Has Hollywood Animation Really Left Racism Behind?


“It’s hard to fight the power of Elsa,” says Sarah Coyne, associate director of the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University in Utah. “But it’s important to point out the mistaken perception that blond people are better than any other type of people. And talk to the teacher and bring it up at the school level, so that she hears it from a lot of people. different people “.

However, while this is something that my partner and I have indeed tried to solve with the help of teachers, we have had mixed results as it is such a huge systemic problem that it cannot be resolved. not be bowled over by a few conversations in the playground. . It’s an issue though that Shah thinks Disney can actually do a lot more to help. Currently, the only educational resource on negative stereotypes provided by the media company is a website that reviews the history of offensive images of their animations. As mentioned earlier, the company also provides warnings ahead of certain movies on streaming platforms, such as Aladdin, but these will only have a real impact if they are saved with an adult explaining why exactly the performances are being put on. guard are offensive. “What is missing is a more comprehensive media literacy component,” Shah explains. “They could create material that they could share with schools and parents to explain why [certain] the images are problematic. ”

In the meantime, we end up with a situation where new animated films are pushing to create a more diverse landscape, with mixed results, while systemic racism still casts a shadow over the genre. The Space Jam movies are actually the perfect amalgamation of this problem, featuring both powerful black models and outdated cartoon characters, like Speedy Gonzales (based on offensive Mexican stereotypes) and Bugs Bunny, who like mentioned above, was originally inspired by minstrel artists. “[With Bugs Bunny alongside Michael Jordan and LeBron James] we see two different versions of how America perceives darkness and one version that doesn’t really recognize their race or racial identity, ”as Hassler-Forest puts it.

Nonetheless, while Bugs Bunny’s presence may be a throwback to historical bigotry, Space Jam and now its sequel show at least part of the way forward for Hollywood animation by considering its race issue and centering the stories with strongly nuanced colored characters. Indeed, when my daughter is old enough, I would like her to take advantage of Space Jams and get lost in a virtual world where blond is not the fault. These movies might sound crazy, but for parents like me they can be used to show our kids that there is an alternative to white culture – and it’s far from frivolous.

David Jesudason is a freelance journalist who writes on culture and publishes a weekly Episodes of My Life newsletter on Substack

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