By: Olivia McLeod
For decades, The Walt Disney Company has entertained generations of the young and young-at-heart with imaginative and impressive movies. While most people get caught up in happily ever after, they fail to consider whether or not the content of these movies ever crosses the line.
On Jan. 22, Ryerson’s Racialised Students’ Collective held an event to discuss the problems concerning equality in Disney films.
“We feel like Disney is something that reinforces the racism in society and instills it from a young age,” Daniela Glaser, one of the event coordinators, said. “[We thought] it’d be cool to do an event surrounding awareness on that and kind of to take a look at what’s really in front of you.”
Students gathered in the Thomas Lounge and formed discussions based on movie clips. The clips ranged from the 1940s film Fantasia, to one of Disney’s more recent movies, Frozen.
A range of issues were explored, like the disrespectful “Indian” rituals in Peter Pan, the stereotypical portrayal of African-American jazz musicians as crows in Dumbo and the over-sexualized version of Esmeralda and the gypsy culture in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Many attendees were surprised while watching the scenes because they noticed discriminative actions and language that didn’t faze them when they were kids.
“The songs are so catchy, so you don’t even notice how bad it is,” Angelyn Francis, co-coordinator of the event, said.
Markus Harwood-Jones, a second-year sociology student, said he took a lot away from the discussion.
“I always like to be in environments where people are putting out things for me to learn about how to be better in my anti-racism work and solidarity,” Harwood-Jones said.
Ryerson’s Racialised Students’ Collective regularly hosts these types of events on campus. Their main objective is to create inclusive, open spaces for whoever wants to discuss discriminative issues without any prejudice.
“Entering into a space that’s purposefully trying to counteract [racism] is really important, [and] it’s really hard to find,” Harwood-Jones said.
Sally Chen, a University of Toronto post-graduate who attended the discussion, said she thinks people are trying to work towards self-awareness in the media.
“It’s an incremental process. Big revolutionary change is hard, but with little steps, it’s achievable,” she said.