As kids, Disney movies filled up our movie shelves and were the feature presentations of our family movie nights. But as we watch these movies now, being the older and wiser adults we are, we come to question how anyone could allow such copious amounts of racial discrimination to infest the minds of young people.
Whether we admit it or not, Disney movies have negatively skewed our view of people of various ethnic backgrounds. One movie example that contains a negative portrayal of an ethnic group is the Lady and the Tramp. In the movie, there are two Siamese cats that are depicted as sly, troublemaking and conniving as they mosey around the house singing a song entitled, “We Are Siamese If You Please”. This portrayal does not serve the people of Asian descent any justice.
The story takes place during a time when America was experiencing an increasing flux of Chinese immigrants, which instilled many fears due to the competition that natives had for work against Chinese laborers. One line of the song sings, “Now we’re looking over our new domicile/If we like we stay for maybe quite a while”, which refers to Chinese immigrants planning to stay in the United States for work. With the understanding of who these Siamese cats represent and how they are represented, we can presume that Disney intended the message to be that Americans should not trust Asian immigrants.
The release of this movie was in 1955, thirteen years after the passing of the Executive Order 9066 and two years after the Korean War. The Executive Order 9066 was passed after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in order to force people of Japanese descent into internment camps due to fear of Japanese spies scheming to commit more acts of violence against America. The Korean War also resulted in apprehension toward Koreans due to the American values against communism and the fact that North Korea possessed nuclear weapons. Although these events only involved the Japanese and Koreans, they lead to much distrust and suspicion of Asian immigrants present in the United States in general. This clearly shows that the portrayal of the Siamese cats was based on the negative opinions people had of Asian immigrants due to these historical events.
It is disheartening that such messages are incorporated into children’s movies. In this day and age, the United States is becoming increasingly diverse due to immigration and other factors. Therefore, the role of these movies should no longer play such a prominent role in the lives of children because they perpetuate racial stereotypes against the immigrant groups that are represented in our nation.