Because I am the best husband in the world, I recorded a Disney film on our DVR and left it there for my wife to find when she went to watch “True Blood.” I admit it wasn’t a premeditated act, but that doesn’t invalidate my best-husband status.

You see, Friday night while my wife slept I sat on the couch watching 13 Assassins. I simultaneously scanned the guide for upcoming programs because I can’t just look at the TV like a regular person, and I noticed that the film Brave would be playing at 5:20 AM. I thought, What would the best husband in the world do? Within moments I’d scheduled the recording and returned to my festival of samurai disembowelings.

My wife giggled when she discovered the recording. Well, that’s probably a lie. I wasn’t there, and she hasn’t giggled more than a dozen times in recent memory. She’s just not a giggly girl. But she did express great happiness and appreciation for my husbandly prowess.

Then I mentioned to her the vicious, eye-gouging, internet-shredding riot that erupted when Disney made the movie’s protagonist, Merida, an “official” Disney princess. The character’s elevation to “official” status wasn’t controversial, but the makeover art Disney gave her caused heads to fly off. I won’t go into detail, other than to say they redrew the character to match the artistic style of the older official princesses, and at the same time they wiped out lots of her tomboy individuality. And they took about ten inches off her waist, I guess because an official princess can’t be proportioned like an official real person.

After an internet shelling that made the Battle of Verdun look like On Golden Pond, Disney relented and dropped the new art. I understand their need to make the art consistent, but I think some of the changes kind of sucked. Check them out for yourself:

I don't think you get this kind of makeover on The Learning Channel.
I don’t think you get this kind of makeover on The Learning Channel.

I don’t want to get all spun up about the changes, but when I was looking for a makeover photo to show my wife I stumbled onto something else. I found a number of backlash comments slamming the movie, the heroine, director Brenda Chapman, and all the damned whiners who whined in their whining voices about the makeover. Here’s one example, with the commenting lady’s name omitted:

“Ms. Chapman could not finish this film herself. It was Disney who made it and it should be Disney that is championed. In the super hero line up of princesses- yes the wonderful heroines of films we love such as Snow White, Mulan, Belle etc. all had braver story lines than Merida who poisoned her mother and just felt kinda bad about it. The character was drawn in this clip art by a woman and Merida was drawn to match the world of the characters who were created as early as the 1930’s. To bring them all into the same world they needed to be drawn a bit differently than they appeared in the film. Perhaps Disney should remove Merida from the princess line up- just like they removed Brenda.”

– A Person Who Is Quite Unhappy About All This

I didn’t want to dismiss these objections just because they seemed kind of spiteful. Maybe this person has some real insight. So I considered her argument for a bit, which seemed to revolve around the story and the character being lousy compared to previous Disney films. Then I examined some of those classic films, extracting the plot and moral of the story for each, so I could compare them to Brave for myself.

Snow White

The most beautiful girl in the kingdom runs away when the Wicked Queen tries to rub her out. The girl cooks and cleans for seven short guys until the Queen tries to kill her again. The short guys stick her comatose body inside a glass box and set it beside the road as if it were the World’s Largest Ball of Twine. She lays there until a handsome prince comes along and plants one on her, waking her up. They fall in love.

Moral: It pays to be beautiful, lucky, and handy in the kitchen.


A beautiful girl’s widowed father marries a vile harpy and her two ugly daughters, and then he dies. The harpy and her daughters treat his beautiful girl like ass-crust. Meanwhile, the king prepares a party to find his handsome son a wife, and he invites every girl in the kingdom. The bill for punch will be murder. Some handily dexterous mice sew the girl a pretty dress so she can go to the party, then her awful step-sisters destroy it, and then a fairy magically sends the girl to the party anyway, where the prince falls hard for her. After some magical mishaps, the prince tracks her down using her shoe. They fall in love.

Moral: It pays to be beautiful, nice to rodents, and have supernatural beings helping you.

Sleeping Beauty

A snubbed evil sorceress curses an infant princess to die when she first touches a spinning wheel. Rather than just destroying all the spinning wheels in the land, three good fairies change the curse so that the princess will just fall asleep upon spinning-wheel-contact. They take her to the forest, where she grows into a beautiful princess. She meets a handsome prince in the woods, and they fall in love. The evil sorceress brings the hammer down on her curse, knocking the princess into a coma. The prince then kills the evil sorceress and wakes the princess with a kiss. They continue to be in love.

Moral: Don’t piss off evil sorceresses. And of course it pays to be beautiful.


A willful princess so badly hates the idea of being married off against her wishes that she breaks the rules, defies her father, destroys property, and casts a spell on her mother, which turns the nagging woman into a bear. The princess realizes she screwed up and looks for a way to de-bear her mother, having some heartwarming moments with mom along the way. She at last finds a way to break the spell, contritely offers to marry whomever she’s told to marry, and risks her life to help her clan prevail in one of the giant killer bear attacks that had recently become so common. Everyone agrees that children don’t have to be paired up like show poodles, and the princess spends the afternoon riding horses with her mom.

