Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 14. July 24, 1952
Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor
In Defence of Disney
It is with some trepidation that I expose myself to the keen critical faculties of the author responsible for Sexy, Slangy and Salacious" in your last issue.
Agreeing as I do in principle with the bulk of the argument, it was with both surprise and dismay (more dismay than surprise) that I read such violent literary utterances and railing language levelled against Wait Disney. Yes, I am a little "whimsical" and "sickly-sentimental," but in spite of theses handicaps, in this age of reason, can see no Justification for the final portions of this criticism against a genius who suffers from the malady of being too human. Because he so successfully embodies this attribute in his films and comics, we should deprive our children of them. Take away this Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse; deprive the kids of Goofy; then cap it all by eliminating that perverse myth about a Santa Claus. Feed the next generation from birth on Euclidean mathematics, Jonson, Homer—let's all be over-educated monsters. I can hardly wait!
And what is this nonsense about intolerably dull children" and "unbearable fairy-lands creeping into this monstrous piece of prose? What dull children are intolerable? Who finds a fairy-land unbearable? This rot surely does cut—Disney, Disney in "drool and mimble-mamble," a quotation in bad taste only to be exceeded is verbal extravagance by an immature description of fantasia, "that monument to pretension and vulgarity, . . . considered, God help us, as a worthy example of Twentieth Century art." No mention of Snow White or Cindrella.
Why should all literature and films be educative? We want a few more dreamers, and rather less of these luke-warm automatons, barren in imagination, long haired with violin cases, wallowing in the depths of neo-aestheticism. Above all we want less cultural hypocrisy, that veneer preserving the dignity of sexual delights in the classics. Yes, most comics are salacious, brazenly so, but do not imagine, as so many Oscar Wildian imitators are apt to do, that because in Jonson and Co. sex is played out in the highbrow atmosphere of the plutocrat it has a more enobling effect on the mind. Admittedly the wit is of a higher stamp, but let us be consistent about this sex business. Or perhaps "P.B." thinks that sex is no pass-time for the unemployed?
Let us inject a few "worthy examples of Twentieth Century Art" into the susceptible mind of the six-year-old. If "P.B." refers to those intelligent, handsome-looking gentlemen in our twenteith century portraits, having one eye, two mouths, and a nose projecting from behind the left ear, let us have Art Made Easy. If anything else in implied we are asking too much of the child mind, with the consequent development of depressed young men like J. S. Mill and myself (I hope I am not being precocious).
Admittedly we can have too much, even of Disney, but in moderation he has provided us with a necessary stepping stone between the fabulous and the all too early dawning of realism.
—D. G. Price.
The World Not Lost!
Sir,—In reply to the honest but rather inconsistent G.A. of your last issue I would like to answer in the friendly tone of a concerned counsellor who has himself felt the same as G.A.
1. Christianity takes little thought of the human race! Perfectly right! Christianity deals with the true person—the complete individual (I wonder has G.A. met the true G.A. yet?) and is basically a religion of the heart.
2. "Modern education has taught us. . . ." Does G.A. think that the 1st Century Greek universities or those of the Renaissance did no teach men to reason, infer and deduct? Does he think that Christians (now at a peak of advance) have not come into contact with modern education? Come, come G.A.
3. Christians jam a belief down G.A.'s throat! Christianity presents facts: the fact of all men's sin, the fact that Jesus said He was God and able to forgive sin, the Fact that men have found this forgiveness. The Facts are presented: the belief lies with you G.A.
4. "Besides the Bible . . . existence of God?" If G.A. really (and I doubt it) needs anything besides his well studied Bible I would refer him to the readily accessible books in any bookshop in town or to the BR-BX section of our library. Yes, I agree with G.A. "Any rational being must think seriously about the pros and cons of religion."
5. "Why not believe in the Koran?" Well. Mohammed did not claim to be God, nor to forgive sin, nor have Moslems experienced salvation but only a way of life.
Good advice does often come from the worst men; in fact many of the worst would advice G.A. to become a Christian even though they themsieves hadn't the courage to face their own sin.
