Category: Observations on Life


Here is a list of my top 5 most evil Disney villains (taken from animation, only). Do you agree?

Stromboli – Pinocchio (1940)Image of Stromboli from Disney film

Stromboli is fat, angry, evil, and horrid. His manipulation of small boys in order to perform on stage, before burning them for firewood when they are no longer fit for his purpose, is particularly heart-rending for viewers of this well-known tale. He is loud and large and his booming laughs shock Pinocchio and children watching at home. I can remember watching the scenes in his caravan and getting very scared when he would frequently throw his weight around in such a compact space. When he observes Pinocchio’s ability as a talking, moving puppet who doesn’t require strings for his movements, he seizes him and uses him for personal monetary gain. He keeps Pinocchio in a wooden cage from which he cannot escape, and the juxtaposition between this corpulent bully and Pinocchio’s wiry frame accentuates his evil nature. The large earring and great big bushy beard (source: Hot Fuzz) do nothing to alter this perception.

Jafar – Aladdin (1992)

Jafar is the antithesis to the brave and honourable (at least in the end) Aladdin, and his constant desire for power and his anxious striving for authority make his actions cruel. His attire remains constant – that of a sorcerer in black and red – and his staff is shaped like a serpent. The cobra is a symbol commonly associated with wickedness and deceit, two qualities which are evidently practiced by this pretend adviser throughout the story. Visually his pointy beard and defined features contrast with the soft, handsome appearance of Aladdin. His ability to transform (into a Cobra and into a poor old cripple, to name but two) build up a sense of his evil characteristics, and he pretends to be faithful and lawful only in order that one day he might rule over Agrabah. The music that comes in when he is in the scenes suddenly changes to a darker and more sinister key, which confounds this view. He shows his true colours after finally usurping the Sultan, but his third wish, to become an omnipotent genie, leaves him locked inside the lamp for many, many years to come whilst the blue genie (befriended by Aladdin) gains his freedom.

Percival C. McLeach – The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

Percival stars in a much less famous Disney film than the others I have mentioned in this list. ‘The Rescuers’ is a really top Disney movie that hasn’t received the attention it deserves, but there is absolutely no question that McLeach is an scary and evil character. His first appearance is on a Wanted poster in the Australian outback, which suggests that he has poached so often and with such devastating results that the authorities are out to catch him. At one point, he even sings to himself a chilling version of ‘Home on the Range’ about killing animals for enjoyment ( I’ll rip through their sides, and I’ll cut off their hides, and the next day I’ll do it again”). At times his face is not particularly ugly or freaky, but his intentions are clear as he tries to capture the giant golden eagle Marahute to sell her for money. Like so many Disney villains, his final flaw is his ambition for power and money. He meets his end when arrogantly believing that he has fought off some crocodiles at Croc Falls, only to disregard the massive waterfall behind him that is looming ever closer and from which the crocodiles have wisely attempted to flee.

Cruella de Vil – 101 Dalmations (1961)

Surely no list of evil Disney characters would be complete without a mention of Cruella. Her very name is a pun on the word ‘cruel’ and ‘devil’, and her elaborate coats made out of real fur are pretty disgusting (especially in our modern era that is even more against this practice than at the time when the film was made). She kills cute puppies, turning their coats into garments as a fashion statement. ‘I live for fur. I worship fur.’ Urgh – makes you cringe. She is evil! ‘Poison them, drown them, bash them on the head. Got any chloroform? I don’t care how you kill the little beasts. Just do it, and do it NOW!’ For Disney, which usually refrains from having absolutely malevolent characters, these are very harsh words! Although Horace and Jasper provide comic relief as her incompetent duo of workers, Cruella is one of the most evil of them all.

