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racism and sexism in Disney/ kids movies

post #1 of 67
Thread Starter 
So, I was reading an article today about the movie the Princess and the Frog which features a black heroine in an animated Disney movie and talked about how some people weren't happy with it. There was a lot of discussion both ways but I didn't get the impression that anyone seriously considers it to be at all racist. BUT, they mentioned racism in other Disney movies and i was ashamed to admit that I hadn't caught any of it. Specifically they mentioned jive talking apes in the Jungle Book who wanted to "be human" and the sort of over the top punishments in Aladin as offensive to Arabs.
Anyway, since my filter is a little off kilter, can anyone list some of the bad ones for me? We watch very few feature length movies but have been enjoying the occasional "family movie night". We have liked Ratatouille and Finding Nemo best and have also watched Mary Poppins, the Aristocats, and Robin Hood (Disney).
Conversely, what are some good ones?
The article said kids really often will pick up on racist/ sexist/ homophobic undertones in movies so for now we'd like to avoid that.
I have two boys ages 5 and 2.

One movie I know I will try and avoid when they become adolescents is Ace Ventura (still reeling from how homophobic that movie was).
post #2 of 67
Well in PeterPan they refer to american indians as "Reds", and Wendy is treated HORIBBLY by peter and her parents.

Also if you can find a copy of the Briar Rabbit, (i think most places wont sell it anymore) that might seal the deal for you.

Here is an interesting article http://www.progressiveu.org/025805-d...nd-race-issues
post #3 of 67
The villain in Pocahontas is dark haired and has a beaky nose. Some think this is antisemitism at work.

The evil villianesse in The Little Mermaid is fat.

Dumbo is loaded with making fun of the black carnival workers.

If you pick the movies apart... none of them is very good. I don't own many of them because of these and other reasons.
post #4 of 67
Well the messages in disney movies are sometimes subtle and sometimes not-so-much. A great documentary to watch is "Mickey Mouse Monopoly."

The most famous racist Disney movie is Song of the South, but, yes, the black-voiced monkies in the Jungle Book singing "I want to be just like you" is probably close second (although it's not much of a suprise that the Jungle Book is racist as it was originally written by Kipling, wasn't it?).

Sexism perminates disney movies and it drives me CRAZY! Granted much of it comes from the original stories themselves, but that is no excuse. First of all, WHY does every female character have to get married in the end to be happy? That bugs the *&^% out of me. OK, here are some others:

Belle in Beauty and the Beast allows herself to be verbally abused because she knows that underneath that Beast is a really nice guy. Can you say unhealthy relationship guide?

Mulan goes out into the world and kicks some majot butt but cannot make her family proud until she marries the beefcake. And the movie ends on this "happy" note.

Ariel (the little mermaid) gives up her voice to try and win her prince (yikes! Symbolism anyone? In the original version every step on her new feet feels like walking on knives...so the voice thing is more modern).

I know that there is much much more, but that is just off the top of my head.

ETA: I find the scene in Aladdin where Jasmine pretends to seduce Jaffar completely disturbing. IMO it teaches young girls that their power lies in their sexuality (not that this is an uncommon theme in today's culture, but is totally unacceptable in a kids cartoon).
post #5 of 67
Dumbo. The lyrics to the song the circus workers sing when they're setting up the tent reminds me of Song of the South.
post #6 of 67
You can also use the movies to educate your children about racism, sexism, etc. Our children will be inundated with these messages throughout their lives. At a certain point in their lives, you simply can't censor things anymore. So, why not start teaching them how to identify these hidden messages early? Critical thinking is an incredibly important life skill. You can teach kids to use their brains to filter the information they're receiving. You can teach them about racism (for example), and make them aware of ways to identify it. There are isms in just about everything you see on tv or in the movies, not to mention what's on the magazine racks at the grocery stores. If you teach your kids that the stereotypes and expectations are harmful and not something they should internalize, they will be able to more easily tell the differences between them and the truth.

It's never too early to start these lessons.
post #7 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chamomile Girl View Post
The most famous racist Disney movie is Song of the South, but, yes, the black-voiced monkies in the Jungle Book singing "I want to be just like you" is probably close second (although it's not much of a suprise that the Jungle Book is racist as it was originally written by Kipling, wasn't it?).
Whoah, hold on there! It would be a mistake to draw any conclusions about Kipling's Jungle Book based on the Disney movie version, which is quite different. In the book, the monkeys are just monkeys, and no comparison to black people is implied in any way.

