Thursday, April 15, 2010

Disney: The Tale of Never-Ending Racism

As a typical American girl of Generation Y, I grew up surrounded by representations of life as presented by Disney. Aladdin, Peter Pan, and Pocahontas present three of the most vivid and memorably ethnic characters, and our reading of “Representation: Indian Wars, The Movie” reminded me specifically of Pocahontas and Peter Pan. In his article, Deloria studies portrayals of Indian culture in early American film through The Indian Wars and similar movies from the early 1900s. These representations focused on ideas of “masculine conflict” and “feminine passivity” that seemed to attract filmmakers and viewers of the time period. And though it is easy to read about and see these early films (like we did White Fawn’s Devotion) and laugh at their primitiveness, naïveté and basic racism, it’s interesting that as children we were allowed to see (usually many, many times) things like Pocahontas and Peter Pan without anyone saying boo. The same themes from the early 1900s are acted out by the Indians in Pocahontas’s tribe and the Chief and Tiger Lilly in Neverland, but we’ve allowed them to pass under the radar as less offensive and usually a whole lot more acceptable for the malleable minds of little children. I’m not saying there’s much we can do about this—after all, Disney will probably never change no matter how many years go by (hello, Princess and the Frog)­—but I find it funny how little has changed in our country’s idea of what is and is not politically correct, though we assume we’ve come a long way.

--A great link on the most racist Disney films:

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