What Do the Proud Boys and 'The Little Mermaid' Have in Common?

Saturday October 3, 2020

A Proud Boys demonstrator gestures toward a counter-protester in Portland on Saturday, September 26, 2020. (John Locher/The Associated Press)
A Proud Boys demonstrator gestures toward a counter-protester in Portland on Saturday, September 26, 2020. (John Locher/The Associated Press)  

The far-right wing group Proud Boys first got public attention at 2017's Unite the Right Rally Charlottesville, and this week received renewed attention when President Trump told them to "stand back and stand by" in Tuesday's debate.

Perhaps he should have added, "Sing out, Louise!'"

While their name "can be read as an unapologetic affirmation of the things they stand for — which, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, include so-called 'western chauvinism' married to an anti-PC crusade mottled with anti-Muslim and baldly misogynistic rhetoric all dressed in Fred Perry polos." Their name "is, in fact, an irreverent reference to a song that was cut from the 1992 Disney film 'Aladdin,'" the website Forward.com writes.

"Proud of Your Boy," the song in question, was written by composer Alan Menkin and lyricist Howard Ashman for the Disney animated film, but it wasn't used. It entered popular culture when it was reinstated for the 2014 stage version.

How the song inspired the Proud Boys name came the group's founder Gavin McInnes, heard the song, "Proud of Your Boy," at his daughter's school music recital. (You can watch McInness at the 1:55 second mark where he recounts his experiences at the recital tinged with homophobia.)

While McInnes acknowledges the song was the inspiration for the Proud Boys' name, he doesn't mention that it was written by a Jewish songwriting duo. Or that one half of the team — Ashman — was gay.

In the stage musical, the song is heard when a street rat promises his mother he will reform his bad behavior. But McInnes sees it "as a token of a certain kind of feminized masculinity being advanced by 'PC culture,'" writes Forward.com. "McInnes said the show tune was all about Aladdin 'apologizing for being a boy when actually we should let boys be boys.'"

Still it might seem an odd choice for a group "that has beat up gay men and whose founder made a video called '10 Things I Hate About Jews' (before changing the title and claiming he is not anti-Semitic) would have the song as their namesake, it actually fits their whole hateful gimmick," adds Forward.com. (He changed the video's title to "10 Things I Hate About Israel.")

They have also been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center who writes of them: "Their disavowals of bigotry are belied by their actions: rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists. They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric."

"The Proud Boys represent an extreme version of trolling, and by using this song as their standard, they're laughing at its sincerity," concludes Forward.com. "Apologists for toxic masculinity, they are co-opting something purely to fit a twisted world view where white men are beyond reproach and caring for other people's feelings is an oppressive expectation."

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