Quote:
Ariel (the little mermaid) gives up her voice to try and win her prince (yikes! Symbolism anyone? In the original version every step on her new feet feels like walking on knives...so the voice thing is more modern).
She loses her voice in the original story, too. But yes, that movie, and probably every Disney movie, is full of sexism.
post #8 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daffodil View Post
Whoah, hold on there! It would be a mistake to draw any conclusions about Kipling's Jungle Book based on the Disney movie version, which is quite different. In the book, the monkeys are just monkeys, and no comparison to black people is implied in any way.
I respectfully disagree. If no comparison is intended then why are they all voiced by black folks?

And I am not drawing any conclusions about Kipling's Jungle Book based on the Disney version LOL! Kipling was simply a very racist writer, and the Jungle Book is no exception. Sorry, but Kipling makes me crazy...such a great writer but such an imperialist schmuck (White Man's Burden anyone?).
post #9 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by lotusdebi View Post
You can also use the movies to educate your children about racism, sexism, etc. Our children will be inundated with these messages throughout their lives. At a certain point in their lives, you simply can't censor things anymore. So, why not start teaching them how to identify these hidden messages early? Critical thinking is an incredibly important life skill. You can teach kids to use their brains to filter the information they're receiving. You can teach them about racism (for example), and make them aware of ways to identify it. There are isms in just about everything you see on tv or in the movies, not to mention what's on the magazine racks at the grocery stores. If you teach your kids that the stereotypes and expectations are harmful and not something they should internalize, they will be able to more easily tell the differences between them and the truth.

It's never too early to start these lessons.
Great point. I believe we all try to screen what our kids watch to begin with but there is virtually NOTHING in the media that teaches my kids what they are taught at home. My kids were reading those "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books and I finally pointed out to them that the "hero" of that book is a complete jerk and they aren't supposed to follow that example.

It's also tricky for me to say that the princess marrying the prince is bad, but I agree about what the women put up with is bad.

Once I was complaining to dh about a sitcom based on an African-American family was so over the top and that if I were African-American, I would find it offensive. He countered by asking me to identify one, white, mother on TV that I was like...it just isn't out there.
post #10 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by lotusdebi View Post
You can also use the movies to educate your children about racism, sexism, etc. Our children will be inundated with these messages throughout their lives. At a certain point in their lives, you simply can't censor things anymore. So, why not start teaching them how to identify these hidden messages early? Critical thinking is an incredibly important life skill. You can teach kids to use their brains to filter the information they're receiving. You can teach them about racism (for example), and make them aware of ways to identify it. There are isms in just about everything you see on tv or in the movies, not to mention what's on the magazine racks at the grocery stores. If you teach your kids that the stereotypes and expectations are harmful and not something they should internalize, they will be able to more easily tell the differences between them and the truth.

It's never too early to start these lessons.
I agree to a large extent. It's one of the reasons I'm grateful to have the opportunity to homeschool. I guess the challenge is how do you get your children to be aware and think critically without sucking the joy out of things, you know? How do you find the balance between taking things at face value and digging deeper? I'd appreciate any resources/ideas.
post #11 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chamomile Girl View Post
I respectfully disagree. If no comparison is intended then why are they all voiced by black folks?
No comparison is intended in the book. The choice to have them voiced by black folks in the movie has nothing at all to do with the book.

Quote:
And I am not drawing any conclusions about Kipling's Jungle Book based on the Disney version LOL! Kipling was simply a very racist writer, and the Jungle Book is no exception. Sorry, but Kipling makes me crazy...such a great writer but such an imperialist schmuck (White Man's Burden anyone?).
Have you actually read The Jungle Book? I'm not going to argue that Kipling wasn't a racist or imperialist, or never wrote anything racist, but I think you'd have a hard time arguing that the Mowgli stories in The Jungle Book are racist. Most of the characters are animals. All the people (including Mowgli, the hero) are Indian, but their race is not even mentioned; they are described simply as "men."
post #12 of 67
Thread Starter 
I agree that the movies can be used for teaching but I feel my kids are WAY too young to get that yet (I'm not saying all kids this age are but mine are not at that point yet). But they may absorb some of the negative subtle messages.
I'm also bothered by how completely bad the bad characters always are. And almost always ugly to boot.
But I've also read about how fairy tale characters are symbols and children understand this. They relate to the symbol rather than the individual character. So it seems pretty important to avoid racist and sexist charactures, you know?

