17 February 2010

Disney stirred up the gumbo pot

Disney stirred up the gumbo pot

By Nicole E. Avery
GVL Columnist

Even with their unrealistic views of hair, men, parenting and relationships, just about everyone likes Disney movies.

I grew up on Disney VHS tapes and my childhood would not have been complete without my sister and me preforming renditions of the pivotal scene from Bambi where Bambi's mother is shot while trying to flee from the field back into the woods.

It is no wonder then that I was excited when I heard Disney was producing a fully hand-drawn animated new movie starring black characters. I was thrilled for the long overdue representation the movie would give the black community, but when I heard it was set in New Orleans, it was no wonder why I was immediately skeptical.

All I could see in my mind was a fantastically drawn narrations of spicy Creoles and evil dark-skinned voodoo witch doctors-- I was pretty accurate except for the fact that Disney kept all the characters in the middle realm of brown skin tones.

I saw the movie, and this, in a nutshell is how Disney paints a model for the African American woman-- hard working, religious, respectful women who aren't afraid to "tell it like it is".

How completely two dimensional. Is this another instance of the menacing positive stereotype?

Issues with this movie go a little deeper than that. The problem is not with the idea of a positive stereotypes being rejected, but with the idea that someone can be labeled a race and then summed up to have a specific quality.

Another major problem was the plot: a girl from a poor family works two jobs in order to save up enough money to where she can cook her father's gumbo recipe and serve it to the community. Essentially she wants to live out the dream her father was never able to accomplish. Is this sending the message the black: women are limited to desiring only to fulfill dreams that have already been dreamt by the men in their families?

Some would argue this portrays a realistic picture of the specific time period of the movie-- black people were underprivileged, were poor and did struggle.

True, but is that the only truth we are to perpetually keep on living? I want to see hopeful things, positive change and progression, and don't scapegoat on the time period. It is not necessary to show a black character whose prize possession is a beat-up gumbo pot, doesn't speak proper English and is content with having no aspirations of her own.

The reason many people were left with a sour taste in their mouths after watching this movie was because they felt they were not represented as ideally as they could have been. It is perfectly justifiable to want input on the way your race is being depicted in a movie.

Every African American isn't upset and everyone doesn't have to be upset by this movie, but those who are upset have the right to voice their opinion without being censored.


1 comment:

pink_collar said...

I haven't seen the movie, but I suspected it would be like that from the previews. Good observations.