Childhood days are full of imagination and dreams. To have fun, kids indulge in different activities like playing, drawing, painting, rhymes. Besides all these, kids love to watch television, especially cartoons and movies.
A few studies were undertaken in the 90’s that the world of children’s television was not an equitable place. Characters of color were barely depicted, and in the rare instances where they were, they were mostly secondary characters with largely stereotypical characteristics. This is especially true in the depiction of women characters.
Racism has always been a part of American history. When we look at the evolution of Disney, we might think that character representation is getting better as we now have a black princess. But in reality, it has not.
Some cartoons and movies that involve racism
The Jungle Book is a movie that follows the adventure of Mowgli. While all characters in the movie have an English accent, the monkey Louis has an African-American accent. He is also lazy and demanding which is related to the stereotypes that were present in America during the 1950s and 60s.
Band budh aur Budbak is similarly problematic. The class teacher Dubey Sir is a gruff Bihari, the principal, Rathi Sir is a Haryanvi and one female Bengali teacher have one thing in common – they speak a horrible version of Hindi with an over-the-top regional accent influenced by Bollywood sidekicks. Even the school guard is a ‘typical’ Marathi.
In the Disney classic Peter Pan, a scene portrays him meeting some Native Americans who perform to a song. The song is called ‘What makes the red man red’ and the characters are singing some gibberish. When it was coupled with a few scenes in the movie, it was considered offensive to the Native American community.
The movie Aladdin another Disney production, struggled to cast a brown actor. Disney tried to represent themselves as culturally diverse by conducting auditions for the lead character in Arab countries.
However, the media portrayed these auditions as disappointing, frustrating and hopeless. They claimed that it was hard to find someone who “looked like an Arab and was a talented singer and dancer’’.
Back home, the Indian show Chhota Bheem has a character named Kaalia because he is dark-skinned and foolish as compared to the hero of the show Bheem who is portrayed as a fair-skinned and smart kid.
Even shows such as Shin Chan, show a five-year-old, flirting and constantly disobeying his parents and teachers.
Also Read: Dark Secrets Of Disney You Don’t Know
Can such racism affect kids?
A study by the University of California claims that racism can have lasting effects on developing minds. The results of the U.S. Census Bureau’s National Survey of Children’s Health stated that the children who experience or witness racism possibly have a higher chance to be susceptible to issues such as depression or anxiety.
“Racism is stressful”, said Ashaunta Anderson from UCB. She found that a child’s odds of having ADHD increased by 3.2 percent when exposed to racism.
Similarly, Harvard’s research says that children develop awareness about racial stereotypes early and that these biases can be damaging. It can affect how they respond to everyday situations, ranging from interacting with others to taking tests.
Parents need to be much more explicit about racism and its effects. They need to expose kids to a positive image of other racial groups.
But there are movies like Finding Dory and Zootopia that offer the fearless approach to teaching children about social issues. Well, it can be prevented by just thinking the right way and by spreading awareness among kids.
Image Credits: Google Images.