Here’s a collaboration project between myself and website contributor, J.D. Boaz. It’s an essay on the racism and disparity of the world that exists between the rich (e.g. Illuminati) and poor (e.g. you and I). Walt Disney is no stranger to conspiracy theories, there is Illuminati symbolism to be found in a lot of his works (see the Ducktales Illuminati post).
Subtle racism is evident throughout the Disney empire, in fact, here is a video that depicts a white guy whipping the black guy (simulated) that was posted up on youtube:
J.D. provided the analysis around the film Lady and the Tramp, so without further adieu:
The world of Disney is known to be one of imagination, learning and morals. What if I told you Disney has secretly been teaching us racism, stereotypes and social inequality? Most people would disagree; as these are movies, they have grown up with—allowing their own children to view these movies. Disney shows these ideologies in the majority of his movies, however, I’ll focus my research on Lady and the Tramp, as their use of racist characters is overwhelming: Siamese cats, mixed breed dogs, German breeds and perpetuation of social inequalities by making mixed breed dogs, cockney speaking dogs and holding “pure” breed dogs in a higher position than other dogs.
On the surface Disney has sold us a message of tolerance, creativity and living happily ever after. This seems like something we all would like to embrace but when we start to dissect these Disney movies we see an overwhelming repetition of the same things: Characters that convey a racial or sexual stereotype, which usually conveys a social class. While many would argue this is not something most people notice or care to acknowledge, it has been studied many times. Many scholars have dove into the subject and have found overwhelming evidence of this. It does not seem to matter what year or decade you chose the movies all convey these innuendos of racism and classism.
Kevin M. Tavin and David Anderson, who wrote “Teaching (Popular) Visual Culture: Deconstructing Disney in the Elementary Art Classroom.” goes into depth about how Disney can have a negative effect on our children. They talk about Disney using many of its outlets to push its agenda in many facets. These authors go as far as calling Disney an oligopoly, infiltrating the classroom and giving children a false sense of how the real world is.
Tavin and Anderson do a wonderful job in breaking down the three woman characters are portrayed in most, if not all, Disney movies: “idealized teenaged heroin, middle-aged beauty, or nurturing post-menopausal woman”. They also talk about how these are not only held to human characters but they transcend to the animals in Disney’s movies. In the movie Lady and the Tramp, Lady, who is the main character, is faced with many challenges, the most obvious being her happiness seems to hinge on whether or not the Tramp accepts her.
Tavin and Anderson go on to write about how many racial and ethnic stereotypes are portrayed in Disney’s movies as well. By giving animals “urban” voices and even going as far as using people of color to portray animals as having dark motives.
Tavin and Anderson point to a few Disney movies to show how Disney uses stereotypes in its films. The authors point to the film Aladdin and the main male character (Aladdin). They point out that he has light skin, Anglo features and speaks standard American English, whereas the “evil doers” in the film have more exaggerated “Arab” features and speak broken English with a thick accent. This is how Disney gives ethnic nonnative sounding people their “evil”. Why would the other character speak with an accent? If they are all from the same location, should they not all have same accent?
I do think Tavin and Anderson make some rash assumptions and give their opinion by saying Disney is trying infiltrate the minds of students. I, however, believe that they bring up good points to support their treatment of Disney as a corporation that portrays ethnic and sexual stereotyping. The authors clear way the authors illustrate how characters of color are bad, yet when making a “good” character of color they have them speak perfect English and lighten their skin. This transformation makes the character kind, honest and worthy of a happy ending. This treatment is segregating a portion of the population and demonstrates the unfair characterization of color in our society.
Disney stories once started as a Grimm fairy tales, a fact most people are unaware of. Author Kay Stone, who wrote “Things Walt Disney Never Told Us”, exhibits how women are shoved to the side and are nothing without a man. Her book compares a lot of the early Grimm folklore and contrasts it to Walt Disney, the “Master of Fantasy” and his stories portrayed in film. Stone goes on to point out that Disney is purposely infiltrating North America’s young females with tales of subordination, acceptance of abuse, narcissism and passivity. Kay demonstrates this by such stories as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, both having such a passive and submissive female character they literally, “have to be awaken by a man”. Kay also finds that Disney portrays woman in a “passive and pretty, but also unusually patient, obedient, industrious and quiet”
Kay gives examples of how Disney uses the princess as a prize for a hero to save or win. She makes a great correlation to how females interpreted the Disney movies by interviewing females from different walks of life and ages. She finds, through her interviews, women are susceptible to the female role portrayed in these films. One woman interviewed stated, “(I) really expected to bloom one day as Cinderella had done, but (I) am still waiting”.
