Walt Disney belongs in the pantheon of great Americans. No one better expressed the contradiction of nostalgia and innovation that lies at the heart of the American character. The Disney entertainment brand that survives its founder is another national treasure, but one that increasingly makes decisions that contort the values of Walt.
The latest example is the casting of Sarah Silverman to voice a lead character in the new Disney feature-length animation Wreck-It-Ralph.
Erstwhile comedienne Silverman is occasionally very funny. Her modus operandi is offensiveness. Ms. Silverman flaunts taboos, and habitually challenges good manners, good taste, and even the established boundaries of coarseness. Naturally she also courts controversy.
More often than not, I disagree with Silverman. She has her opinions, uses them to make people uncomfortable, and plays for laughs. It is a free country. Ms. Silverman has every right to be the sort of entertainer she wants to be, whether I enjoy her brand of humor or not.
The question is why would Disney hire her in a movie for children? Why put her in a movie that will rely on middle-class parents to hand over buckets of dollars?
A partial list of Silverman’s outrageous behavior includes dry-humping a dog, offering sexual favors to raise money for Obama, a series of crude abortion jokes, joking (simultaneously) about Holocaust tattoos and vaginal bedazzling, and countless tasteless jokes criticized as anti-religion – mostly anti-Christian, racist, sexist, pro-rape, and so on. Basically, she tries to shock and offend, although she has recently come out against jokes about fat women.
Why hire Silverman for a Disney movie? Silverman herself admits the role “transcends my [her] polarizing personality.” Yet Disney paid her top dollar for her voice.
Disney could have hired any number of women to voice the character Vanellope von Schweetz, many at a lower salary. So Disney, why reward a personality that purposely offends your core demographic? While acclimate children the potty-mouthed voice of shock and sarcasm?
Silverman stands against every value of Walt Disney. Why put her on the payroll?