When G.A. was a child, I wonder what he relied on for comfort when he fell off his trike that day. Wasn't it "immaterial" trust?—wasn't it "immaterial" love?—or was it the feel, look and smell of his comforter?
Six Feet Of Earth
Sir,—the E.U. letter recently published in "Salient" added to a suspicion of mine that many Christians cannot understand an Agnostic's point of view. In the letter the insinuation is that if one has thought about Christianity he will be a Christian, if he is not a Christian he just hasn't thought—he is Intellectually lazy.
David Stewarts talk on "Is It Scientific to Believe?" offers another instance. Mr. Stewart attempted to justify religion on the use of Unscientific method. The final test, he said, as to whether God exists or not must be as in science an experiment. The only way to experiment is to go to God in prayer "weakly and trustfully" and the other conclusions as to the existence of God (based on the universal occurrence of religions) will be proved. The possibility of this experiment failing was not consider, ed. Once again "if one has thought on the subject he becomes a Christian? I have actually heard Christians state that agnosticism is taking the easy way out that is agnostics are people who did not think about or experiment on religion. Christians themselves surely take an "agnostic" stand on problems (outside of theology) where evidence will not convince them either way. The agnostic attitude in religion is also Justifiable.
I would like to conclude with a comment on the final sentence in the E.U. letter. "But your six feet of earth in all you own in the long run, and then—what?" If I were to be converted it would be because of the admirable principles for good living taught by Jesus Christ, not because of any concern about what happens in the long run. E.U. have surely grasped the wrong end of the stick here. The aforesaid six feet of earth will suffice for me!
Our Critic A Ham?
Sir,—It is with considerable trepidation that we venture to question the ability of your most eminent dramatic critic. However, we feel that we must, with all due reverence raise our humble voices in a gentle query at such phrases as "the insidious influence of Laurence Olivier's film version of this play." What may we respectfully inquire, is "insidious" in the influence of Olivier's film, and, of more concern to our perplexed innocence, what is "the conventional Shakespearean production routine which tends to make all interprelations alike"?
We ask merely for information; and may we now bombard your drama critic with flowers and applause, for the mass of brilliantly unconventional and startingly realistic imagery which has been so skilfully worked into his composition.
We are deeply envious. As far as his critical opinion is concerned, the near-perfect Robin King was certainly simple and unsophisticated; the gravedigger's scene the more memorable, though not. perhaps, to anyone of any intelligence. We were particularly intrigued with watching what we now learn to have been a gazelle, fencing.
In conclusion we congratulate your critic, respectfully asking whether, after last week's rhetorical effusions, he will soon attempt to write a critical review of "Hamlet."—Humbly yours.
Der Kritik's Spook.
Dear Kritick's Spook,—For your perplexed information—I called the influence of the film "Hamlet" insidious because, apparently unlike yourself. I have seen a large number of locally-produced plays since that film was here. The number of Jean Simmonses and especially Lawrence Oliviers that have appeared in Wellington drama circles as a result since then would raise even your humble eyebrows. This influence has also gone a long way towards standardising Shakespearean production technique your second query-Present-day producers, instead of working out out the play from first principles are far too inclined to copy previous productions. Thus Laertes is usually a boor. Ophelia a rather hardened character, or we perennially get Hamlet's "bare bodkin" during his soliloquy, to name a few cases.
I am perfectly certain that I could fill fifty editions of Salient." if I wanted to, with a criticism of this play, but space is limited so I have theerfore picked out the points that appear to be to be the most significant and which violate or meet my particular ideals of dramatic art. Thus I consider a harangue on the curtain-call habits of the Repertory were important than a dissertation on the fencing ability of Peter Varley.
It appears from what you have said that my use of imagery is equalled only by your ability in the use of irony. If you like I shall review the next play that appears in Wellington in sombre straight-laced English, and you will have the ineffable distinction of being the only person at V.U.C. who will read it. Possibly I could be more to the point by omitting all imagery, but by doing so I would automatically go one step further towards making drama a specialised art.
Finally, thank you for casting an aspersion on my intelligence. I have found that it helps one's case tremendously by doing so.