As Disney+ Launches, Here Are Some Of The Offensive Movies And Scenes You Might Or Might Not See On The Platform
On November 12th, Disney launched its much-anticipated streaming service Disney+, a platform that offers over 7,000 television episodes and 500 films of Disney titles to its subscribers. And while the influx of beloved Disney content is exciting, some Disney fans can’t help but cringe at the outdated, stereotypical tropes that some of the House of Mouse’s older content employed. And while racist tropes and offensive stereotypes were par for the course decades ago, we are now living in a world where sensitive cultural representation in the media is of the utmost importance.
Aware of people’s lowered tolerance for racism in their entertainment, Disney+ has issued content warnings on some of their titles. The warning reads: “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions”. And while some are applauding Disney for acknowledging the problematic nature of some of their content, others don’t think that a mere content warning is enough. Others are calling for Disney to make a greater effort to reckon with their problematic legacy. In light of these development, here are seven of the most racist moments in Disney movies that you can look out for when deciding on your next Disney+ viewing.
1. The Siamese Cats in “Lady and the Tramp”
When “Lady and the Tramp” was released in 1955, it wasn’t unusual for the entertainment industry to create characters based on offensive stereotypes of what they believed people of Asian descent acted like. One of the most offensive instances of this were there characters “Si” and “Am” in “Lady and the Tramp”–two mischievous and troublesome cats who come into Lady’s home and make a mess, which Lady is ultimately blamed for. It doesn’t help that the cats are illustrated with slanted eyes and sing with broken accents.
2. Everything about “Song of the South”
Probably the most offensive and problematic of all Disney movies, “Song of the South” was released in 1946. It follows the story of a young boy who befriends Uncle Remus, a former slave who teaches him about life through a series of fables. The movie is upsetting for many reasons, one of which is the way the movie expresses nostalgia for the pre-Civil War way of life–which even the movie’s black characters seem to long for. The song “Song of the South” is the perfect example of this, where a black choir sings, “This heart of mine is in the heart of Dixie. That’s where I belong”.
3. The Crows in “Dumbo”
The crows in “Dumbo” are a play on blackface minstrel characters that much of the American audience would’ve been familiar with at the time of “Dumbo”‘s release in 1941. To add insult to injury, the character of Jim Crow (yes, that’s actually his name), was voiced by white actor Cliff Edwards, voicing an exaggerated version of a stereotypical black Southern voice. In “Dumbo”, Jim is depicted as lazy, dumb, and indulgent. This offensive stereotype of black people was well-known in the South.
4. Sunflower in “Fantasia”
In the original “Fantasia” released in 1940, the movie features a little black character named Sunflower. Sunflower was a black little girl with the body of a donkey. She was drawn with dark skin, an over-exaggerated nose and lips and braids in her hair. From her brief appearance in the movie, her apparent purpose in life was to help the glamorous white centaurs with their beauty routine (she was shown as filing the nails of a centaur). In later version, her character was cropped out completely of the movie to avoid a public outcry.
5. “What Makes a Red Man Red?” in “Peter Pan”
The racism inherent in “Peter Pan” is laid out plainly in the song “What Makes a Red Man Red?” that Neverland’s tribe of Native Americans sings to explain their history to the Lost Boys. The song is meant to be the origin story of how Native Americans got their skin color. The lyrics are as follows: “Let’s go back a million years/To the very first Injun prince/He kissed a maid and start to blush/And we’ve all been blushin’ since”.
6. “Arabian Nights” in “Aladdin”
Critics of “Aladdin” have long called the movie problematic for the way it depicts people of Middle Eastern descent and how it fails to illustrate the differences between various Middle Eastern cultures. Instead, the Kingdom of Agraba is a mish-mash of various cultures of the Middle East which implies that the cultures are interchangeable. And don’t forget the most problematic pat of the movie, the song “Arabian Nights” that contains the following lyrics: “I come from a land…Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face. It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home”.
7. Shun Gon in “The Aristocats”
The Chinese cat Shun Gon in “The Aristocats” is another prime example of a racist character that Disney employed in their earlier movies. Shun Gon is a member of O’Malley the Alley Cat’s street gang. He speaks in broken English, has slanted eyes and prominent teeth, and plays the piano with chopsticks. In other words, it doesn’t get more offensive that this.