Scar – The Lion King (1994)Image of Scar the lion from The Lion King

Everything about this lion screams malfeasance. His desire to become King of the Pride engulfs him to such an extent that he sets up a rampage to kill his own brother. A real baddie, this one. Disney designed his face in such a way that he seemed slimy and suspicious from his very first entrance in the film. However, although he thinks he has broken any chance of Mufasa or his offspring ever regaining rule of the pride, Simba survives. His famous quote ‘Run far away, Simba, and never come back.’ His mocking tone and his employment of Zazu as his second in command makes him one of the most evil Disney characters ever to have been created. When, at a climactic moment in the film, he finds Simba and ridicules his helpless position (‘Simba, you’re in trouble again – but this time, Daddy isn’t here to save you’, he encourages spectators to loathe him with bitter hatred. The dramatic irony built up throughout the film, as we know he is evil from very near the beginning, sets him up as one of the most maleficent characters in animation history.

Is This The End Of Books?

People often talk about digital texts offering their readers an objectively better reading experience in comparison to printed books. It is true that sometimes reading a printed book can be awkward whilst lying in bed or on the sofa, and in contrast eReaders also have backlights specifically designed to maximise the ease of the actvity, but many people just accept this contest as already won by digitalisation. My view is that the distinction is not so simple. The essence of a book – the printed words, the smell of the pages, the physical feeling of reading literally cover to cover – can be imitated but not matched by digital readers.

eBooks vs Paper Books

In the BBC documentary “Imagine… Books: The Final Chapter” which was aired recently, a point made frequently by many advocates of digital books was that the printed word will soon follow the pattern left by vinyl records. Yet this is simply not going to be the case. Vinyls have now entered a dirge in which a few select people swear by their better quality of sound and actually appreciate the grainy resonance, whilst the vast majority have moved on to CDs and now MP3s and MP4s – and maybe soon MP5s and 6s! Yet books will not become history because that’s what they already are. With a vinyl record, no matter how much personal and sentimental attachment you may swear by, you place it into the player and you listen. Beyond the moment of connecting the record to its player, the experience is a passive one.

eBooks vs paper books: the debate

With a book, however, the whole relation is much more active. A reader physically picks up the book, opens the page, and lets the words perform on them an effect which is seemingly indefinable and irreducibly complex. It is my belief that, whereas with music one can listen without imagining or visualizing something outside of the art form itself (when I listen to Elgar’s Cello Concerto I do not necessarily have to create an identifiable world in my mind), it is impossible to do this when reading words. It is impossible to read the following extract from Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea without mentally engaging with what you are reading.

“He was a very big Mako shark, built to swim as fast as the fastest fish in the sea and everything about him was beautiful except his jaws. His back was as blue as a sword fish’s and his belly was silver and his hide was smooth and handsome. He was built as a swordfish except for his huge jaws which were tight shut now as he swam fast, just under the surface with his high dorsal fin knifing through the water without wavering.” (100)

And every single person reading this extract will have a slightly different image in their head of the Mako shark, even though they are reading the exact same words. Of course, everyone listening to music may similarly have a different reaction to the sound they hear, but the relationship between music and its listener does not have the same engagement and blend as text and its reader. All this is not to suggest that music is somehow inferior to literature – I don’t mean to say that at all. What I am saying is that whereas music is easily switched between different audio formats, this change is nowhere near as easy or as satisfactory with the written word.

My personal experience of eBooks vs paper books

I am a student at university studying English (and therefore I need to have access to a lot of books!). Many of them are available online because they are either out of print or printed by online journals and directories that charge a fee (paid by the institution) to use what they publish. Yet in the vast majority of cases I will physically go to the library, take out the book, and read it there and then, even though in theory it would be much simpler just to log on in my room and read it online. There is something about physically getting up to go a library that is both motivating and stimulating for me, and the reading experience is much superior. But maybe this is a naive point of view from an avid reader whose love affair with books should probably come to an end. Perhaps, deep down inside of me, I feel reluctant to read Paradise Lost or Don Quixote online through an HTML version because I believe that they somehow deserve to be read as a physical book. But doesn’t that mean I am falling into a trap – a trap that screams of ignorance and a stubborn refusal to change my ways? Am I simply assuming (unfoundedly, perhaps) that an eReader is by some means less honourable than the book?

