabris is a retired professor at the Department of Visual Arts at ECA-USP. She is the author, among others, of Photography and the crisis of modernity (C/Art).

References


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BARKS, Carl. "The Secret Agent". In: The Best of Disney: The Complete Works of Carl Barks. Sao Paulo: April, 2007, v. 29, p. 5-32.

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_______. “A free camel… is expensive”. In: GROTH, Gary (org.). Donald Duck by Carl Barks: The Ghost Town. Sao Paulo: April, 2017, v. 15, p. 21-30.

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Notes


[1] Filmed between 1942 and 1953, the series shows different versions of Goofy, in various activities carried out in a clumsy but determined way: in 1942, How to play baseball, How to swim, How to fish; in 1944, How to be a sailor, How to play football, How to play golf; in 1950, How to ride a horse; in 1952, How to be a detective; in 1953, How to sleep, How to dance.

[2] According to Thomas Andrae, the presence of the volcano in the small country, portrayed with all the stereotypes reserved for Latin Americans, would be a metaphor for the tendency of these peoples to revolution and political violence. Donald's frustrated attempt to become a national hero would refer to US intervention in other countries, while his conviction to work in salt mines would be a reference to Soviet totalitarianism.

[3] On some occasions, a dagger is depicted on the coat of arms.

[4] Seductive spies had already been drawn by Barks in “donald of the coastguard”, published in No.o. 94 of Walt Disney's Comics and Stories (July 1948). While Donald doesn't realize that the girl he saved from the water is the spy Madame X, the nephews capture her with their toy guns. In addition to her, the boys are responsible for capturing Madame XX, her accomplice and a shipment of contraband.

[5] In the original, Chiliburgueria.

[6] In the original, Ironheelia.

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