Mar 3, 2014 - From Donald Duck to the Wooster group: Di$ney Imperialism Propaganda Hidden in Plain Sight, By Dani Miller
The study “How to Read Donald Duck” analyzed Disney comics to find the effects it had on Chilean children. The results were truly disturbing. What’s even more disturbing is how relevant much of this research still is to Disney cartoons today. Although comics are a different medium many of the individualistic and imperialist attitudes still persist in Disney films. Many critique Disney for their lack of accurate representation of people of color in their films and the absence of parents reflecting the individualistic ideologies they push.
According to NY Times “Mr. Dorfman and Mr. Mattelart concluded the comics taught Chilean children not to rebel against their country’s dependent position in the international capitalist economic system…their conclusion was upheld when the general who overthrew the Government gained support by appealing too many of the values and cultural images imbued in the Disney texts.” It also encompasses the dichotomy of the savage vs. civilization. The book was so controversial that it was banned when it was published.
Could this same concept of propaganda against resistance be occurring in American media? Perhaps this is the reason that Disney continues to push imagery which stereotypes and marginalizes Native Americans. Many Native cultures encourage the best interest of the collective community. Sense of community and kinship systems are a threat to the individualistic “American Dream” that US society and Disney pushes.
Stereotypes are perpetuated by some of the largest corporations prevalent throughout all aspects of the mainstream. Disney, the NFL, and big fashion names such as Chanel and Victoria’s Secret are a few perpetuators. Artist from multiple genres: Kesha, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Kahlifa, Miley Cyrus, and Kanye West all have profited off of stereotypical depictions. The fact that Natives have become more vocal in opposition but these stereotypes still persist shows the extent to which institutional racism towards Native Americans is engrained.
Kesha wearing a headdress
Just how much of an influence does Disney have? Well one obvious fact is that many of us have grown up with Disney. Our values and belief systems begin to be shaped by what we learn during childhood. Columbus Day and Thanksgiving mythologies demonstrate how false stereotypes taught during childhood can become difficult to eradicate later in life.
Disney is listed as one of the top media conglomerates of the US with stake holdings of over $17.2 Billion. Many celebrities like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake began their careers with the Mickey Mouse club and play a big influence on pop culture and therefore the masses. To say that Disney has an influence on U.S. media, and therefore the masses consciousness, is an understatement. As one of the dominant stake holders it is their responsibility to promote equality for all races but they are failing miserably with their depictions of Native Americans.
Let’s look at the history of Disney. Trigger warning! Some of these images are highly offensive and will forever change your perceptions of Disney.
A scene was cut from the original Fantasia film for a character with blackface. This character, called a “pickaninny centaurette,” is depicted as subservient and polishing the hooves of Melinda, a blonde-haired “White centaurette”.
Fantasia Blackface scene
Carl Banks began creating the Disney comics in 1942, most of which have stories of the duck characters traveling to “exotic lands” reminiscent of indigenous lands of South America. The character Scrooge notorious for greed and embezzlement finds Incan gold mines.
Depictions of “savage witch doctor” bowing to scrooge mcduck’s feet and calling him “massa” in Disney comic.
Many are also aware of the highly offensive “What makes the Red man red?” which is full of stereotypes. The difference here is that Disney did not care to cut out this offensive scene.
Another comic image, emphasis on Indians being “exotic”. Even go as far to mention “Indian dialect”.
In ‘The Black Wednesday Story’ Scrooge peddled hair tonic to the “Chillyboot Indians”
Totem pole stereotype and native caricatures. Notice how like Tonto in Lone Ranger, the caricature is painted with a white face. Like the native mascot stereotypes the character is holding a tomahawk, an object the white imagination prefers to obsess over.
Disney even made a video which I included in my previous article about the R-word. The short included the savage stereotypes to mock natives who fought against assimilation. One of the clips includes commentary which whitesplains that the short included stereotypes as a way of mocking them. If this were true you would think they would have stopped them completely ? Well after so many examples of racism in Disney’s past and their explanation of ridiculous stereotypes have they learned their lesson? Nope.
Here is a series of racist vinylmation toys/collectables with Disney characters committing cultural appropriation.
Lone Ranger with Johnny Depp in Redface
Depicting Natives as nothing but a redfaced, obedient sidekick is racist. Let’s not forget that Tonto translates to “stupid or foolish.” Can’t get anymore obvious than that, Disney. It’s the year 2014 and Native caricatures continue; Lone Ranger has even been nominated for best makeup for the Oscars! If this isn’t a blatant display of how Hollywood feels about Natives then I don’t know what more proof anyone needs. Even if this is a result of ignorance, this shows how dire it is that America to reform their education system and improve their relationship with Native Americans.
If you really want to learn about Natives we are here, just as we always have been. Check out 562 Project for pictures of natives without stereotypes. Twitter user @whattribe has also been active in sharing native photography and protesting #NotyourTonto since the beginning of #notyourmascot hashtag.
During the twitterstorm yesterday many natives participated in #notyourtonto. Late last night word from twitter spread of The Wooster Group in Disney/CalArts Theater putting on a play of blatant redface and “reimagining” or committing a triggering reenactment US genocide.
Still from Wooster Group play Cry! Trojans showing actors in Redface
Natives can’t help but wonder if this was baiting to distract from #NotYourTonto. Regardless it proves the need for the conversation of the never ending acts of disrespect the US shows towards Native Americans. Here is information to demand the show be canceled:
1) Tweet @TheWoosterGroup
2) Comment on fb event: https://www.facebook.com/events/227978287386410/?previousaction=join&source=1 … …
3) Call 213 237-2810!
#Notyourmascot trended during the SuperBowl and the media refused to acknowledge us. Look at the history of those conglomerates who run our media and that will give you answers as to why the Native voice goes unheard. We must keep holding this country accountable for its relations with Native Americans. It is the only way to establish a better future for our children.