This writer remembers sitting in on a "classic movie night" where a certain segment of the audience felt they needed to demonstrate how politically correct they were by mocking the old movies they were watching.
Classics like The Philadelphia Story
were mercilessly torn apart by individuals, desperate to prove that they were more politically correct than the rest of us plebes, who just wanted to catch some classic flicks.
's Ben Joseph suffers from a similar ailment when he slams various Disney flicks
, from Fantasia
, for racial insensitivity. In doing so, Joseph applies a 21st Century morality to movies, shorts and books made, in some cases, nearly 70 years ago.
The accompanying YouTube sequences have been removed, likely because of Disney's legal beagles.
Does Joseph have a point? In several cases, yes. However, in his haste to be holier than thou, he plays fast and loose with the facts.
4) Sunflower the Centaur from Fantasia (1940)
Again, another relic from a bygone era. Fantasia
originally featured Sunflower, a black centaur, who cheerfully helps the white centaurs get ready for their dates in The Pastoral Symphony
. Disney, realizing his error, excised the sequence from subsequent releases of the film but Joseph never lets us forget it.
Once again, forgetting for the moment that he's going after a film that's nearly 70 years old, Joseph actually counts Sunflower's later deletion as a further calumny.
"(To) make matters worse," he thunders, "they started categorically denying Sunflower's existence with the Fantasia
re-release in 1960. How does that possibly make things better?"
Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
3) The Indians from Peter Pan (1953)
Confession time: this writer hasn't yet seen Peter Pan
so there's no response to Joseph's assertions about "Tiger Lilly's traditional Native American hussy dance" and the ways in which "Native American's misogynistic tendencies are played for laughs."
Joseph is right in that Disney's depiction of Native Americans was inaccurate and offensive. But yet again, he's applying 2007 morals to a 54-year-old movie. Does that justify Peter Pan
's patronizing portrayal of Natives? No. Does Joseph give Disney credit for the more balanced images in Pocahontas
? Heck no.
2) Uncle Remus from Song of the South (1946)
Song of the South
has always been a popular target for those who want to portray Walt Disney as a right wing bigot. This live-action/animated hybrid has never been released on DVD, due to concerns about its depiction of Uncle Remus, the cheerful plantation worker in the Post-Civil War era.
Joseph jumps on the "slam Song of the South
" bandwagon, saying "It's as if someone made a children's musical about Jews in post-World War II Germany that had a number titled 'Hey! Nothing Bad Has Happened to Us, Ever.'" He also points out that James Blaskett, who played Uncle Remus, wasn't allowed to attend the movie's premiere in Atlanta, but misses the fact that Blaskett received an Oscar for his work on the flick.
Joseph's assertion that the movie is offensive to black people gets trashed by an African American, former Disney animator Floyd Norman.
"Lest we forget," he writes, "many African Americans still love Song of the South
It's a little hard to denounce something, folks, when the alleged target isn't getting offended.
1) Thursday from Mickey Mouse and the Boy Thursday (1948 children's book)
In this obscure children's book from 1948, Mickey Mouse accidentally receives a West African native in the mail. Hijinks ensue, which includes Thursday (a riff on Friday from Robinson Crusoe
) killing Mickey's radio and worshipping Goofy as a tribal god.
"The book compiles almost every offensive preconception of Africa lurking in the American subconscious," says Joseph.
Keep in mind that the "fish out of water" scenario has been a comedy staple since . . . forever. Also keep in mind that this book has been out of print, most likely since before most people surfing the Internet were actually born. Remember that Disney's depictions of minorities weren't exactly out of step with mainstream society back then. By Joseph's own (pained) admission, Disney "was almost progressive" in his treatment of blacks and other non-Europeans. Look at the larger attitudes of the day, and this book starts to look like Albert Schweitzer.
But no, Joseph has to pull this obscure skeleton out of Disney's closet so he can show us how smart and progressive he is.
Racism in Disney Cartoons? An Animator Has the Last Word
The final note on this subject goes to Floyd Norman, who was the only black animator working at the Mouse House during the 1950's and 60's.
"Overly sensitive people see racial or ethnic slights in every image," Norman once wrote. "And in their zeal to sanitize and pasteurize everything, they've taken all the fun out of cartoon making.
"I've had the pleasure of speaking with the late Bob Clampett about his 1943 cartoon, Coal Black and the Sebben Dwarfs
(Clampett's notorious all-black take on Disney's Snow White
). I've chatted with Ward Kimball about animating the crows in Walt Disney's Dumbo
. . . Although some might call these comical images racially insensitive, I merely see them as funny."