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Marketing Fail: Princess Tiana for Watermelon Candy

7 Mar

From clutch:

This week’s failure at good common sense in product marketing comes courtesy of a batch of Disney princess-themed Valentine’s day candy that pairs Sleeping Beauty‘s Aurora with vanilla flavored sugary dipping dust and Tiana from The Princess and the Frog with the watermelon flavor.

Wondering why this is a problem? Colorlines and Sociological Images (warning: disturbingly racist imagery) have the scoop for you, far better than any explanation I could try to provide.

Could Marvel Learn From Disney on Race?

11 May

Racialicious has an interesting article this week on a recent DC Comics coloring “mistake” and its implications.

On Monday I posted how DC Comics had published a corrected version of the Flash family from Flashpoint #1. This portrait included the granddaughter of Barry Allen properly portrayed as a black woman. In the pages that were included in DC’s Green Lantern Free Comic Book Day issue, she has been colored and presented as a mysterious white member of the Flash family.

How did this happen? I have no idea. I asked DC if they wanted to comment on it yesterday, but my email has not been responded to. Neither have I seen any explanation. And even if they did respond, I am sure that they would say it was a “mistake.”

But a mistake that changes one of the few women of color in the Flash family, one of the few women of color in the Legion, one of the few women of color in comics is more than a mistake. It’s a painful reminder that in comics, white is the default. White is the majority. White is the easy choice because you have, according to Marvel’s Tom Brevoort, only a 1% chance of being wrong.

The article is well-worth reading, especially if you haven’t (yet?) given much thought to race in American mainstream comics. And of course, you can’t talk about American mainstream comics without Marvel coming up in conversation.

How painful is it to hear a representative of Marvel, a Disney company – a company who does “corporately mandate” diversity – dismiss diversity so casually? As if it was an effort that wasn’t important? As if it were something that in the scheme of things didn’t really count? That the idea of being inclusive is less important than allowing writers to do what they want.

It seems to me that, while Disney’s record on cultural inclusion is far from perfect, as the parent company of Marvel they may have a few lessons to pass down here. In Lemonade Mouth, for example, issues of race were (oversimplified, but) seamlessly incorporated into the narrative.

Readers, please check out the Racialicious article and then tell me: Do you see Disney doing anything right that Marvel is currently getting wrong?

Disturbingly Blackface Mickey Mouse Toy

30 Mar

My friend Geoff sent me a link to these disturbingly ugly and sometimes-racist toys on SuperPunch. I keep wishing I had something intelligent to say about them. But I have no words.

Racialicious on Princely Tails

6 Mar

The Racialicious blog has excellent commentary on a series of beefcake, racialized images of Disney princes. Some are kinda NSFW.

Having read and pondered the commentary, I feel a little disquieted linking to them, not entirely comfortable with spreading the meme. And at the same time, if we don’t look at it, we can’t talk about it. I’ve got a copy of Song of the South in my DVD library for just that reason, despite my queasiness about the possibility of Disney ever releasing it commercially again.

Zac Efron Round-up

23 Apr

No, I didn’t ever think I’d type those words: Zac Efron Round-up. But it has become necessary.

First, I learn that the New York Times warns parents to be cautious of bringing girls to see 17 Again (scroll down to the bottom of the review). In response, the Feministing blog is spot on (spoiler alert):

After a quick plot synopsis (a dude’s life was ruined because he turned down a basketball scholarship after his girlfriend got pregnant), reviewer Manohla Dargis notes “the story’s obnoxious implications” are that “sex, meaning girls, can ruin your life.” She makes clear that the movie’s female characters are (surprise!) little more than simple stereotypes. So presumably this is what the “special girl warning” is referring to.

But if that is the case, doesn’t sexist content merit a warning for boys AND girls? The assumption that a negative portrayal of women will only affect girls is simply crazy. Young people of both genders are deeply affected by repeated sexist portrayals of women in movies, music, and culture more generally. Yes, it can have very different effects on boys and girls. But how is it worse for a girl to think of herself as having to choose between harpy or sex object than it is for a boy to view all women as harpies or sex objects?

Then, I see that apparently Efron’s got a bit of a bobblehead disorder, from Photoshop Disasters:

And finally, I stumble upon a thought-provoking video, “Who is Zac Efron and Why Isn’t He Black?” But unfortunately, I’m distracted by the fact that the Google ad in the crawl skips quickly from “Black Women White Men” to “Fly Hawaiian Airlines”, looking like a complete sentence informing me of the demographics of this airline’s customers, and then as much as I agree with many of Zennie Abraham’s comments, I’m lost to all critical discourse.

