This a 3-part series as a model for student work.
Bambi in Boyland: How Disney’s Fawn Reflects American Morals
The American Forest: How Lost is the Dream of Success?
The American Dream must be re-envisioned. It’s time to abandon goals of material wealth and embrace the values of a Forest Prince.
If 50 Cent is a Shallow Prince, then so may we all be. Since our childhoods, we have watched Bambi grow inevitable and righteously into the new Prince of the Forest. He has built friendships, learned of the world, battled dogs and fires, found love, and beaten rivals to his cause. His emergence into adulthood to take the place of his father is natural, expected, ordained. It’s earned. Leadership is built not merely of prowess but of character. The little fawn who cries for a lost mother grows bravely, sincere and honorable, noble, with dignity, and supported by loyal friendships. Would that were the case of most Americans.
Public school students learn of the American Dream, the Puritan Ethic of hard work and sincere devotion which will lead us ultimately to fame and material success (Warshauer). Certainly celebrities like 50 Cent arguably work hard, devote themselves to their careers. But the challenge of the Forest Prince is not within the idea of hard work but the goals of materialism, of an independent fame so desperately sought that all honor and dignity is sacrificed along the way.
The American culture is replete with role models like 50 Cent and too few Forest Princes.
Bambi demonstrates nobility and honor, but people like the misogynist Charlie Sheen continue to be employed for major money. Now he’s hosting a TV show for women on relationships; this from a man who has “shown little to no signs of regret or repentance after showing the horrifying and actively harmful sides of [himself] to the public” (Bennet). And it’s models for American fame like Sheen who may contribute to a national prejudice, especially among young white men, that actually damages our economy (DeVega). Misogyny is cruel to women, damages the livelihoods of thousands, and is truly ignoble. By any definition of the American Dream, Sheen and his emulators do not belong. We may watch and berate Sheen for his infamy, but we still watch him, we still talk about him, and we still employ him.
But if Sheen and Cent are poor examples for our Dream, so too must the truly indecent celebrities and their emulators be. This is not a statement about prudery but one about dignity and self-worth. It is a statement about self-respect and public sincerity. It is about the twerks and drugs of celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan. Like Sheen, that we continue to return to Lohan as an object of employment and forgiveness (numerous violations of probation, grand theft convictions, published sex lists, and middle fingers to her own employers as some examples) says more about us than it even does about her. Cyrus has underscored these scandals with her own, from a seeming acceptance of a “Blurred Lines” rape culture to VMA dances which revealed anything but dignity. Most important to the Cyrus story, though, may be her defense that all she wanted to do was “make history” (“Miley Defends”). In other words, the goal to become famous is more important than a decision about what behavior will get you there. In the same interview, Cyrus says that she literally “didn’t think about it,” that her behavior is therefore unworthy of reflection. And we revere her.
The Bambi Prince vision demands something more. It demands that we consider what we do, that we walk with dignity and honor, that we reject egotistical behavior (see Bambi’s defeat of the misogynist deer Ronno), and that we are respected by others for our honor. None of this is about fame or wealth, though Bambi gains both. He takes his father’s place in the Forest, and he gains too a wealth of friendships he will keep for his entire life. Too many of our celebrity role models can barely maintain their marriages, let alone their friendships.
It’s no wonder that my survey of senior high school students found 100% of them naming careers and material objects as future ambitions (Chisnell). Not a single one indicated a character attribute amongst their goals. This suggestion that we value the material first—primarily—before honor and dignity, before charity and friendships, implies also that too many Americans may sacrifice these virtues of character in order to retain their ambitions for wealth.
Perhaps the simple dream of Forest Prince is naïve. Perhaps it’s too late for America to recognize that we are Ronno/Sheens instead of Bambi/Princes. But Bambi’s mother made clear what the real problem was early in Bambi’s life. Bambi asks his mother, “Why did we run?” Her reply: “Man was in the woods.”
Bennet, Alanna. “Bustle.” Bustle. N.p., n.d. 24 Apr. 2014. https://www.bustle.com/articles/20739-charlie-sheens-hosting-a-relationship-show-on-we-tv-because-the-world-is-nonsense.
“Cyrus Defends VMA Twerkiness: ‘That’s Just Me'” HLNtv.com. N.p., n.d. 24 Apr. 2014. https://www.hlntv.com/article/2013/09/03/miley-cyrus-speaks-out-mtv-vma-performance.
DeVega, Chauncey. “Racism and Sexism Are Killing the U.S. Economy.”Saloncom RSS. N.p., n.d. 24 Apr. 2014. https://www.salon.com/2013/03/01/how_racism_and_sexism_are_net_drains_on_the_u_s_economy_partner/.
Warshauer, Matthew. “The American Dream.” The American Dream. N.p., n.d. 24 Apr. 2014. https://www.americansc.org.uk/Online/American_Dream.htm.