As I was reading the two articles concerning the notion of race, I related the articles with my English learning experience. Now I would like to share with you the issue and images of race I identified in Disney films, and how those images shaped my view on race.
I grew up learning English with a variety of Disney films. I fell in love with the films since the images were well portrayed. Because of that, I learned English in a fun way. As I was learning English, I wish that I would be as charming as those beautiful princesses. The beautiful princesses, namely Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, all fall into the same category: They are all white, with big eyes, tall nose and (most of them), with blond hair (Snow White has black hair).
As such, in the eye of a young second language learner, Disney demonstrated beauty and elegance using the images of white characters. For a long time, I thought that being white was the first step of becoming a “princess”. Whenever someone brought up the word “princess”, I always linked the word with the image of a white, big eyes, and blond girl. Likewise, when someone said “prince”, the image of a handsome white man came to my mind. Those images with white princesses and princes rooted in my mind that I never take any step further to investigate the void of images of Black or Asian characters. I never doubt that why the majority of the Disney images are focusing on white people. Although Disney has produced the film with Asian characters, such as Mulan, the images of white people still dominate the Disney movies.
Thinking back to Disney movies today and connecting them with the issue of race, I felt that Disney film makers were (kind of) racists. Maybe the film makers were not aware of the fact that they portrayed more white characters than Black or Asian characters in their cartoons. Or, they are white people and they might take it for granted that white people are doing better than Black people. Either case, it would be better if they were to include Black and Asian characters in the cartoons. Therefore, firstly, Black and Asian kids would feel more comfortable and inclusive when watching the film. Secondly, white kids would also gain a sense of equality because white characters are not the only images dominated the film.
Now I cannot help wondering what if I grew up watching movies such as “Snow Black”. For example, if Disney had portrayed “Snow Black” as a noble princess, telling me that the Queen was jealous of her beauty and thus attempted to kill her. In that case, I would have known since young that “Snow Black” is the representation of the beauty of Black people. I would have known that being white cannot make me a “princess”. In order to become a “princess”, for instance, I need to cultivate myself with knowledge, to read more books, and to articulate beautiful and smart sentences.
In summary, I believe that second language educators, either parents or teachers, should be really careful when selecting learning materials for young second language learners. When using the materials to facilitate second language learning, educators should try to avoid elements such as racism and sexism.
Above are my reflections on Disney films and the issue of race. What about you, my friends? What do you see in “Snow Black”?