Moral: You don’t deserve to be your own person if you only think about yourself.

After considering all of that, I’ll tell you right now which one of these girls I’d want to live happily ever after with. But what do I know? I’m just the best husband in the world.

I’m fairly sure that Disney is trying to kill me. I don’t mean they plan to wipe me out with an obvious weapon, and they don’t want me to flop over dead in the middle of the Country Bear Jamboree. That would cause talk, and the paperwork would be a bitch. Instead, I think they intend for my heart to explode like a super nova while I’m mowing the yard in about five years.

You see, we’re on the Disney Meal Plan. It’s not just the Disney Meal Plan, mind you. It’s the Disney Deluxe Meal Plan. My wife’s father, who is hosting this trip, graciously and generously furnished this plan, and I’m grateful to him for his kindness. I knew it was something special when we checked into the hotel. The desk clerk looked at our paperwork, raised her eyebrows, and said, “Oh, you’re on the DELUXE Meal Plan,” just as she might say, “Oh, you reserved a UNICORN to carry you around Fantasyland.”

But I still didn’t appreciate what that meant until our first afternoon in the Magic Kingdom when we decided to eat. We inquired at a small restaurant and were told the wait was rather long. In fact, my wife and her traces of blood sugar would have been convulsing on the pavement at Goofy’s feet if we’d waited that long. So we trotted across the street to buy hot dogs.

I ordered two hot dogs and a small Diet Coke, and I gave the nice lady my meal plan card. The nice lady looked annoyed with me. After a couple of minutes of gesturing and shouting over the 50 other orders in progress, she made me understand that if you have a meal plan there is no such thing as a hot dog and a drink. If we wanted to use the meal plan for two hot dogs, we would get two deluxe hot dogs. Mine had chili and cheese. My wife’s came with pulled pork and slaw. Also, small drinks don’t exist for meal plan owners. We’d get large drinks, and two of them. Didn’t we want the French fries? She hoped so, because we were going to get them anyway. Oh, and we’d better not walk out of there without our mandatory two desserts. Stunned, my wife and I shuffled out of the place carrying what looked like a picnic table full of food, with a cellophane-wrapped fudge brownie clutched in my right hand.

We regrouped and changed tactics, like guerillas who’ve just been beaten by superior firepower. From then on we ordered one meal and split it whenever possible. We still ate like bears in spawning season. The breakfast egg sandwich was as big as half a dozen Egg McMuffins. I am not kidding. That worked out okay when we could order standing up. But if the restaurant was more sophisticated than a taco stand in Juarez, it didn’t let us get away with any of this ordering-one-meal-to-split-between-us bullshit. Two people get two meals, plus appetizers, beverages, and desserts. If we suggested otherwise, we got wry looks, as if they thought we might be socialists.

I left some good food on several tables. Things culminated last night at a wonderful restaurant. I nibbled on my appetizer, knowing I had to pace myself for the entree and the dessert. I’d ordered pastitsio, sort of a Greek lasagna, even though the waitress warned me that it was “heavy.” It arrived in a bowl as big as my face and three inches deep. I now know that in Greek “heavy” means nine macaroni noodles, a shred of ground beef, and four pounds of béchamel sauce.

I began digging through the pastitsio, looking for something other than that mass of butter and milk with the same specific gravity as uranium. I started to think of this meal as arsenic injected directly into my heart muscle.

As an aside, throughout my struggle with this entree, the wait staff was several times forced into frivolous birthday singing and shouting for embarrassed diners. My god, why don’t restaurants allow their servers to retain some dignity? They should just comp the birthday boys and girls a martini and a lottery ticket. Maybe a hooker if you ordered the lobster.

My wife, her step-mother, and I all surrendered to our monolithic tubs of pastitsio after several minutes of unsuccessful excavation. The wreckage looked like this:

I almost rebelled and refused dessert, just to challenge the restaurant into reprisals. My courage failed, and I ordered chocolate cake. How could they screw up chocolate cake? The waitress soon brought me an unfrosted disc of cake, the size, shape, and color of a hockey puck, with a little raspberry sorbet on the side. After one bite I realized this wasn’t the Nestle’s chocolate you might use for Christmas cookies. This chocolate was made from cacao beans picked under a full moon by virgins with hands bathed in lotus nectar. If my wife had reached for a bite I might have slapped her hand. If she’d known what I had on my plate, she’d have jammed her dessert fork into my jugular and let my body puddle to the floor while she annexed my cake.

That cake made up for everything. Here’s how it looked:

We’ve fought hard to keep the Disney Deluxe Meal Plan from killing us at some future time, but I fear we’ve failed. I may die from a butter-fueled coronary in a few years, courtesy of a mouse in a giant, sweaty costume, but that’s okay. It’s all part of the magic.

