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24 January 2010 @ 02:18 pm
Disney Movies: #14 Peter Pan (1953)  
Entry #3 in the 'Watch all the Classic Disney (Animated) Movies' Challenge
So if I watch four Disney movies each month, I should be able to watch all of them be the end of the year, no sweat.

Seanie loves the book Peter Pan, and I mean loves it. He's got all of the Dave Barry 'prequel' series and as many sequels/spin-offs/alternate tellings that I can find at the bookstore. It's an iconic part of his childhood. But when we tried to watch this movie last year, he fell asleep long before the halfway point. So we decided to re-watch this movie, and luckily this time Seanie managed to stay awake. In fact, he was amazed he'd fallen asleep last time.

Oh, for what it's worth we watched the movie on VHS. I think it must have been the first VHS release, since I remember watching it as kid in the early nineties. For any Disney geeks who care about the video edition.

Overall Peter Pan is still a really fun movie. I've always liked Peter because he's just a kid, and is subject to the same selfishness and narcissism that all little kids seem to possess. He's oblivious to that which doesn't suit his immediate needs (the fact that Wendy, Tiger Lily, Tinkerbell and a whole school of mermaids have romantic interests in him just goes right over his head) and seems to have no concept of death or permanent destruction. I always loved that when one of the mermaids contritely point out that she was only trying to drown Wendy, he accepts this as perfectly reasonable.

Captain Hook's still a perfect Disney villain, a wonderful combination of Badass Motherfucker and Big Fat Pussy. In his first scene, he shoots one of his crew members because he doesn't like the way he's singing without warning or even batting an eye; closer to the end of the movie he kills another pirate because he's angry that Wendy escaped. He's not at all bothered that Peter cut off his hand; his only regret is that the hand was fed to the crocodile that now plagues his life. In another, crocodile-free movie, Hook would be King of the Pirates. But instead the mere thought of the Crocodile reduces Hook to a blubbering mess.

Certain aspects of it haven't aged well, most notably the Indian tribe and Pow Wow/"What Makes The Red Man Red?" segment. And I mean WOW that hasn't aged well. The caricatures of Native American warriors, with black plaited hair covering their eyes, buck teeth, slouching shoulders and RED skin made me laugh as a kid, but now I can see how offensive they are and it does bother me. But it doesn't bother me that much, because the movie was made over fifty years ago and it is a product of that age, when Westerns were still a popular form of entertainment and Indian stereotypes ran rampant.
But as Seanie pointed out, the Indian women are all drawn with brown skin and the Indian men are bright red. The song explains that this is because the men are all perpetually blushing, either:
A/ Because the first Indian kiss somehow genetically programmed them to red skin
B/ They're always chasing Indian women, thus always blushing.

Either way, it's a disturbing thought.

Sorry kids, this is no longer kosher.

I give this movie 9/10 stars.
I'd totally give it 10 if it weren't for the Indians.
Peter Pan may not be politically correct, but it's still a great adventure story that every kid would enjoy.
tryptonymphetictryptonymphetic on January 25th, 2010 04:58 am (UTC)
The second image you wanted to post isn't showing for me.

Beyond that, I have to echo the feelings you have about the Indian stereotypes in Peter Pan, and raise you some outright rage over Sunflower the Centaur: cut from The Pastoral Symphony in Fantasia around the 60s for basically being every black stereotype imaginable, without even having to speak.

The Pastoral Symphony Uncut

... I had always liked the African Amazon/Zebra centaurs flanking Dionysus as "attendants," but seeing them with the added context of Sunflower in the mix made me sick to my stomach.
Suzik00kaburra on January 25th, 2010 06:47 am (UTC)
The second image should work in about an hour - hour 1/2. My server doesn't upload until 11pm each night, so there's a delay in when the image shows up.

This is the image that's supposed to be there.

I'd seen screenshots of Sunflower before, but this is the first time I've seen her in color and 'in action' so to speak. It's disappointing that she was portrayed that way, but I can't say I'm surprised. Blatant racism was still a major player when Fantasia was released in the 1940s. Golliwog toys were perfectly acceptable for children, Superman was free to Slap a Jap, etc. I'm not saying this is OK or acceptable, just that given the atmosphere of the decade, it's not a surprising portrayal.
That said, I'm glad Disney figured out the character was inappropriate and cut her from future Fantasia releases. It would have been even better if they'd reanimated the segments to add a *good* representation of an African-American centaur to replace her (perhaps they thought the zebra centaurs would be enough?) but at least they tried to fix the problem, albeit in a backhanded way.
Although I guess that's like refusing to release Song of the South for home viewing, which I always thought seemed like an attempt to 'erase' a movie from their past. Why it bugs me in a whole movie but not in a few cut scenes makes no sense...

I'm probably making no sense :( Sorry, I'm really groggy and a little out of it.
whimsicalbeauwhimsicalbeau on January 25th, 2010 02:35 pm (UTC)
Saying way too much and probably getting myself in trouble
I'm not sure Peter Pan was a big part of my CHILDHOOD, per sey, as i'm not sure it was ever read to me then - but I think I read it on my own in High School/early college when I was going through a phase of reading children's classics I missed out on, and I really enjoyed it. Donno why, something resonated it with me - and somehow it became one of several themes Suzi's gifts to me are based around :)

After reading these comments, I found this interesting list:


I don't agree with all of them, or that is to say, I don't think all of them are worth getting worked up over, but some of them are, and all of them are at the least, interesting.

