Film Notes – Disney Dharma

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Film Notes

Disney Dharma

Moana would be considered a female headman, as she was not a chief, and instead had to follow a journey before she was able to assume a leadership role.

  • According to Pinsky, what is the “consistent, optimistic gospel” of Disney’s full-length animated features?
  • The consistent, optimistic gospel is the narrative emphasis that if one believes in oneself, as well as asking a greater power for help, then the powers of good will triumph over the power of evil. This is consistent because it always appears in Disney’s animated films, and it is optimistic because it shows how adhering to this pattern will yield good results, .
  • What is “faith in faith”?
  • Faith in faith is the idea that having faith in anything is a value unto itself. This refers to secular forms of faith that do not involve a specific religion; for instance, this concept is portrayed in Disney films such as having faith in a fairy godmother. The idea is that faith, even if toward a fantastical element, is a valued social characteristic and there is something inherently positive in believing in a higher power. The idea of faith is appealing for audiences, so even if there is simply faith in faith itself, or the power of belief, this is often used within Disney films because faith is something that all audiences, regardless of individual religion, can relate with.
  • How does Moana continue the “evolution of Disney’s template for female heroines”?
  • Moana continues the Disney template by depicting a proactive female protagonist who acts, rather than reacts, and she does not need a prince or other male figure to complete her goal. She makes her own way, but also yields to those who have more power, so she is not overly headstrong.
  • What is the “phenomenology of religion”? (Smart 1).
  • The phenomenology of religion is an exploration of symbols that form religious theory. In other words, it refers to examining how religion is formed, its various doctrines, and how it establishes theories on how we should live. A phenomenology of religion is therefore an exploration on the root symbols of a religion that inform its tenets and belief systems.
  • What are the seven dimensions of religion? (Smart 10-11).
  • The seven dimensions are: 1) the ritual, or practical dimension, which refers to various rituals involved with practice; 2) the doctrinal, or philosophical dimension, which relates to how a religion defines concepts such as good and evil; 3) the mythic, or narrative dimension, which involves any religious narratives, such as its version of the creation story; 4) the experiential, or emotional dimension, or the feelings one has when undergoing religious practice, such as emotions that might be felt through prayer or meditation; 5) the ethical, or legal dimension, or how the religion defines ethical behavior among societies; 6) the organizational, or social dimension, or the various ranks and positions within the religion and how it is organized on a social level; and 7) the material, or artistic dimension, which refers to how many religions use art to depict various histories and belief systems, or uses material objects such as idols or other objects of spiritual value, such as a crucifix.
  • Provide Disney examples from this course that fulfill each of these seven dimensions.
  • The ritual and organizational dimensions are evident in Moana, as seen in the customary practices of Moana’s people, and her befriending of Maui; the doctrinal and ethical dimensions are seen in Mulan, in how she goes against code, or doctrine, in disguising herself as a man, as well as acting for good to save her people, even if doing so is possibly unethical according to customs. The mythic and experiential dimensions are seen in the Little Mermaid, as Ariel is herself a mythical creature, and her main motivation is love, which defines her journey; and the material dimension is seen in Beauty and the Beast, with Belle’s disdain for the materialistic life that Gaston initially offers her.
  • According to Barbara Holdrege, what is a “formal discipline of ethics”? (Holdrege 12).
  • A formal discipline of ethics is a Western philosophical concept that provides a consistent system of evaluating norms and values of society. Adhering to these norms and values would be considered ethical behavior, while going against these norms and values would be considered unethical. This concept provides context for determining whether an action is considered good or bad (or potentially evil), with normative actions being considered good, and non-normative actions generally being considered unethical.
  • What is dharma? (Holdrege 13, 16).
  • Dharma is the concept that what we experience on a social scale, or microcosm, is a reflection of the cosmic scale. This concept relates to karma, which is the idea that the actions of the current life will be reflected in the next life, as there is also a belief in reincarnation. There are four subcategories: sensual pleasure, economic and political well-being, observance of duties; and the state of liberation, which is considered to be the highest form. Karma relates to how we act within each of these subcategories.
  • In the Hindu context, how is dharma both “naturalistic” and “normative”? (Holdrege 13-15).
  • Dharma is naturalistic in that it falls under the cosmological order, and therefore is believed to adhere to natural laws. In other words, dharma is a belief in how the universe is structured, rather than being a socially created concept. Dharma is normative in that dharma affects and influences everyone, regardless of belief system, so one cannot simply opt-out of living according to principle of dharma; it will affect everyone, which makes it normative.
  • Why is it important to draw terminology and concepts from non-European traditions? (Smart 3).
  • It is important to draw terminology and concepts from non-European traditions in order to avoid the normative thinking that Christianity is the predominant belief system, or should be used to evaluate non-western cultures. Using only European traditions is not only culturally insensitive, but it can result in inaccurate misunderstandings about other cultures and how people live according to their own ethical principles.
  • What happens should one violate one’s own dharma? (Holdrege 14-15).
  • Violating one’s dharma results in negative karma, which will influence how a person become reincarnated, causing them to exist in a lower caste in the next life. Dharma relates to the process of continuous learning of the soul; if it violates its own dharma, it will mean the soul did not learn an essential aspect needed for the state of liberation, so the person will essentially need to repeat this lesson in a future life.
  • What is svadharma? Varnasrama-dharma? Sadharana-dharma? (Holdrege 15-17).
  • Svadharma is one’s duty this his or her own nature; in other words, it relates to following one’s own individual path. Varnasrama-dharma is duties of one’s caste and stage in life, and relates to following the rules of the caste we inhabit, or acting according to our roles (such as the role of a mother, or the role of an elder); sadharana-dharma are universal duties of all persons, and therefore relate to principles of dharma that are consistent for all persons, and that we all must follow.
  • What is stri-dharma? (Holdrege 18).
  • Stri-dharma is dharma as it relates specifically to women, including responsibilities within her caste. This involves various roles and duties that may not be applicable to men, or to other castes.
  • What was the “dharma” of early Polynesian women? (Gunson 141, 144).
  • As a matriarchal culture, the dharma of early Polynesian women saw women being considered as adhering to svadharma, while men would have followed stri-dharma. Thus, the forms of dharma are essentially reversed, as women would be more aware of varnasrama-dharma while men would need to follow dharma specifically relating to the role of being male.
  • What was the difference between “sacred female chiefs” and “female headmen”? (Gunson 141).
  • Sacred female chiefs outranked all others and made most of the important decisions relating to the community; while female headmen ran families, assuming roles that might traditionally be fulfilled by men.
  • Which is Moana?



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