Posts Tagged ‘Disney’

In the Woodpile

Monday, 4 July 2011

Some weeks ago, the Woman of Interest spotted an interesting deck of cards on eBay. The deck was miniature, Disney-themed (Mickey Mouse on the backs and on the box), and dated from the late '30s or perhaps 1940. I later found a similar or identical sort of deck listed.

These decks are very appealing, but there's something disturbing about them as well. Here are the joker cards shown in the listings: [image of two cards, each showing Goofy with his head and neck sticking up from within or behind a woodpile] The two designs, of course, are basically identical except for coloration and for the presence of a background cloud in one and not in the other. I don't yet know whether these cards represent two designs found in each deck, or distinguish one sort of deck from another, but I believe that the latter is the case.

In any event, each pictures Goofy's head and neck sticking-up from within or from behind a woodpile.

There's an expression

a n_gg_r in the woodpile

It refers to a condition where something significant, typically undesirable, is believed to be concealed. This unpleasant metaphor is no longer current in America;[1] in fact, I had to relate and to explain it to the Woman of Interest, who had never encountered it, and I had to double-check on its exact meaning. But it used to be quite current here, and certainly would have been when those cards were designed and when they were released. I cannot help but think that in the mind of the designer, these graphics are meant to be an allusion to that expression, with the underlying notion being that Goofy is an analogue, within the Disney universe, of the stereotypical black character from that era.

I draw attention to the point that one cannot infer that this is how Disney or the rest of the firm conceptualized Goofy; an alien analogy would not be recognized as such, and the image could have been seen as simply silly.

[1] It evidently retains some currency in Britain, where state and corporate officials continue to let it slip in public!