So are there any good ones?
post #13 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by philomom View Post
The evil villianesse in The Little Mermaid is fat.
Only the first one. The villain in the second on is skinny.
post #14 of 67
the obviously black (race, not just color) crows in the disney "dumbo" movie always got to me. first of all, CROWS. : second, singing & jiving. third, riding the train's caboose. 'well i be done see about ev'ry thang, when i seen a elephant fly'?! seriously!!!
post #15 of 67
I, too, was shocked with Peter Pan - the "red Indian" stuff and the really, really overt sexism. Also Dumbo.

To name a few movies we've liked & I've found acceptable - Brother Bear; Milo & Otis; The Little Foot movies; old musicals like Singin' in the Rain and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. My son also loves Robin Hood and Sword in the Stone (I didn't watch that one carefully so I don't know about it).

I do let them watch most of the princess movies (and the first 3 Star Wars), and the Jungle Book though, too. I was so culturally illiterate as a kid, I think there's something to be said for being able to talk to peers about kid-culture. And I'm not doing Hannah Montana or Sponge Bob etc... so I feel like they have to have something. And while I am offended by the ape stuff in Jungle Book, I truly, truly think it's way over the heads of my kids.

That said, I do balance our movies out with a variety of music and books with various strong characters, and as they get older we will definitely be discussing more about what they watch.
post #16 of 67
You also have to consider time frame.

Dumbo is from 1941, Peter Pan is from 1953, The Jungle Book is from 1967.

You can't really expect them to be anything better then what things were like at the time.
post #17 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by plantmama View Post

So are there any good ones?
How about Bambi? Lady & the Tramp? The Lion King? 101 Dalmations? - oh wait, Cruella had some gray hair, so that's ageist, right?

I never noticed ANY of the things everyone is talking about on this thread when I was a kid. And when I noticed them as an adult, I definitely chalked it up to the time period that they were created, like MusicianDad said. I think some of the more recent movies and the objections to them are pretty far-reaching. What are some of the villains supposed to look like? If they are pretty and have no distinguishing features then how can they be recognized as villains? (for the most part, not all Disney movies have ugly villains) I think a bigger worry would be if EVERY Disney movie villain had the same type of feature, like they were all fat or had a beaky nose, then that could be construed as Disney trying to perpetuate one trait as being "bad".
post #18 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Monarchgrrl View Post
What are some of the villains supposed to look like? If they are pretty and have no distinguishing features then how can they be recognized as villains?
Yeah, everyone knows good-looking people with no distinguishing features can't be evil. That's how we tell who's good and who's bad in real life, right? If they're fat or ugly or have beaky noses or something, they may be up to no good, but if they're really pretty we know they're okay. We wouldn't want to get kids confused about that by making the heroine ugly (by our society's standards) or the villain good-looking (by our society's standards.)
post #19 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by christinar View Post
I, too, was shocked with Peter Pan - the "red Indian" stuff and the really, really overt sexism. Also Dumbo.
Peter Pan appalled me.

OTOH, we bought Dumbo about a year ago (our local video store has been selling off all their VHS for $2.00 each). I'd probably watched it about six times before I even realized that the crows were supposed to be black. I think I'm kind of oblivious.

We have most of the Disney movies now (because of the above mentioned video store). We won't buy Peter Pan. That movie bothers me on almost every level...the Red Indians, Tinkerbelle attempting murder, and it's somehow all just fine, Peter Pan himself, etc. etc.
post #20 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daffodil View Post
Yeah, everyone knows good-looking people with no distinguishing features can't be evil. That's how we tell who's good and who's bad in real life, right? If they're fat or ugly or have beaky noses or something, they may be up to no good, but if they're really pretty we know they're okay. We wouldn't want to get kids confused about that by making the heroine ugly (by our society's standards) or the villain good-looking (by our society's standards.)
Her perfect evil beauty is why I found Nicole Kidman in The Golden Compass so chillingly effective. Brrrrrrrr.....
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