On Race in the Golden Era of Disney
OK, here we go.
BackstageMagic did a terrific job of summing up all of my thoughts into one big post. If any of you have the time, please read this because I find that it’s important to get your facts straight. I am honestly sick of getting messages about these accusations and I hope that this puts it to rest.
Look, please do click through and read this, because it’s got some good information. And I do have to say, that given how much Walt relied on the Sherman brothers should be a pretty good sign that he wasn’t much for anti-semitism. (If you don’t know who the Shermans are, go rewatch Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Mary Poppins again. Find a DVD version with extra features.)
I do, however, have to take issue with the apologia for the crows in Dumbo and the entirety of Song of South. Let’s also add to the list: the Indians in Peter Pan, the monkies/apes, especially King Louie from Jungle Book, the siamese cats from Lady and the Tramp, and I’m leaving out the new golden-age stuff (Aladdin, Little Mermaid, etc.)
In fact, here, go read Cracked.com (generally not the best source, but this article is quite worth it) on The 9 Most Racist Disney Characters.
Look, Walt was a really nice guy. I know that. And I’m sure he tried with Song of the South. But it was racist. It really, really was. Even the fact that he made it was racist. The whole patois of Brer Rabbit and Brer Bear/Brer Fox is a white person’s imitation of slaves/former slaves.
We need to get over the fact that admitting something was racist somehow kills it. We need to stop trying to apologize for racism in an earlier era by saying things like, “well it was just a different time.”
Admit that it was racist.
Just do it.
Because once you do that, we can then move on to talk about what it says about racism in our history and what we can do to avoid repeating those kinds of mistakes.
The crows in Dumbo are racist. They really are. They present a “jive-talking” stereotype of Blacks that reinforces the racist ideas of the “lazy Black man” and the “entertaining Black man”.
And you see, once we’ve unpacked that racism and identified it, it allows us to do two very important things:
1) Appreciate the message of Dumbo as a story about believing in yourself, while identifying the problematic nature of the depiction of race.
2) Note that racism generally functions in “invisible” ways because that particular portrayal of African American stereotypes was, as the apologists put it, “just how things were”. Exactly. Now that we have identified both the racism and its historical invisibility, we can being to understand how institutional racism functions.
This is probably about as far as I can manage to go with this for right now, but it basically boils down to two things:
1) Walt Disney can still be an inspiring person, even when we acknowledge his shortcomings.
2) Disney movies can still be appreciated and beloved, even when we acknowledge their shortcomings.
So, for the love of all that is holy, please stop trying to write apologias for Disney and his movies. They are flawed, and that is OK. We just need to admit these things.
^^^^^^ YES THANK YOU. Bolded that paragraph for emphasis.
It’s really sad how many notes I had to go through to find at least one person who said this before I went off myself. You DO NOT get to dismiss it with “oh but times were different back then!!” and “but everyone was like that back then!” That doesn’t make it any less racist and offensive.
I love Disney as much as the next person, and these movies continue to be a huge part of my life. But what I can’t understand is why all of these people reblogging this post seem to believe that something has to be completely without flaws to be enjoyable. It’s ok to like things that are problematic, so long as you acknowledge that they ARE in fact problematic. No one’s pretending to be offended, OP. And to many people, they ARE still hurtful - whether because they are reminders of a painful history we can’t shake, or because the effects of “that era” as OP put it never actually went away.
And again - if you’re white and you’re explaining why you think something can’t be racist or offensive to people of color, STOP.
reblogging because while the op had some good things to say it’s important to understand the points that angwe makes.
it is actually possible to enjoy things, but also realize that those things may be flawed. and it’s ok, because nothing is perfect, do yo thang, but try not to defend those flaws, and learn from them instead so you don’t repeat or continue them!