Disney’s previous portrayals of non-Caucasian characters
« on: 2009-12-06 12:38:02 »
Here's a Meme that is still lingering; and note worthy to me was it was linked from Pravda in with the new Poplar-M release. I guess weapons of mass destruction can take on all sorts of forms.
Caught on Film: The Racist Ghosts of Disney’s Past
Source: Divine Caroline Date: 2009.12.02 Author: Vicki Santillano Disney’s newest animated film, The Princess and the Frog, isn’t coming out until December 2009, but criticism of everything from the plot to the title itself (it used to be The Frog Princess) started months ago. There’s a lot of buzz about this particular picture because it’s the first Disney movie to feature a black princess as its star. Given that many people associate the corporation with cultural insensitivity, the general outlook among the public isn’t exactly optimistic.
Plagued with rumors of antisemitism, Walt Disney was notorious for his affiliations more than his direct actions. In the '40s, Walt was an avid supporter of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, a "red scare"-era industry group that sought to blacklist artists and take down the Writers Guild. It was openly anti-Communist and anti-Semitic, so perhaps this partly explains is why Disney's cinematic past is filled with questionable material.
The original version of Fantasia featured a scene during “The Pastoral Symphony” in which elegant centaurs frolicked through the woods and were waited on by a creature named Sunflower. She was noticeably smaller than the other centaurs—ostensibly because she was half-donkey instead of half-horse, but more likely to exaggerate her inferiority—and had a darker complexion. In 1969, Disney execs realized that showing a black slave chasing after light-skinned characters was a wee bit racist, so all subsequent versions don’t include her scenes.
First of all, one of the songs in this movie is called, “What Made the Red Man Red?” Oh, and not only are the Native Americans depicted with deep-red skin and huge noses, but they refer to themselves as “Injuns.” True to its title, the song describes exactly how their skin turned red: an “Injun” prince kissed a lady a million years ago and blushed (because why else would their skin have been anything but white?). The best part of the song is when the singers say that their version is the right one, “no matter what’s been written or said.”
From the very beginning, Aladdin gets off on the wrong foot. The song playing during the opening credits details what it’s like to live in the Arab world, explaining it’s a place “where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face” and that “it’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.” Of course, once people complained about the shameful stereotyping, the lyrics were changed for future editions of the movie.
Lady and the Tramp
The evil cats that wreak havoc on poor Lady’s abode speak with a lisp and have buck teeth (I didn’t realize cats could even have buck teeth) and narrowed eyes. Their features, along with the banging of a gong at the beginning of their song, couldn’t make the Asian-specific racism any more obvious.
There are plenty more examples that people take umbrage with—the crows from Dumbo, King Louie and his brethren from The Jungle Book, and the “Savages” song from Pocahontas, to name a few. And how about the fact that all of the heroes and heroines in Disney movies have American accents, regardless of their origins?
Some argue that this imagery reflects what’s acceptable in a certain era. However, considering that Disney’s most recent endeavor has already gotten some flack for its potentially racist plot points—the black princess turns into a frog for most of the movie, and she was originally called Maddy (close to Mammy, critics accused)—the corporation clearly has a few kinks to sort out when it comes to cultural sensitivity. I’m crossing my fingers for a great movie come December, because the little kid in me will always be a Disney fan at heart. But given Disney’s previous portrayals of non-Caucasian characters, I’m anticipating a great deal of backlash, too.