Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Privilege, Disney and the YouTube

So.  I made a youtube video.


It's a funny video, I think.  It got about two thousand views, which is a minuscule drop in the bucket in youtube land, but it was enough to garner mostly positive - and more importantly, some negative - feedback from people I don't know.

I was lucky enough that the comments weren't abusive, but I have to admit, it was really jarring.  It's a strange feeling to work on something and give it to the world and have someone sitting on their couch give it a thumbs down.  It's okay, and I got over it, but it was a serious reminder to be kind on the internet.  Anyway, here is one of the gentler comments, which really encompasses why I made the video:

"Good voice, talented singer but I hate the message. Why must we make something big out of every child film? Plus, I don't think it had anything to do with feminism, but rather the love between family is stronger than anything."

First, I agree!  I love the focus on family.  And I don't think we have to make something big out of every child film.  In fact, it gets kind of boring when every movie is about saving the environment or sharing.  The reason I wrote the parody about feminism is that I felt that the media was lauding Frozen as Disney's 'feminist' film, which I don't feel is appropriate.

The fact is that Disney, like every other company and civilization ever, has a checkered past with how it treats women and minorities of all kinds.  The company is making strides to change this, but their films in the last 20 years have often seemed like a forced atonement to try to 'make up for' the undeniable racially and gender-biased films they've been making since the 1930's.  I appreciate that Frozen and Brave have made the effort to feature female characters, and I think it's a great step.  But the past can't be undone with a couple of movies, and there is so much to be done.  

I truly feel that the changes in gender, race and class equality will come not when films force plot lines to demonstrate a lack of bias, but when the background changes.  When there's a Chinese character in a movie that's not set in China.  When two unrelated black characters talk to each other about something other than being black.  When women occupy 50% percent of the speaking roles.  You know...like they do in ACTUAL LIFE. 

And this is the thing that 'every child film' should be focused on.  Wait...every film.  Not splashing inclusivity all over the covers, but modelling it.  Consistently.  Teaching kids to relate to characters that don't look like them, and including characters that do.  

It's 2014, and the race and gender inequity in North America is still stifling.  "We have a black princess" and "It didn't end in a wedding" just doesn't cut it any more.

2 comments:

  1. Your idea about splashing equality on the cover is a great one. "Look at us we are fulfilling the quotas of diversity! Where is our pat on the back?" I can't wait for the day when diversity is so normal that no one notices. I believe the day is coming when character descriptions come with out adjectives. They will just be about people.

    That said, grilling Disney for reflecting yesterday world in its films is futile. Progress gives us a different lens to look at yesterday and though we recognize the mistakes, villainizing its inequality as though it was somehow intentional and vindictive is unjust. The world just simply didn't know any better.

    I think its enough to say thankfully society on mass has progressed and evolved. There is still much more progression to make and if the past is proof better days are still ahead.

    Please keep up the blog I love the honesty and the vulnerability with which you write. So much more thoughtful than most.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your feedback - I completely agree. My intent isn't to lambaste Disney (or anyone else) for past behaviour - as you wisely said, that's futile. Instead I hope to challenge us as a society and as consumers who know better, to DO better, and to demand better from our media sources. Thanks for your thoughtful response.

      Delete