I do agree with Kay that Disney portrays woman as only beautiful and submissive characters. I also agree with her quote, “The only tests of most heroines nothing beyond what they are born with: a beautiful face, tiny feet, or a pleasing temperament” . Disney portrays women as more of an object instead of a strong female who can take care of herself. This is shown in Lady and the Tramp when the Tramp sets up an attack on Lady so he can come to save the day. The Tramp comes to her rescue when a gang of dogs are chasing her and because of this manipulation the, Tramp wins the heart of Lady.
Disney does not stop at just trying to show women “their place” at the bottom of the totem pole, as he includes race, as demonstrated earlier in my paper. In Dorothy L. Hurley’s “Seeing White: Children of Color and the Disney Fairy Tail Princess”she states children’s self-image is affected by Disney’s portrayal of certain figures in both verbal and visual tales being told to our youth. Hurley’s argument is many of the princesses are particularly of Caucasian decent and this ingrains into young children, particularly children of color. They are lead to believe that to be desired you must be white or at least have Anglo features. Hurley points to Disney and cinema for giving a face or a color to these Princesses. This is shown everyday in our society. Many people opt for rhinoplasty or breast augmentation. There is even a procedure the Asian culture has embraced, it entails cutting the eye lids to give the patient a more defined eye lid, therefore creating the look of having more round or fuller eyes.
Hurley points to a very powerful example of how children are unknowingly programmed to believe that all princesses should be white. Hurley shows this in a study done with a story being read to children, which is similar to Cinderella called “The Talking Eggs.” The main character is Blanche, who is black, but the children who heard the story assumed she must be white because she is a princess.
IlluminatiWatcher note: Nothing tops the racism found in one of the Merrie Melodies’ “Censored Eleven” films called “Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs.” From Wiki:
Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs is notorious for being one of the “Censored Eleven”: eleven Schlesinger/Warner Bros. cartoons produced at the height of the Golden Age of Hollywood animation based on its unflattering and stereotypical use of darky iconography. Because it was produced in America during World War II, there is also anti-Japanese sentiment: the firm “Murder Inc.” advertises that it does not charge to kill “Japs”.
The same basic stereotypical elements present in the earlier Censored Eleven films are also present in Coal Black, depicted with more detail and made to conform to Clampett’s “wacky” directorial style. The Prince, a vague Cab Calloway lookalike, is depicted as a slender, zoot suited Black man with straightened hair, a monocle, and gold teeth (with dice in place of the front two incisors). Both he and the dwarfs are drawn with large eyes, small noses, and unnaturally large pink lips, derived from the appearance of a white man in blackface rather than that of an actual black man. The middle-aged wicked Queen is depicted as an overweight, asexual crone, with large lips that are only partially covered with lipstick (the Queen’s lipstick only extends as far as it would if her lips were proportionate to her face).
Hurley’s deconstruction of Cinderella is most telling. She points out how Cinderella has blonde hair and blue eyes, while her evil mother and sisters are of a darker complexion. Hurley explains everything in the movie that is “good” ends up being white. “The prince lives in a white castle that has white birds at the window. His father has white hair…Cinderella’s fairy godmother has white hair”.
While I can see many great points in Hurley’s analysis, I do recognize exaggerations or analysis that may far reaching. Some may find Hurley’s interpretation of certain “evil” characters being of a darker color as too broad. While I do see her points, I also tend to see how one could interpret the colors of black and white as being a sort of yin and yang that the world has come to acknowledge. I do however see how the study of such subjects has prompted things to change. It was not till the 1980s that an African American child was featured in a fairy tale. While we see new fairy tales with African American, Native American and Asian characters, we also still see many of the main characters portrayed as dark, ethnic and non-Anglo.
We also see that when characters of a minority are placed into a position of importance, in our case a princess, they tend to be watered down. They usually speak differently than their ethnically similar counterparts or have less ethnic features.
While these researchers have brought up many interesting examples of Disney’s racist and sexists undertones to many of their animated films, they do not seem to make a connection to its excessive use of classism to tie them together.
Disney shows this in Lady and the Tramp. Siamese cats, mixed breed dogs, German breeds and perpetuation of social inequalities by making mixed breed dogs, cockney speaking dogs and holding “pure” breed dogs in a higher position than other dogs.We see this heavily, not only through Lady and Tramp, but also in many of the characters throughout the animated feature. We can break this down into three ways the movie portrays racism and classism: language, color/breed of the dogs and the use of stereotypes.
