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How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic
by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart

Originally published in 1971 in Chile as Para Leer al Pato Donald, How to Read Donald Duck discusses the use of Disney comics as propaganda in Latin America. Under Chile's fascist government it was banned and thousands of copies were burned. When it was translated into English it couldn't be published in the US, and imported copies were seized by customs. The copy I own was printed in Hungary.

If you're thinking, as I did before reading the book, that "imperialist ideology in the Disney comic" is hyperbole, read the book. As part of a campaign of psychological warfare designed to "conquer the minds" (Pinochet's phrase) of the Chilean people during and after the Chilean revolution, Disney comics were consciously written with stories about how bad/stupid/dirty revolutionaries are and how our hero, Donald Duck, restores the king to power. (Also look for lots of other fun fascist1 themes about indigenous people and women.) I find it especially creepy that this particular form of psychological warfare was specifically targeted at children.

The book also has a hilarious chapter about the weird lack of sex in the Disney universe (called Uncle, Buy me a contraceptive): everyone is someone's uncle or cousin, but no one ever has parents, and all of the couples (Donald and Daisy, Mickey and Minnie) remain in a state of perpetual engagement, never to actually marry.


1 I'm not using the word "fascist" to be inflammatory, or simply as rhetoric. We really are, literally, talking about fascism here.

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