We’ve just returned from doing what probably eleventy million North American kids did this weekend – watching the latest Disney movie “Frozen”.
I’m torn about sharing my thoughts, because on one hand, I want to be cool, just chill (see what I just did there?) and take a kid’s movie at face value.
And at face value – it WAS a pretty fun movie. Good music, funny jokes, entertaining characters and a uniquely engaging storyline.
But hidden underneath all that ice was something I found a little disturbing. So, being who I am, you know I’m going to share it with you. Because who are we kidding about that cool mom who knows how to chillax? Not me and we all know it.
Now, my biggest complaint about this movie is really not just about THIS movie, but about almost ALL kids’ movies. This one just happened to have the misfortune of being the ice on the cake (sorry, couldn’t resist).
There is a gaping lack of diversity in this and many other kids’ movies.
And I’m sick of it.
Yes, the movie is set in Medieval-era Nordic lands, where presumably diversity was not ever heard of, but don’t tell me that if Disney can cook up a story about a sister who has ice flowing from her hands to freeze a village in July and create blizzards, a moving,talking snowman that has body parts that separate and regroup at will and a reindeer that communicates with eyeball language, then don’t tell me they can’t cook up some black, Asian, East or West Indian residents in the village. Or royalty visiting the castle. Or a hero or heroine. Or even a cross-race romance (GASP!) I just don’t buy it. In one ballroom scene, there is a barely-there glimpse of a brown-ish couple, but it’s so fleeting that I’m actually wondering now if my eyes were playing tricks on me because I wanted to see something, anything other than white so badly.
The same is true for many kids’ TV shows. Take the royal darling Princess Sophia. How many black princes or princesses attend the Royal Academy with Sophia? Yep – you got it. None. Oh sure – Sophia has a black girl friend, who is a peasant in the village from Sophia’s pre-royalty life, but she rarely shows up at the castle. Why is that? Are the writers and creators so confident that a non-white person could never actually become royalty via an exclusive private academy? I also watched a Barbie TV special last week with Baby Girl that disgusted me for the same reason – Barbie and all of her white friends were attending a fancy private school that offered equestrian training and competition. Well, it must have been set either in South African apartheid, or the Southern States prior to the civil rights movement, because there were nothing but WHITE girls at that school.
The same for Frozen. It would appear that diversity was frozen out of this film. Not even a non-white servant in the castle, which perhaps I should be thankful for, that at least THAT stereotype was left out.
Now what troubles me most about the movie white-out is this: my daughter is black and taking her to see these movies is sending her the subliminal, subconscious message that non-white people do not belong in princess adventure movies. Unless of course they have their own township-like side of town to live their life of hardship in menial jobs, are turned into a frog to help a sinister black voodoo man and end up owning a restaurant with a fellow “coloured” man, not living like royalty in a castle. Baby Girl is learning from these movies and shows that maybe non-whites just aren’t good enough to be at a grand party at the castle, or even skating in the castle courtyard with the other villagers.
Children’s TV and movies is not the world of equality and the desired colour-blindness that so many politically correct people are calling for today, yet we as parents continue to take our kids to these movies and allow them to believe that it’s acceptable to freeze out diversity.
Don’t get me wrong – Baby Girl did not notice the missing representation one bit. In fact, during the Barbie TV special, I asked her numerous times if she saw anything missing from Barbie’s school and circle of friends, and she didn’t. Even when I pointed out to her that there were absolutely no black girls – or any other race than white – attending the school or even in the show – her response made me want to cry.
“That’s ok mommy. It doesn’t bother me.”
Well, it bloody well should. It bothers the hell out of me, and it bothers me MORE that it DOESN’T bother her. To me, that’s simply an indication that her experience of movies and television has been so completely white-washed that she just assumes this is NORMAL. Which sadly, it is in the world of entertainment, if not the real world that some of us live in.
I’m really disappointed that a powerhouse like Disney, knowing they could do SO MUCH to instill tolerance and equality in our children’s minds, continues to white-out all of their characters, or segregate them to their own movies like The Princess Frog, Mulan or Pocahontas.
If so many of us are trying to de-segregate, inter-relate and strive for a loving society of diversity, why shouldn’t our children’s entertainment be helping us send the same message to our kids so their generation doesn’t have to work so hard to fight racism?
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