4/01/2009

Children Don't Care About Race


I read this article over at Black Voices, and haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. Most white folk would start this off by writing "I'm not racist but....", instantly tipping you off to the bullshit that will follow. It was strange to me reading this article, having seen screen shots of the film while looking at my little sister's Disney Princess Magazine with her, because I just saw another Disney movie, not even realizing that she was the first Black Disney Princess.

This isn't true about all children, some kids' parents raise hatred in their children in an endless cycle, but most children in '09 don't recognize race as something that matters. They understand that skin comes in different colors, but the same way hair and eyes do, they take it as just something else that makes everyone different. The only people who will be and are upset about Princess Tiana are adults, of all races, and the movie isn't made for them.

There have been non-white female leads in Disney animated movies before, Pocahontas, Mulan and the only princess amongst the few minority leads, Jasmine. In Aladdin, the racist stereotypes are plentiful and were accepted, the main characters held American accents while the supporting cast were full of "arabian sounding" short fat men in turbans, elephants and belly dancers. This, of course, is ignored because it doesn't take place in America, so it isn't offensive to us. We accept them as just characters, and the dummies out there just think that that's how them A-rabs talk.

As if racist White people weren't upset enough over an African-American not only in the White House, but in Cinderella's Castle, the prince in this movie isn't exactly Black, having light skin, brown wavy hair and the voice of a Brazillian actor.

The royal interracial couple is causing an uproar not for being two different skin tones, but because Prince Naveen isn't Black. The general feeling is that having two Black characters would be too much, so they settled on the princess, but it's also entirely possible that it's just a statement on interracial relationships, or a weird safe maneuver to "kill two birds with one stone". It's unfortunate that a couple with two different skin tones is a negative thing, some triumphs are ignored for other's selfish motives.



Taking place in New Orleans, Tiana is not only the first Black princess, she's also the first American. Certain Southern stereotypes come into play, such as the extremely racist firefly in the above trailer, Disney basically ignoring the retaliation of using such an offensive "dialect" for comedy. Rarely do I read into things this much, and although there are White "bayou" dudes out there, this is extremely offensive, the Uncle Tom reference will be lost on children, but if the movie is popular enough there will be toys of this guy, and little kids repeating "massa".

The main issue with the characters race isn't their race, it's adults forcing their fucked up, over-intellectualization of their childhood into the children of today, like people who want to have these smart-guy conversations about Bert and Ernie being gay, or even the actually true Disney movie "disgruntled employee" implanted boners and sexy words. Kids don't notice these things, it's in there for the parents to have a quick laugh. The alternative to this has become Shrek, which has nothing actually redeeming about it, you completely lose what makes a kid movie great, which is the innocence. As long as kids are watching something they enjoy and no one is hurt, than who cares?

5 comments:

Vee (Scratch) said...

I don't think the images are totally innocent because they do help shape how children view and interact with the world. Take a film like Shark Tales starring Will Smith which was filled with stereotypes that portrayed Italians as mobsters for instance. While many of the pop culture references will fly be childrens' heads, I do think there is an impact.

With that said, most of these complaints are ridiculous. Trust me, I can already imagine Disney producing a black prince and princess and the new argument will be that they're not dark enough. There's definitely some serious color conscious issues at play. A while back some people were complaining about many African American male leads were pairing up with non-African American leads. I even heard some people complain that there are not enough dark women being casted for hip hop videos. Go figure.

I agree that children do not care about adult hang-ups on skin color, ethnicity, race or any other social construct, but I don't think the images are innocent.

samuel rules said...

Yea, you're on it. It obviously is more of a problem with the parents and how they see things, and how they teach their children. I haven't seen Shark Tales, but it's a problem with all cartoons, there are the obvious ones like Looney Toons where no stereotype is spared, but there are also the less up front Spongebob Episodes with weird chinese jokes, any time people fight they turn their Ls into Rs.

samax said...

people take race issues way too seriously in america. i have an infant daughter, and we will DEFINITELY see frog princess when it comes out.

BG said...

I lost some respect for disney when they reworked this after complaints. Granted me loosing respect for disney is like a homeless dude loosing his house.

I watched Aladin again last year and what really suprised me was the lack of any eastern ideas that weren't total steryotypes. Like you hear about how Disney will send all their artist to Africa to get the Lion king just right but it would have killed them to bring in a middle eastern dude to consult on Aladin. He's even stealing european bread at the start of that movie. It's all just culturaly european with some thinly painted 40's i dream of genie on top of it.

So yeah, with that said if you (Disney) are going to make an afrocentric new orleans movie it seemes wicked out of place to make the main girl a tiara wearing princess.

I guess my point is that I don't trust disney with race issues. and if something was going to be done in Jazz era new orleans I'd rather just have it done by some one like Ralph "I just threw my back out in the crapper" Bakashi where it would be chocked full of racist imagry but also good.

But yeah on some level kids won't get worked up over the race parts either way.

It's interesting with the firefly how the voice is all shuking and jiving but the face is almost like a cartoon irish hobo.

el gato said...

i can't wait to take my daughter to see this one! thanks for blogging about it!