Jordan Pollock 2107965
Token, or minority characters have appeared persistently since the early days of children’s media. There has be no real consistency in the use of Token minority characters in children’s film and television, neither through sex, or race. Females have appeared as minority characters on boy’s television shows, and vice versa. African Americans have appeared as racial minority, yet, a Caucasian character has been the racial minority in a children’s television show. For example, Chelsea Daniels is the only Caucasian character in the Disney Channel series, That’s So Raven,1 (2003-2007) which features an almost majority African American Cast. These characters have been created for various reasons. Some producers claimed to include token characters to attract a wider target audience, other times to deflect accusations of bias. It can be seen that token characters are often included to create more interesting, diverse casts and storylines. These characters in turn, embody negative racial, or sexiest, stereotypes. Tokenism gets a lot of criticism in children’s media, from negative racial stereotyping, to the use of misogyny, and everything in between. By a simple Google web search of ‘Racist Disney Characters’ it is easy to find an almost, endless list of race minority children’s characters.234 There is a thin line between token children’s characters and those widely received as racist stereotypes. In this research paper, minority characters in Disney films will be explored, focusing on racial minorities, or stereotypes. Tokenism in the form of sexism will also be discussed, and whether female Disney characters are the minority in their own films, such as Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Another topic discussed will be praised token minorities in children’s media, such as Kami, the Sesame Street Muppet who is HIV positive. Finally, underused minority groups in children’s media will be discussed such as LGBT, as well as disabled characters, respectively.
Racial Minority characters in Disney films are often perceived as racist. This can be seen in Disney children’s movies throughout history and has caused lots of controversy. An example of a Disney minority character is Sebastian the Jamaican crab, who appears in the 1989 film, The Little Mermaid.5 It is easy to understand why some critics would brand this character as racist, depicting unfair stereotypes of Jamaican Culture. Many articles, and studies have been conducted on the character. The Jamaican crab expresses through song that life is better in the ocean because you do not have to get a job, this can be understood in the lyrics to a song he sings, Under the Sea6. This is one of the most recognizable songs from the movie. As Jennifer Hecht writes in her Master’s Theses, Happily Ever After: Construction of Family in Disney Princess Collection Films7, “Sebastian, the crab was the only major character of color in the film and, from his accent and behavior, he was clearly Caribbean.” It can be seen that Sebastian creates negative stereotypes of Jamaican culture, perceiving the ethnic group as lazy, and whose glowing eyes hints towards drug culture. Native Americans have appeared as a minority in Disney’s films. Rebecca Rabison writes in her essay, Deviance in Disney: Representations of Crime in Disney Films8, “In both Peter Pan (1953) and Pocahontas (1995), the renditions of American- Indians are racist and incredibly demeaning. They are frequently referred to as “savages,” and are uneducated and wild. The images in Peter Pan are especially offensive; the Indian chief and his people look like caricatures and are poorly spoken and idiotic.” Hecht also discusses the minority characters, in that there were fears that, “Native Americans would be given stereotypical features and characteristics, such as a bulbous nose, loin clothes worn by overweight Indians, and war whooping with tomahawks. Many