February 05, 2018


A few weeks ago a Refinery 29 article caught my eye. It was talking about 29 Movies That Haven't Aged So Well  and it finally set me off about some things I've been thinking lately. 

Photo by Reddangelo

The article starts off condemning Disney classics like Fantasia, Dumbo, and Lady and the Tramp.  Granted, I am a Disney lover, so initially I was all seriously?? Disney?? but then I read the snippets. Dumbo "makes us cringe" because:
After hearing abut Dumbo's supposed ability, a group of skeptical crows sing the song "When I See An Elephant Fly." Here's the thing: The main Crow is named Jim — Jim Crow. Jim and his friends are clearly modeled off of racial stereotypes of Black people from the 1940s.

The critique on Lady and the Tramp
During "The Siamese Cat Song," the aptly-named Si and Am slink around their owner's house causing trouble. Siamese cats hail from Thailand — which had once been called Siam — so Disney animators gave the cats distinctly Asian accents. Another Siamese cat makes an appearance in The Aristocats. He plays a piano with chopsticks while singing a song with the lyrics, "Shanghai, Hong Kong, Egg Fu Young / Fortune Cookie always wrong."
The article goes on to list 31 other movies including Pretty Woman, White Chicks, Shallow Hal, Get Hard, Sixteen Candles, and Back to the Future.

Let me start by saying that the stereotypes discussed for each movie are not okay and I don't agree with them in the sense that they should be tolerated. However...

Let me say loud and clear that I am beyond tired of hearing the condemnation of shows/movies from the 90s or earlier because of their gay/trans/race/gender stereotypes. Obviously I don't agree about the discrimination of these groups but why are we {collectively, society, millennials, or what have you} judging shows and movies from 10+ years ago on TODAY's issues or general societal norms???

I can't even pretend to make sense of this. I raised the argument with friends at work and my one coworker agreed saying 
I am re-watching ER on Hulu and the way they portrayed AIDS and HIV is truly eye opening.  Back when these shows / movies were filmed, it was during a time when no one knew much or being openly gay was new.  No need to condemn the old shows / movies, but it is just simply interesting to see the difference.  
And that's exactly what it is - perspective. Societal views have somewhat progressed {fortunately} and you can't judge the past through the eyes of the present. It will never make sense.

I guess what's bothering me about the whole thing is that we are becoming an increasingly {over}sensitive country. That's not to say that these issues shouldn't be fought for - because they SHOULD - but what I can't seem to wrap my mind around is how we are judging the past through the eyes of the present. It feels very ethnocentric to me and it bothers me.

I'm curious to know your thoughts on this. 


  1. I completely agree with you! Times change, which is a good thing, but you can't/shouldn't go back & try to condemn and/or change things such tv shows/movies/songs etc from the past because they don't fit in with today's standards. You can't change the past, & you shouldn't try to. We should just focus on making the present & the future better. Rewriting history doesn't solve problems, it creates problems.

  2. I agree that we have to keep perspective versus just out right condemn. It's weird because even shows that aren't that old have some problems, particularly with sexism. To me, what's important is that we acknowledge how that may have been okay/normal back then and do better today, including have uncomfortable conversations around such issues. I will also say, though, as someone who was mocked as a child in the "We are Siamese" voice and still carry that hurt 30+ years later that if you're also not willing to have a conversation with your child about the things that are no longer appropriate and downright hurtful than maybe just skip Lady and the Tramp and rewatch Frozen and endure Let It Go for the millionth time too.

  3. I agree with you and I agree with Tanya. It's a waste of time to condemn entertainment from the past. Lord knows Disney has some seriously now-offensive content out there. I know people get upset over the princesses' outfits/weight/race/desperation, too. And don't get me wrong, I'm very happy to see films like Frozen, Brave, and Moana. But I think we're learning from this. And I agree with Tanya in that if we expose kids to older movies (which we shouldn't be afraid to do), we also need to have the conversation about how things have changed and how the world is getting better and how wonderful diversity is.