Race and Culture in Disney

Discuss what was going on behind the signs in older Disney movies, and analyze both the time period some of the movies were released in, and how the happenings of those times affected certain characters in the film. For example, discuss the portrayal of the ‘Indians’ in Peter Pan, or Aladdin, and his white American-sounding self in an Arabic community. Then, consider how Disney is changing its views on culture and race, and including new characters of different races and culture such as Tiana in The Princess and the Frog

  • I think it's less a matter of what was going on "behind the sighs" (did you mean "scenes"?) than it has to do with the ignorance of the times. I don't think anything in particular was happening in 1953 to influence the derogatory manner in which Peter Pan depicts native people; they simply didn't know better. They didn't understand what so-called "Indians" really were and knew nothing of their culture, which led to such horrible depictions. With regards to Aladdin (and the same is true of Pocahontas and Mulan), that's simply a matter of whitewashing, caused by white North American producers, screenwriters, and animators having trouble relating to a character who does not fit into their own cultural mould - and consequently believing that their audience (presumably comprised of other white North Americans) feels the same way. The Princess and the Frog was Disney's way of acknowledging the mistakes of their past and trying to make amends. Whether that was a genuine attempt at reparations or a mere token gesture remains to be seen. It has been nearly seven years since it came out, and we've yet to see another Disney film with the same representation of POC since. – ProtoCanon 7 years ago
  • Not that those crows in Dumbo were built on racial stereotypes... – Tigey 7 years ago
  • I think racial stereotypes also came from what Disney believed *kids* thought Indians were, or black people were, or whatever. If you were a kid growing up in the '40s and '50s, you might believe the crows in Dumbo talked the way real black people did, for instance. That, of course, brings up a whole other issue of what we've taught kids throughout the generations and how we can do better. If The Princess and the Frog is Disney's way of atoning for mistakes, it's a good start, even a great one. Personally though, I think they have more work to do, not only in representing people of color but representing all people groups. – Stephanie M. 6 years ago

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