It should be noted the Superman "slap a jap" example is most likley fueled by war propaganda than any idea of race superiority. Not that makes it "right" or anything considering the included caricature, but as you said - it's important to view these items from the lens of the time, and a retrospective considering the knowledge at the time.

Watching the "why is the red man red," I wonder if this was done with racist intentions (my race is better than your race, nyah nyah nyah) or out of blatant ignorance ("Hey bob? What are Indians like anyway?" "Aren't they Red? And say How right? I saw that in a western last week!" "Why is the redman red? BRILLIANT! It's a song!)Again, neither is "right," but offensive caricature out of ignorance is more.. innocent and "acceptable" then something that's trying to say someone is genetically inferior. Then again, you never know someone's intentions - I just wonder - it was probably intentional because such stereotypes were funny. And well, it was kind of funny, even if it was offensive. (Although I have to say, I preferred the "mollusk tribe" version of the Indians portrayed in the Pearson/Barry prequels. I have no idea if they are more culturally sensitive, but they are certainly more realistic and likable characters. At least they don't talk in terms of "HOW" and "BIG CHEIF LIKE-UM SQAW.")

Of course i'm probably rambling on - offensively i'd wager. Being a white-male I apparently don't have access to certain viewpoints on the subject of race, and I struggle to relate to those perspectives I don't have. I spend a lot of time thinking about what constitutes actual "racial superiority" racism, and what's really just a matter of being politically correct - wondering of all caricature is a matter of the KKK brand of racial superiority, or if it means something different if the intention is different. I suppose it doesn't matter. If it offends, it offends, and the motivation is of no consequence.

Thinking about it, it bothers me that I can't find any caricature of Caucasians in my google searches. I'd love to see what features one would exaggerate in a white guy if they were to create a "racist" cartoon about my own race. The closest thing I can find are 'white devil' drawings, with elongated "demon" ears.

Anyway, as usual, I'm worried I offended someone with these thoughts. I'm sorry if I did - I tend to ramble on. Yeesh. Long comment. Sorry.

tryptonymphetictryptonymphetic on January 25th, 2010 07:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Saying way too much and probably getting myself in trouble
Totally not offended! I mean, that's the thing, stereotypes are and always have been amusing to people, so I try not to focus too much on the intent. I wrote that last night sing-song-ing "Everyone's A Little Bit Racist" from Avenue Q to myself as I typed. It wouldn't surprise me if Sunflower was just a droll little character to the person who animated her, or if the people responsible for "What Makes the Red Man...?'s" lyrics were just people who were told that segment of the movie needed an entertaining song for a Pow Wow scene.

As for your white caricature, well... he's a little bit harder to find. You're more likely to find a "sheltered rich/white-acting black" character, like Carlton of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, who is typically completely out of touch with race issues, than you are to find an open caricature of "white stereotypical behavior and features." There are also sometimes "token white characters" in black comedies and romance movies, and generally they're either portrayed as poseurs, or what I lovingly refer to as "ethnically confused." (IE - the white female characters in Save the Last Dance.)
Suzik00kaburra on January 25th, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Saying way too much and probably getting myself in trouble
For white caricatures, I think you go into specific ethnicities. There's the 'Italian' stereotype (the chefs in Lady and the Tramp, the French stereotype (Lumiere in Beauty & The Beast), etc.

But unless you count, say, Stephen Colbert I can't think of a 'generic' white caricature :-p

I've been thinking about "Everyone's A Little Bit Racist" on and off all day. :D
tryptonymphetictryptonymphetic on January 25th, 2010 07:10 pm (UTC)
I was groggy too, I guess I didn't fully indicate that while I was mad, I still get how Sunflower ended up in the movie. She's part of an era where "black mammy" salt and pepper shakers were also popular, and it was okay to portray blacks with wide grinning mouths eating huge hunks of water-melon, and I get that.

I guess my point is that while Disney was very quick to go all revisionist on us with black issues, they haven't been so quick with the stereotypes they clearly "got away" with, like "What Makes the Red Man Red?" and the portrayal of Siamese cats in both Lady and the Tramp and The Aristocats also come to mind. To my knowledge those scenes remain unaltered in those movies, even when shown on the Disney channel. At the very least, were I a parent, I would use those scenes as a time to open up dialogue about America's past and racial stereotyping.
whimsicalbeauwhimsicalbeau on January 25th, 2010 08:34 pm (UTC)
That one is tricky for me. Although those stereotypes have certainly not "aged well," I don't think i'd approve of them being removed or reanimated from the movie. As offensive as they can be, they are part of the Disney history, and in-as much they are embarrassing to both Disney and our own culture, they are a big part of it - and it would seem wrong to try to "erase" that history. We should live with it, take it for what it is, and yeah - like you said, use it as a dialog to teach history and observe change.

Then again, there's something weird about that being on TV.

..maybe that's why they made all those weird and awkward direct-to-DVD sequels. I wonder how the "red man" is portrayed in that direct-to-dvd peter pan sequel?
Suzik00kaburra on January 25th, 2010 11:11 pm (UTC)
...we should look into that. Direct-to-DVD sequels that is.
whimsicalbeauwhimsicalbeau on January 26th, 2010 04:04 am (UTC)
Oh tottally.
Absolutely. For social science.

...and entertainment. Honestly,i'm curious to see what the do with it. My guess is that Wendy's daughter takes neverland on a feminism yawn-fest of unimaginative proportions.

How are we going to get our hands on those? I don't think they have those at the library.