Disney has taken the initiative to recognize problematic imagery in Peter Pan, The Aristocats, Swiss Family Robinson, and Dumbo flagging them for “negative depictions” under each title.
The new generation has not slowed down in their tolerance for racist propaganda, especially from bigger corporations. Most recently, Netflix was under fire for their racy documentary Cuties, or a while back when viewers were outraged for Blackface in Mad Men. Essentially, viewers won’t stand for bigotry and racism anymore. Evidently, Disney recognizes this fact, hence their decision to get ahead of themselves, marking certain films.
“As part of our ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion, we are in the process of reviewing our library and adding advisories to content that includes negative depictions or mistreatment of people or cultures. Rather than removing this content, we see an opportunity to spark conversation and open dialogue on history that affects us all. We also want to acknowledge that some communities have been erased or forgotten altogether, and we’re committed to giving voice to their stories as well.”
On the Disney Stories Matter website, there are deep explanations of why each previously mentioned film is being flagged. Peter Pan: “The film portrays Native people in a stereotypical manner that reflects neither the diversity of Native peoples nor their authentic cultural traditions. It shows them speaking in an unintelligible language and repeatedly refers to them as ‘redskins,’ an offensive term. Peter and the Lost Boys engage in dancing, wearing headdresses and other exaggerated tropes, a form of mockery and appropriation of Native peoples’ culture and imagery.”
The Aristocrats: “The cat is depicted as a racist caricature of East Asian peoples with exaggerated stereotypical traits such as slanted eyes and buck teeth. He sings in poorly accented English voiced by a white actor and plays the piano with chopsticks. This portrayal reinforces the ‘perpetual foreigner’ stereotype, while the film also features lyrics that mock the Chinese language and culture such as ‘Shanghai, Hong Kong, Egg Foo Young. Fortune cookie always wrong.’”
Swiss Family Robinson: “The pirates who antagonize the Robinson family are portrayed as a stereotypical foreign menace. Many appear in ‘yellow face’ or ‘brown face’ and are costumed in an exaggerated and inaccurate manner with top knot hairstyles, queues, robes and overdone facial make-up and jewelry, reinforcing their barbarism and ‘otherness.’ They speak in an indecipherable language, presenting a singular and racist representation of Asian and Middle Eastern peoples.”
Dumbo: “The crows and musical number pay homage to racist minstrel shows, where white performers with blackened faces and tattered clothing imitated and ridiculed enslaved Africans on Southern plantations. The leader of the group in Dumbo is Jim Crow, which shares the name of laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States. In ‘The Song of the Roustabouts,’ faceless Black workers toil away to offensive lyrics like ‘When we get our pay, we throw our money all away.’”
It’s both refreshing and encouraging to see Disney take action in not only flagging their offensive content but educating viewers as to why it’s offensive. Black Girl Nerds salutes you. More information about the flagged films can be found on their site here.