The London riots: when it all started

Whilst serving customers at the restaurant where I work at 6.30 one Monday evening a few months ago, the door suddenly burst open and a police officer, gasping for breath, told us that the London rioters were moving towards our location in Mile End. We quickly packed away the drinks behind the bar and anything of value and our manager told us to go home then and there. This was during the London riots, a distant memory for some but a critical issue that will continue to rear its ugly head for many years to come. But this got me thinking. Why do people riot? Can riots ever bring about positive change? And what transforms an isolated feeling of resentment or anger into full-blown unrest all across London?

Is rioting ever justified?

Whilst discussing this recently with a friend of mine, she argued that were I of the same socio-economic background as the rioters, with (at least ostensibly) no clear prospects of success in any walk of life, I may well have been roped into the violence as well. But is this really the case? If you were walking past Clarks or Topshop one evening and you saw that the shop window was smashed in, would you be tempted to grab a handbag or that nice pair of shoes from the TV ad and walk off nonchalantly?

Can we forgive the London rioters?

Personally I believe that no matter what background or opportunities for social mobility you might have, the act of rioting is appalling and deserves punishment. There is a Facebook group I saw recently entitled “I don’t riot, burn down my city and cause harm to innocent people”, and I think we must accept that the whole Mark Duggan incident cannot be used as an excuse for the criminality that ensued. A climate of fear is created that does not change anything and rioting is without a doubt the wrong way to make a difference and to make a political statement.

Conclusions on the London riots

Some people believe that the punishments for the rioters are overly harsh, but their actions are intolerable and reprehensible. Whilst I can never guarantee that, were I born into a different socio-economic background, I would not have participated in the London riots, I would like to think that some form of personal ethics comes in to it as well. The situations when rioting might be justified are very extreme, much more extreme than those that were experienced between 6 and 10 August 2011. Regardless of whether it was a rash and unthinking deed by someone who does not usually commit these sorts of crimes, rioting, in my opinion, is totally unacceptable. Do you agree?

English is one of the most difficult languages to learn, and it is made no easier by the fact that many famous brand names in the UK are terribly confusing. Let me give you some examples.

Situation #1:

Imagine yourself as a foreigner who visits England for the first time. You might know a couple of words… you might know a hundred. You might even have studied English at school and be proficient in the language. You disembark the plane, go into customs and out into the arrivals hall. And suddenly you realise, ‘O no, I have forgotten my boots!’ (It is winter, you see). You have remembered only to bring one pair of sandals and you have seen that it is raining outside. Out of the corner of your eye you spot the perfect place: ‘Boots’. You hop over, pass through the automatic doors, and what do you find? Not boots, that’s for sure. Cosmetics, toothpaste, shampoo… Any native Englishman or woman knows (seemingly by an innate intuition) that Boots is not the place to go for footwear, and yet it is easy to see how the mistake could be made. Similarly, someone going into ‘Superdrug’ could be very surprised to find that it does not sell what it says on the tin!

Situation #2:

Once again, during your trip to the nation’s capital, you feel like a trip to the zoo. You have heard that Great Britain has a great selection of wildlife parks and you want to check them out. Walking through the shopping centre one day, however, you read on the map that there must be a zoo area inside! Rushing over as quickly as possible, you can’t contain your excitement as you tell all your friends to come and see the animals! Rounding the corner you are zooming along, knocking shoppers all over the place, and you finally find it. No trace of any animals. No worries, you tell yourself, they’re probably just inside. Refusing to be down heartened, you hurry through the entrance and all you find are clothes. Is this some kind of sick joke?, you ask yourself. You find a worker and you ask her what on earth is going on.

“This is Peacocks, sir.”

Situation #3:

Let’s consider for a moment that you are a foreigner who is renting an apartment in the UK. You return from work, go into the kitchen to start the cooking, open the fridge and you discover that all of your  kitchen appliances have broken down. You go into Oxford Street thinking that somewhere on this famous street you will surely be able to find what you are looking for. Suddenly you spot it – the perfect place.

Selfridges.

And what does it sell?

Everything, literally everything, apart from fridges. Baffling.

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