Obviously the race issue in 2015 isn’t going away and we have people like Disney to thank, or at least they’re not helping per se. Many of us have grown up watching Disney Channel shows that have transformed from harmless mouse cartoons into TV shows, movies, and, now, award shows.What struck my nerve is Disney’s new rumored movie “The Princess of North Sudan”. Upon seeing the title, I got excited that Disney was actually going to do a movie about an African princess. Wrong! The story is based off of a true story about a Caucasian father from Virginia who’s daughter said she wanted to be a princess like white Elsa from “Frozen”. To give his daughter what she wanted he went to an area of unclaimed land between Sudan and Egypt, stuck a homemade flag on it, and called it North Sudan while calling himself king and his daughter princess. There are rumors of potential money being printed with the daughter’s face on it. If colonialism wasn’t already disgusting enough and the reason we Americans are here today, here we are being reminded of it again in 2015. Now, I completely understand that all people of Africa do not have brown complexion, but if we are going to do a movie about a country on the continent of Africa, let’s be realistic; Sudanese and Egyptian natives do not look like this young girl. This is only one of the many race mistakes Disney has made and I’m trying to stop them before they do it again. Allow me to remind you of a few:
Let’s look at the list of Disney Channel sitcoms beginning with “Sister, Sister”. Don’t get me wrong; as a child I absolutely LOVED the show and looking back as a 21-year-old, I can still enjoy it because of the great acting and writing, however, there are some things that bother me. First of all, the twins are not based in a two-parent household and I’ve noticed this pattern among many Disney shows. Tia and Tamera were adopted and their parents were not together, nor did the parents love each other. They were constantly fighting and arguing.It seems as though black families are always being portrayed as dysfunctional. If that’s not enough, let’s look at a more recent show, “A.N.T. Farm”. I’m not sure if the show still comes on but it was one of the few shows on Disney Channel starring a black character. China McClain (they changed the spelling of her name to “Chyna” on the show -_-) had a present father but the mother was barely shown. Then on “Shake It Up” the mother of the red-headed character CeCe was on for 25 episodes while Zendaya or Rocky’s mother only appeared for 6 episodes. One might say, “Well, ‘Hannah Montana’ didn’t even have a mother”. The difference between that show and these is the fact that the father was played by Miley Cyrus’ ACTUAL father and the mother was dead instead of not present and that may have had something to do with it, but, if not, that still doesn’t compare to the several shows featuring mostly Caucasian actors that did have two parents present in the house: “Lizzie McGuire”, “Good Luck Charlie”, “Wizards of Waverly Place”, “Even Stevens” , “Boy Meets World”, “Phil of the Future” and the list certainly doesn’t end there. In fact, the ratio of Caucasian shows with two-parent households compared to African American shows is uncannily disappointing. Even back as far as I can remember with “The Famous Jett Jackson” (God rest his soul), I don’t recall him having a mother but only a father and grandmother, but maybe that’s my faded memory. They took Kyle Massey’s TV mother away when he got his own spin-off, “Cory in the House”. And I’ll never forget “Smart Guy”, a Disney show featuring an actual intelligent black man and HE still didn’t deserve a mother. I recall one black cast on Disney having a two-parent household and that is “That’s So Raven”. “That’s So Raven” was perhaps the only black show on Disney that they got right. The show was one of the only shows that even discussed the issue of race along with “The Famous Jett Jackson”, the movie “The Color of Friendship”, and maybe a few more, but not many. I believe it’s because there was a black director and black writers. I guess us blacks only grow up with single moms or single fathers according to Disney. I grew up in a two-parent household if you need an example Disney.
I also notice a complexion issue with Disney. Zendaya Coleman may be one black actor that Disney got right but let’s not forget the fact that she is mulatto. She’s a star and I absolutely love her and the fact that Disney is embracing her but let’s explore this; she has fair skin. Raven Symone was another wonderful fair-skinned star. China McClain is fair-skinned. Tadj Mowry and his sisters Tia and Tamera Mowry were all mulatto and of a lighter complexion. These were really some of the few actors that got their own show with a black cast and none of them were darker than, I hate to say it, “the brown paper bag”. All of the characters on Disney that are chocolate like me, are just the side-kicks of the main characters.
Not to mention that the only diversity in race of two parents were with “Wizards of Waverly Place” featuring a Latina mother and Italian father besides the brief moment in “Twitches” where we saw their Caucasian father for all of two seconds. It may be a reach, but when Zendaya was given her own show entitled “K.C. Undercover”, she got two black parents. I would love to see Disney portray the multi-cultural family Zendaya actually has. As I mentioned, Tia and Tamera Mowry were mulatto as well with two black actors playing the parents. Their brother Tadj Mowry had a black father. Even Corbin Bleu, who got his own movie “Jump In” is of mixed race and only got ONE black father and no mother. And the list goes on.
Then there are the blatant stereotypes we see on the shows. Let’s look at “Jessie”. Now this show already has many stereotypes on ALL the characters; Jessie is from Texas and speaks of being a country cowgirl because, you know, everyone from Texas does that, Ravi has a FAKE Indian accent, he speaks perfect American English when he’s out of character, there’s the dumb blonde, Emma, the jock, Luke, and of course, my favorite, Zuri, who is a feisty, sassy, snappy, trouble making, control freak of an African adoptee. The fact that Zuri, played by the adorable Skai Jackson, always has an attitude irks me. Her character was born in Africa and has lived an upper class New York lifestyle so why in the world does she act this way? The “mmmhmmm”s and the “Oh, no you didn’t”s are just in our African blood, right? Lenny from “Lizzie McGuire” was a black character who never spoke, he responded in nods and blinks. And don’t think I forgot about the description of Mr. Moseby’s mother from “Suite Life of Zack and Cody” Continue reading The Issue With Disney Racism