It's no secret -- I think lots of Disney things are totally racist. I do allow my daughters to watch their shows, though, because the character choices of behavior, race, stereotyping, etc., actually make for great material for me. We talk about "kindness" (or lack thereof in some of the characters), personalities, who the "bad" girls and the "good" girls tend to be, etc. While my daughters certainly can identify Cinderella, Belle, and all of those princess types, we read them books of the same themes but with Black/Brown characters in them (check out the Jump at the Sun series of books -- they are awesome!). In their coloring books, my daughters easily make choices to color the princesses with white or brown skin, blond or black hair. Have you noticed what colors your child(ren) in your life chooses to color princesses? What messages are they receiving, and then projecting, about who can be a princess and what a princess looks like?
My husband and I *always* watch every television show with the girls. We never let them watch the shows without a) us screening them first, and b) without at least providing some sort of lesson or awareness about key areas that draw our attention.
But, a shout out - finally! -- to a Disney movie that I think gets it right... Camp Rock.
Now, disclaimer: The only way we have watched it is through recording it off the Disney channel. And, by chance, our recorder stopped recording with a few minutes to go at the end. So, far be it from me not to assume that something totally whack happens at the end.
Camp Rock. I love it. Latina main character with Latino parents who don't have to make any ethnic statement other than to be visually Latino/a and to have the surname "Torres." No one busts out any Spanish. No one starts doing salsa or saying they have to call their abuela (although, the representation WOULD be nice in a Disney movie!). No - they just get to be Latina without having to do the very-Disney-thing of qualifying their experiences. The lead not-so-nice-girl is thin, blond, and super rich. And, yes, she has the friends-of-color sidekicks so often found in Disney movies and shows.
But.. (spoiler alert for anyone who is actually holding out to watch the movie).... in the end, the gals-of color sidekicks completely stick it to the lead character and refuse to be objectified by her. Nice going, gals! And, in a good Disney way, the lead character apologizes without being nasty -- she just says she was wrong and eats it. Now, I'm not sure if there is anything that I miss in the last 2 minutes, but that's my version of how it ended!
Why post about this on "To Loosen?" Well, a few reasons:
1. I am a big fan of having conversations about race that can begin in a relaxed way -- like as a result of watching a movie or show
2. I am a FIRM believer that kids ARE aware of racism and messages about inequality. So, for me, the sooner I can talk about it in an age appropriate way, the better. And, unfortunately, so many of the Disney movies and shows are riddled with stereotyping and racism that it makes it easy.
3. I don't think television is bad -- I DO think that unsupervised television is horrible. So, if you're going to let your kids watch tv, then watch with them. Use their interests as a way to engage them in conversations that affect their lives.
4. Lots of times, people say that I'm making a lot of the Disney race thing (I'm not, I assure you). It's there, and it's obvious if you are aware of race and racism. If you're NOT seeing the racism in Disney shows and movies, then it's time To Loosen Your Mind and figure out what that's all about. Ignoring it is reinforcing the white privilege that comes along with not needing to notice it.
I like High School Musical, too, with my kids - but, for some reason, Camp Rock just really stuck with me this time on the race thing.