Disney, although a successful animator who can teach children the issues of respect, authority, and even the value of taxes during WWII, still has lacked child friendly morals on issues like race.
Disney throughout the years has become famous for it’s animations, however, the live action film, Song of the south has huge racial innuendos. The film is about how happy slaves are living on the plantation. The film follows Johnny, who is a young boy who has just moved to the South, and although the audience is not explicitly told that they are not slaves but they do live on a plantation in Georgia and are extremely subservient to the host family. The family is implicitly implied to be slaves but they are happy with the role that they are given in society.
This movie has not left the Disney vault due to its stereotypical voices of the black characters and racists texts. An example of this is white actors using black face. Not only does Disney use blatantly racist and historically incorrect props but they fail to tell the real issues and plight of African Americans. The film portrays a harmony between white and blacks that can only exist as blacks remain inferior to whites. One of the biggest racial controversies started by this movement was the song “Zip – a- dee- doo- dah”.
Disney does a disservice to the entire African American community. Song of the South was released in 1946. A pivotal point in racial relations between African Americans and white. During this time African Americans were fighting in World War II and as they came back expecting to be taken care of the way they took care of the country, they were instead discriminated against in their own country. White veterans were receiving benefits like the GI bill, loans, and subsidized housing. Not only were they gaining economic protection but society looked at these people like they were heroes.
Song of the South shows exactly what is wrong with the WWII generation. African Americans were looked at as a disposable resource of labor just like Disney’s hint of them being slaves. It was falsely believed that African Americans were happy to fight in the war and risk everything for taking care of their white counterparts.
The movie again shows the ignorance of white, suburban Americans and their false superiority complex. During the war, Africans were red-lined from housing, discriminated from getting loans, and did not have many of the pre- requisites to get a higher education financed by the GI bill. Throughout movies, aside from portraying slaves, African Americans did not play large roles and this is parallel to society as they were given low level jobs and not taken care of after the war. Song of the south was not only a racist film but embodies the ideology of the generation. Disney was selling an idea and beliefs of white Americans back to them, all for entertainment.
Unfortunately, Disney did not learn its lesson about racial tensions and its portrayal to its younger audience. Again, through the movie Fantasia, the audience is introduced to a beloved black centaur with “over sized lips”, goofy looking, and subservient to a beautiful white centaur named Otika.
The film already perpetuates racial stereotypes about black beauty and attacks the skin color, hair, and dialect of the black centaur sunflower. Sunflower is a beauty expert for white centaurs and is treated like an inferior being by these beautiful, light skinned centaurs. Fantasia plays on the stereotypes of Black obsession with beauty and looks but also showing that African Americans lack any merit in their own skin.
This movie, like the Song of the South, removes any ideas of black power, acceptance of the fro, and how educated African americans can be. The movie portrays blacks as inherently inferior but fails to show why this societal concept even arose and how incorrect it is. Disney is only catering to their white audiences. This movie came out in 1940. This movie is different in how it attacks African Americans as along with bringing up the idea of servitude, the movie directly attacks the African American style and beauty. African Americans at the time was facing an identity crisis. African Americans were fed the idea that white beauty was superior and if they could mimic white style then they could raise up in society and somehow fit in. Blacks hid their fro’s and bought skin bleachers. Much of the make up available, like lipstick and powder, was designed for lighter skin tones and when African Americans tried the make up their skin just looked grayed. When marketing the make up, the models were white and any logo used a white mode. If there was a black model, she would have straightened hair and lighter skin. Once again, perpetuating white beauty standards.
While men were facing economic discrimination, women were facing social discrimination based on beauty ideals. It wasn’t until the revolution of Black Power, where the identity of African Americans were embraced and there was no longer a shaming within the African American community. Blacks loved their kinky curls and black skin. As soon as there was an acceptance of their identity, there was a movement for equality. Yet, the movie Fantasia completely excludes this revival of Black sentiments toward empowerment. Instead it reverts back to primitive ideals of racial superiority. The character Sunflower, represents all of the fears of inferiority felt by African Americans during the 40’s . This was an animated film designed for children, continuing racial tensions even at a younger age. This implicit brain-washing made it even difficult for children to accept racial de-segregated schools. Media played an important role in what society considered normal or what they even accepted. Disney is a powerful force, and definitely had the name to broadcast films of a positive image of African Americans. Viewers saw the powerful role of Disney during WWII with the movie, victory through air power, which taught Americans the importance of taxes, yet Disney did not use its name to foster positive racial relationships
More examples of racism in Disney can be found here: http://screenrant.com/worst-racial-stereotypes-offensive-disney-movies-animation/?view=all