Abigail Disney’s bow to cancel culture is spineless

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One of the great privileges of extreme wealth is the ability to stick to your opinions. Whether an anti-gun, pro-choice liberal like Michael Bloomberg or a committed conservative like Charles Koch, endless billions insulate the rich from ever having to change their minds. 

Which is why the case of Abigail Disney is so confounding — and annoying. A granddaughter of Walt Disney Company co-founder Roy Disney (and a grandniece of Walt), Abigail has made a tidy career for herself as a dilettante film-maker committed to ending the scourge of economic inequality. Despite a personal fortune estimated at $200 million — and a last name conferring instant media fame and attention — Disney spends most of her time dissing the rich and nepotistic. In other words, people much like herself. 

Her latest project, as detailed in a recent New York Times article, was the new documentary, “Jihad Rehab” directed by Meg Smaker, which has been canceled by wokey film-folk who’ve decried the movie as anti-Arab, anti-Muslim propaganda perpetuating stereotypes via a “white, Western gaze.” Like with the recent novel “American Dirt” — which told the story of a Mexican mother, but was written by a white author — the critics of “Jihad Rehab” have paid particularly close attention to Smaker’s race. 

“Jihad Rehab” was directed by Meg Smaker (above), who has seen her career damaged by outrage over the film and Disney’s public rebuke. The 42-year-old director is now so cash-poor, she's had to borrow money from her parents.
“Jihad Rehab” was directed by Meg Smaker (above), who has seen her career damaged by outrage over the film and Disney’s public rebuke. The 42-year-old director is now so cash-poor, she’s had to borrow money from her parents.
Getty Images for ZFF
“Jihad Rehab” tells the story of alleged terrorists looking for redemption in Saudi Arabia. Although Arabs were involved in the movie’s production, woke folk have criticized the movie for perpetuating stereotypes via a “white, Western gaze.”
“Jihad Rehab” tells the story of alleged terrorists looking for redemption in Saudi Arabia. Although Arabs were involved in the movie’s production, woke folk have criticized the movie for perpetuating stereotypes via a “white, Western gaze.”
Foothill Productions

Because she’s white, Smaker has been deemed unfit to tell the story of former Guantanamo prisoners sent to a Saudi Arabian “rehabilitation” facility to forsake their alleged terrorist pasts. Never mind that Smaker — who’s also a former firefighter — lived extensively in the Middle East, mastered Arabic and spent three years in Riyadh meticulously documenting her subjects’ journeys. As with white female authors, it seems that white female film directors like Smaker can only tell the stories of other white females. 

Disney’s role in this saga is particularly spineless and craven. For one thing, she produced “Jihad Rehab,” and initially called its premise of introspection and redemption “freaking brilliant.” But now that the flick has been canceled from most major film festivals, including Sundance, she describes the movie as a “truckload of hate.”

While Smaker has been canceled and is effectively broke, Disney is sitting on an estimated fortune of $200 million, which she inherited from her famous family.
While Smaker has been canceled and is effectively broke, Disney is sitting on an estimated fortune of $200 million, which she inherited from her famous family.
Getty Images
Smaker spent three years in Saudi Arabia documenting the stories in “Jihad Rehab.” The film initially received positive reviews, and Disney herself called it “freaking brilliant” before caving to industry outrage.
Smaker spent three years in Saudi Arabia documenting the stories in “Jihad Rehab.” The film initially received positive reviews, and Disney herself called it “freaking brilliant” before caving to industry outrage.
Foothill Productions

Despite Arab production partners and an elaborate vetting process, “Jihad Rehab” was lambasted almost immediately after it was announced by Sundance and made available for early reviews — most of which were positive. But instead of defending the film she financed, Disney joined the hater-chorus with a level of creepy performative contrition bordering on self-flagellation. 

Disney said she “failed, failed and absolutely failed” to understand how the film might impact Arab and Muslim viewers. Fair enough. But rather than merely focus on her own feelings — and allow others to arrive at their own conclusions — she was just getting started. “I want to host mediated conversations to hear where I have failed and what I have not seen,” she bleated plaintively. “I am soul-searching and examining my own processes, assumptions, and shortcomings so that I can do less harm.” 

Smaker's case echoes that of “American Dirt” author Janine Cummins, who was slammed for being a white woman telling the tale of a fictional Mexican mother.
Smaker’s case echoes that of “American Dirt” author Janine Cummins, who was slammed for being a white woman telling the tale of a fictional Mexican mother.
Getty Images for East Hampton Library
Disney’s great-uncle was industry legend Walt Disney, who co-founded the family empire with her grandfather Roy.
Disney’s great-uncle was industry legend Walt Disney, who co-founded the family empire with her grandfather Roy.
Corbis via Getty Images

Dear Abby — chill!

Disney’s self-indulgent mea culpa would almost be humorous if it hadn’t been so damaging.

Thanks to her takedown, “Jihad Rehab” is DOA and the director is basically broke: “Ms. Smaker has maxed out credit cards and, at age 42, borrowed money from her parents,” wrote the Times.

With the Smaker smackdown behind her, Disney has returned to bashing the rich with her latest film, “The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales,” which tackles pay inequity at her family’s most famous landmark, Disney World.
With the Smaker smackdown behind her, Disney has returned to bashing the rich with her latest film, “The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales,” which tackles pay inequity at her family’s most famous landmark, Disney World.
Getty Images

Meanwhile, Abigail Disney is still rich enough to afford the fancy restaurants and designer shoes she’s publicly said she favors. Rich enough, in fact, to fund additional vanity cinema efforts, including her latest, “The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales,” in which she — yet again — takes on inequality, this time (cringe!) as perpetuated by her own family at Disneyland and The Walt Disney Company. 

Despite these very real setbacks, odds are that Smaker will eventually bounce back. Any woman who trained firefighters in the incredibly patriarchal society of Yemen clearly has fortitude; while anyone who’s helmed a research-heavy opus like “Jihad Rehab” also has patience. As for Disney, having done little in terms of forging an actual career, her name and money are, essentially, all she has to offer.

Like so many entertainment industry wannabes, Disney gave into silencing and outrage. She squandered one of the most enviable attributes of wealth — the ability to truly think freely and stick to one’s convictions. Though, having said that, the Smaker story suggests she may not have any convictions at all.

dkaufman@nypost.com



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