By the way, this is what they say the magic looks like:

This is what the magic really looks like:

At Disney World, if you don’t glitter then you’re a drone. You can push strollers, pay for ice cream, block the paths with your chubby waddle, and fill up queues to make it hard for the real merry makers to get to the Haunted Mansion. But you don’t add to the corona of happiness enfolding the place, and you’re just no fun. Today I saw a man who would kill you just for blinking, but in Fantasyland he strutted around wearing a red sequined Dumbo hat, complete with tail and ears that light up. That guy was fun.

I’ve seen more little girls dressed as princesses than I’ve seen Jack Sparrow t-shirts and coffee mugs. They were cuter than these kittens:

The little Scottish princess from Brave was popular, as you can see:

My favorite tiny princess wore a shiny lavender fairy tale dress and sparkly shoes, and her hair was done up with glitter and other girly doo dads. She was in the Pirates of the Caribbean gift shop with a hook on her hand, wrecking everything on the shelves and threatening anyone less scurvy than herself. That princess was pretty, but she didn’t take any shit. My kind of girl.

What did I wear on my journey through the Magic Kingdom? A plain gray t-shirt, gray trousers, and sneakers that I think were black five years ago. I looked like a piece of lint. I was useful for buying hot dogs and saying, “Excuse me,” to people blocking our path to the Hall of Presidents. Apart from that, I was the black hole where merriment goes to die.

I did make a tiny effort to increase the overall tonnage of fun in the park. As we hustled through Frontierland, we heard joyful, terrified shrieks distorted by distance and the Doppler effect. My wife, who’s more afraid of roller coasters than a bottle of gin is afraid of Keith Richards, said, “You can go ride that if you want to. I’ll hold your glasses.”

“Come on. Am I not man enough to make you feel safe?” I said.

“I don’t think so, unless you can reach in and make my gut feel safe.”

“I can do it,” I said. “Maybe I can be the gut whisperer.”

That was not a popular response. Twenty minutes later I was watching robot Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address. There was very little screaming involved.

Oh, and by the way, I don’t think Disney knows that Christmas even exists. You can tell from this picture.






We have returned to the scene of my wife’s childhood psychological violation.  Many people can empathize, but not many can understand it on a visceral level. I know I can’t. All I can do is hold her hand while she’s drawn through an inexorable maelstrom of insane colors and noise.

We’re riding the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disney World.

She handled it magnificently, considering the trauma she experienced as a little girl. Back then, her parents and brother boarded the big, dumpy boat with her, along with a dozen strangers, and they eddied into the plaster tunnel at bayou speeds. The little cosmopolitan robots were cute, and the song was perky. It was tingly fun for a little girl. It looked a lot like this:

Then the ride broke down, somewhere in Scandinavia. The polite Disney cast members assured everyone that they were safe, things were under control, and the ride would resume soon. Ten minutes later everyone was fidgeting and bickering. Someone asked if the music could be turned off, since each section of the ride plays just a small part of the song over and over. In ten minutes the words “…that is time we’re aware, it’s a small world after all…” had been sung by chirpy kids without stopping about 120 times. No, they couldn’t turn the song off.

Thirty minutes after the breakdown, the arguing and muttered threats began. An emergency exit stood no more than ten feet from the boat, which was now stinking of frustration and fear. Couldn’t the cast members let the guests leave by that door? It’s only ten god damn feet away, for cripe’s sake! No, they couldn’t let the guests out. It wasn’t safe. The guests implied that it wasn’t safe to keep them in the boat listening to this relentless gush of sugary crap, if you know what I mean. A security guard made himself evident a few minutes later.

An hour after the malfunction, the weaker specimens had broken. Whimpers crawled up from the floor of the boat as children clutched their parent’s trendy bell bottoms or hairy legs. The kids who clung to their faculties learned a lot of bad words listening to the adults. They also heard about a lot of creative techniques for killing shitty little high school dropouts drunk on their own pathetic power.

When the eight infuriating, sanity-shredding bars of “It’s a Small World” had played about 1,000 times, the boat jerked, clanked, and slogged forward. The guests exited the ride like G.I.s wading out of a stream in the Mekong Delta. Thanks a hell of a lot, Mickey.

Today my wife drove a spike through the chest of the “It’s a Small World” ride. She sat tall, gazed at the horrible, wiggling ambassadors of world peace, and even laughed at the llama with the giant teeth. I consider it a mighty accomplishment on this, our first day at the Happiest Place on Earth.

And yet, in the seat behind us a little girl moaned, much like a distressed elk, “Out… out… out… ” Her mother soothed her and comforted her and promised that it would all be over soon. Nothing eased this child’s pain. It was like, you know, the Circle of Life or something.