I shall examine the use of language in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp. When I say language, I am referring to how we identify with the characters language. The very first dogs to speak are the Lady’s friends and Lady herself. We do not tend to pay much attention to them, as they seem very high class and speak dialects many would consider intelligent. It is not until we hear a duo of Siamese Cats, Tramp and other dogs in the pound, that we see a negative trend. Specific accents are deliberately manipulated to create an effect, when studied, leads us to associate the accent with a social class or race.
If we examine the Tramp and his friends at the dog pound, we see many other examples. The first time we hear the Tramp speak, he is a smooth talking mutt who lives, “footloose and collar-free.” The Tramp, who we can tell is not a purebred dog, by his lack or markings, floppy ears and is the human equivalent of a bi-racial person. The Tramp is sneaky and manipulative and he does not speak eloquently. According to Disney’s standards, he speaks like a minority or, at the very least, unintelligently.
There are also the dogs in the pound: a Bulldog that is from Europe with a cockney accent, a Chihuahua who sounds drunk and speaks in what I would call “Spanglish,” along with a duo of German speaking dogs. A direct parallel is made between the accents of these animals and their social identities. It is when these linguistic characteristics are manipulated in order to produce a stereotype that perpetuates a social affiliation then it becomes an issue we need to look at.
The Bulldog and Chihuahua are both considered pure breed dogs, but this is where the “pure” ends. These dogs are portrayed as unintelligent; this is done by their accents. The Bulldog has a cockney accent, which is an accent linked to South London, which is considered a location of lower middle class.
When we add the dialects of dogs to the breed or, lack thereof in most cases, is when we find out how mixed breeds are portrayed. As I pointed out before, any dog that was a purebred dog in the pound had an accent and was portrayed as an evil foreigner. Closer examination of the dog pound scene reveals that the dogs are all mixed with various breeds. This shows how the movie portrays foreigners and interracial breeding. All of the mixed breed dogs have been taken into the dog equivalent of jail. There are two dogs in the pound who speak what appears to be of “American” decent: a male mixed dog who is running the operation in the pound and a female Shitzu, who is the dog equivalent to a streetwalker. The two dogs, although speaking English, do so in a way that would portray them as being uneducated, sleazy and criminal.
As the film pans around the dog pound it is reminiscent of an ASPCA commercial, showing poor, helpless mixed breed dogs. This conveys a message of sorrow and empathy for a dog that is poor and a mixed breed. This in turn gives the hidden message of mixed races being bad, only on the premise of them being mixed. None of these dogs are snarling or being mean, every single one is whimpering and crying. This is another example of how the dog pound represents a concentration camp. During World War II, the Nazi’s had their concentration camps, but the United States also had internment camps for the Japanese. Both of these camps held innocent people for no other reason than “breed.”
The dogcatcher treats all the dogs aggressively and harshly. The dogcatcher walks Lady in a gingerly and kindly fashion, seeming somewhat concerned about finding her owners. This treatment of Lady shows how she is held in a higher regard than the mixed breed and lower class. This is to show that Lady, who is upper class and a pure breed, does not belong in this concentration camp for dogs…she is above them.
With Lady now having stepped into this filthy and low class place, it seems to have marked her as bad and guilty by association. When Lady is brought home she is sentenced to the backyard, a stark contrast to the warm doggie bed she once claimed inside. With the culmination of hanging out with mixed breeds she has been shunned. This is the final step in the message. If you are mixed and low class, or even associate with them, you will be shunned. This is not the message we should be pushing on our children.
When I sat down to watch this movie, I sat down to share the message dogs are not to be cast away and that animals have as much of a place in this world as we do. Once I started to watch, another message jumped out at me: a message of racism, classism and a fear of stereotypes. While many may say this is not something children will typically get, my research of how children interpret these “fairy tales” shows they do in fact see a pattern and it does stick with them, even into their adult lives.
Being a person who comes from a mixed cultural background, I have first-hand experience in being racial stereotyped. I have had people tell me I speak English well for being born in Korea, as well as living in Japan. I have had people assume members of my family were not intelligent because they happened to not speak English in perfect form. We should not judge anyone, be it dog or human, on their cultural background, color of their skin or their socioeconomic class. We must judge on who the individual is, not on a predetermined Disney character.
In a world of technology, we have given less of an emphasis on social interaction and have relied too much on allowing the television to raise our children.. We have forgotten parent’s, adults and other role models are the people who need to teach the next generation, not the ever present “bright box”. While Disney has added Disney princesses of color since the release of Lady and the Tramp, they are still not commonplace. While we are seeing more, they are still portrayed in a lesser light than their Anglo counterparts are. The only way to break this cycle is to acknowledge it and talk about it with our children. They are the next generation who can change the way the world thinks.