Racism In Disney Films Essay

2373 words - 9 pages

What images come to mind as one reflects upon his or her childhood? Playgrounds, blackboards, and soccer balls may be among the fondest of memories. Yet, for many, mermaids swim their thoughts, princesses get swept off their feet, and lions roar to their royal place in the animal kingdom. Disney films have captivated the American culture for years and have become a pivotal part of popular culture as well as a form of education. However, these films have devoured the youth of America and, in the process; have perpetuated an institutionally racist society based on harsh stereotypes. Minorities are often underrepresented, and even completely left out, of many Disney films such as Dumbo (1941), The Lion King (1994), Aladdin (1992), and Pocahontas (1995). As students enter the doors of schools, they bring with them the notion that white characters and people are superior to blacks or other minorities because that is how they are depicted in Disney films. However, is the “magical world of Disney” a true depiction of the world? Or is it more of an extremely limited perception?
In a time ravaged by war and depression, the great Walt Disney created a fairy tale world in which Americans could escape the disheartening truth. What started out as a mouse frolicking across a screen, has become a corporate giant steamrolling across America, consuming children’s imaginations and belief systems along the way. In the movie Mickey Mouse Monopoly (2001), it is stated that Disney controls a majority of America’s media, and because of this, the public suffers because they are presented with an extremely limited worldview. On the surface, Disney appears to be a wonderful, innocent form of entertainment appropriate for the entire family. Disney’s simple mission statement is “To make people happy.” Maybe that should be altered so to read “To make white people happy and powerful” seeing that white characters are always the heroes and heroines that live happily ever after. According to Carl Hiaasen, “The secret weapon is trust. Disney is the most trusted brand name in the history of marketing. It hooks us when we’re little and never lets go; this unshakeable faith that Disney is the best at knowing what’s best.”(13) It is time that this myth be shattered.
As far back as 1946, racial stereotyping of African Americans has been evident in Disney films. For instance, in the American classic Dumbo, the crows depict the typical southern African American with a slow pattern of speech. In Jungle Book (1967) the monkeys with African American voices are jiving in a crazy manner because they will never be real men and will always be animals. One of the most tragic examples of this racism can be seen in the movie Tarzan. In the original making of the movie, the white man comes to the rescue and tames all of the animals and natives. However, in the new Disney version of Tarzan (1999), the blacks that obviously inhabit Africa were completely eliminated and replaced by gorillas with...

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