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Why Scrooge McDuck's Exploits Didn't Age Very Well

Though it's commonly touted as the home of properties like Marvel and Star Wars these days, the Walt Disney Company has no shortage of original creations to offer its many fans. The likes of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, in addition to Donald and Daisy Duck, Pluto, and Goofy, are some of the company's biggest mascots, hence their presence across Disney's theme parks, visual media, and merchandise. Alongside them, though, are a handful of lesser-known names who still boast devoted fanbases, including the sibling trio of Huey, Dewey, and Louie Duck and their uncle, Scrooge McDuck.

Introduced by the late Carl Barks in 1947 as a part of Disney's printed comics, Scrooge McDuck quickly took hold as one of his most popular creations. His first appearances established him as a grouchy, unaffectionate, elderly duck with no care in the world outside of hoarding his vast wealth. In the decades since, he hasn't strayed too far from these basic identifiers, aside from his appearances in "DuckTales," where he goes on various adventures with his three energetic nephews with a frugal yet optimistic attitude.

While Scrooge McDuck remains as recognizable today as he has ever been, there are some aspects of his life story that haven't aged so gracefully. Here's what they are and why they're a bit problematic by modern standards.

Labor abuses and haphazard archaeology aren't mere fiction

It's fun to look at characters like Scrooge McDuck as simply over-the-top cartoons created purely for entertainment. After all, that's why they came to be in the first place, but it's important to remember that they don't exist in a vacuum. 

As for McDuck, he draws real-world inspiration from a handful of sources, first and foremost through his impressive bank account. His mountains of coins evoke images of 19th-century capitalists, like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, whose massive oil and steel empires made them some of the world's richest people in their day. Much like them, Scrooge is characterized as a savvy businessman who used his skills to amass his fortune — stepping on others along the way and going to horrendous lengths to keep the cash flow going.

Of course, Scrooge McDuck isn't all work and no play since he enjoys engaging in amateur archaeology in his free time. This hobby derives from the antiquarian movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, during which the super-wealthy set out across the globe to uncover ancient objects. However, as opposed to doing so in the name of historical research and preservation, many sought fame and fortune for themselves alone — completely disregarding the cultural significance of their discoveries. In that sense, McDuck is a grave robber who egged on the harmful practice of illegal artifact collecting.

At the end of the day, Scrooge McDuck is just a 2D anthropomorphic animal who goes out to have fun with his nephews. At the same time, exploiting one's workers for profits and pillaging foreign countries for trinkets is incredibly immoral, no matter the medium.