Have library access?
  • Journals
  • OpenAccess

Who's Afraid of Mickey Mouse?: Revisiting the Benjamin-Adorno Debate on Disney from a Psychoanalytic Perspective





班雅氏 阿多諾 迪士尼 退行 幻想

Parallel abstracts

It has been assumed that Benjamin's dialogue with Adorno on popular culture ultimately establishes two extremes: Benjamin's defense of its emancipatory potential, and Adorno's fear of mass deception. These divergent views are also apparent in their interpretations of Mickey Mouse. For Benjamin, as the globe-encircling figure of our collective dream, Mickey Mouse ushers contemporary men into a fascinating realm of fantasy. Adorno, however, cautions Benjamin against using concepts like the collective dream or collective unconscious. From Adorno's point of view, the sadistic fantasies or masochistic delusions endorsed by Disney films are prone to incur irreversible regression. Without charging Benjamin for his naive optimism or dismissing Adorno as pessimistic, this paper endeavors to revisit the so-called Benjamin-Adorno debate from a psychoanalytic perspective. Their polarized observations on Disney films, I would argue, are closely related to their different assessments of the function of fantasy. As the nature of fantasy is Janus-faced, it is not far-fetched to assume that their observations can both be justified.The main argument of this paper is divided into three parts. In the first section, I will account for Freud's notion of (day-) dream, why he classifies dream-work as a kind of topographical regression and how he conceives of such regression as liberating or even future-oriented. I contend that Benjamin's upbeat assessment of Disney's beneficent effects is in tune with Freud's conceptualization of (day-) dreaming. On the other hand, Adorno's criticism of regression is not utterly incompatible with Freud's theory. In the second section, I will explore why Adorno distrusts collective fantasy and whether or not he reveals a different dimension of dreams that both Freud and Benjamin pay scant attention to. I suggest that Adorno’s warning against regressive reception should not be hastily dismissed as elitism, for the standardized fantasy fabricated by the culture industry, like stereotyped daydream, does threaten to encourage the disavowal of reality. In the last section, I draw on early Disney films to analyze the appeal of Mickey Mouse, with a view to examining if this cartoon figure might indeed lure the audience into pathologically acting out their fantasies. Or, on the contrary, whether we may glimpse in Mickey Mouse's emergence the utopian potential of the ”cracking open of natural teleology.”

Parallel keywords

Benjamin Adorno Disney regression fantasy


Adams, Carol J.(2004).The Pornography of Meat.New York:Continuum.
Adorno, Theodor W.,(Ed.) J . M. Bernstein.(2002).The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture..London:Routledge.
Ronald Taylor.(Ed.)(1986).Aesthetics and Politics.London:Verso.
Benjamin, Walter.,Howard Eiland(Trans.),Kevin McLaughlin(Trans.)(2002).The Arcades Project.Cambridge:Belknap-Harvard UP.
Benjamin, Walter.,Howard Eiland(Trans.),Kevin McLaughlin(Trans.)(1934).Experience and Poverty.Walter Benjamin:Selected Writings.