Jentasmic!: Ryan, Race and the Red Kilt

13 Jan

One might not expect a simple shopping expedition for High School Musical merchandise to require discourse on race and childrearing. But nonetheless, it does. I explore all this and more in last week’s Jentasmic! column at StudiosCentral.com. Here is how our journey begins:

I’ve learned a bit about our world in December, while shopping for High School Musical merchandise.

The first thing I’ve learned is that America might not be ready for a boy doll in a skirt. At least, that’s the only plausible explanation for the fact that no matter how many brick-and-mortar stores I check, I can’t find the HSM3 Ryan Graduation doll, in which our young hero is inexplicably dressed in a kilt and schoolgirl-style knee socks. (I would think this was some sort of strange interweb hoax, were it not for the  pictures of that same doll featured on the back of the other HSM3 Graduation dolls, which I did in fact find everywhere.)  And no, Ryan doesn’t wear that outfit at any point in the film; I watched carefully, both times.

[update 12/17/09: Since the original column is no longer online at StudiosCentral, I'm reproducing the whole column below:]

Ryan, Race, and the Red Kilt

I’ve learned a bit about our world in December, while shopping for High School Musical merchandise.

The first thing I’ve learned is that America might not be ready for a boy doll in a skirt. At least, that’s the only plausible explanation for the fact that no matter how many brick-and-mortar stores I check, I can’t find the HSM3 Ryan Graduation doll, in which our young hero is inexplicably dressed in a kilt and schoolgirl-style knee socks. (I would think this was some sort of strange interweb hoax, were it not for the  pictures of that same doll featured on the back of the other HSM3 Graduation dolls, which I did in fact find everywhere.)  And no, Ryan doesn’t wear that outfit at any point in the film; I watched carefully, both times.

I scoured stores at Walt Disney World for days, looking for Ryan in a kilt, until a friend suggested that perhaps the stores weren’t stocking these dolls because they just couldn’t explain why he was wearing a skirt, since he never wears that outfit in the movie (and, she added, if he were going to wear a kilt it would be a far more fashionably-cut piece, perhaps by Gauthier or D&G rather than the JC Penney look he’s sporting). It had never occurred to me that stores might not be stocking it because they couldn’t explain it….but it is much likelier than imagining that they’ve simply sold out. And somehow I can’t bear the notion that they might have pulled the dolls from the shelves, so let’s not even go there.

I learned, too, that the sales staff even at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is not likely to know HSM3 as well as the aforementioned friend and I. A charming and helpful Cast Member looked for a Ryan doll, and it quickly became clear that not only was he unfamiliar with Ryan, he could not differentiate between Chad and Zeke, even when said dolls were packaged along with their prom dates (Taylor and Sharpay, respectively). After we showed him a picture of Ryan in the kilt, he speculated that perhaps the boy’s “just really in touch with his culture.” I don’t think he meant that Ryan was Scottish, so I agreed.

But those Zeke and Sharpay dolls bring me to the second thing I’ve learned: While racism in America is far from over, there may be hope for us yet, and I’m not just talking about our next President. You see, Sharpay is white, and her prom date Zeke is African-American, and shoppers don’t seem to be batting an eye. I’m only 42 years old, but I do believe that in my entire life I have never seen an interracial couple packaged for mass consumption in this way. It was always assumed that white Barbie would go to prom with white Ken, and that their African-American counterparts would not only date amongst themselves, but also lack name recognition. After a lifetime of this mono-racial imagery, seeing Sharpay and Zeke together on the shelf is a very small thing, but it gives me hope. (I also find it interesting that my spellchecker has no problem with biracial, but none of the references I checked could find me an antonym, so I had to cobble one together myself.)

The toys we as a society choose to produce, and in turn the toys we as individuals choose to put in our children’s hands, tell our children what they should expect the world to be. A mother recently wrote into the Boston Globe to say how grateful she is that her 5-year-old son will grow up taking it for granted that an African-American man can be President of the United States. I hope my kid takes it for granted that he can date whomever his heart chooses, and select his wardrobe with similar freedoms. And if he wants to wear a kilt, I just pray it’s not from JC Penney.

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