The United States of America celebrated a historical moment in November of 2008 when the first African-American became president. Many celebrated this moment, not only for the historical moment in the country’s history, but also as a sign that the country was moving past the racial prejudices and stereotypes which have plagued the nation since its beginning. As he was re-elected the nation rejoiced again. I, however, am not rejoicing, as I do not see this as a progression away from the prejudices and stereotypes.
I cannot rejoice when people celebrate the first children’s movie with a main character as an African-American woman (“The Princess and the Frog”), in which she is depicted as a person who is beneath Caucasian people. All the white people in the movie are depicted as wealthy: Charlotte — getting everything she wants; Charlotte’s father — using many bills to pay for a copy of the newspaper; and the Fenners — who own their own real estate company. Tiana, who is the African-American woman, lives in a small house close to many other small houses in which everyone living there is African-American.
At one point in the movie, Mr. Fenner told Tiana, “A woman of your background would have had her hands full running a business like that. You are better off where you are at.” Immediately following this conversation, Tiana falls to the ground, knocking over a table and spilling all over herself. Now all children may not notice this scene as anything, but I see a wealthy and powerful white man telling a black woman to stay where she belongs, and then falls to the ground. Is this where she belongs and is supposed to stay?
As a mother of a two young daughters I am disgusted at the visual and verbal stereotypes presented in the majority of children’s programming. I am horrified that my impressionable daughters are exposed to such vulgar material.
As children of all ages, races and ethnicities see this repeatedly, it will create at the least a stereotype in their mind when they get older. Many stereotypes turn into prejudices as people grow… while people may celebrate, I will not.
I do understand this movie was set in the 1920s or a similar time period, when people of color were treated this way, but why not set the movie in a different time, or change the behaviors so they do not exhibit the stereotypes and racial prejudices? Children will not know the difference one way or another.
Children are also taught to want to be skinny, have big breasts and wear make-up. How, you may ask? The answer is summed up in one word — Barbies. All Barbies, no matter what their race is supposed to be, are skinny and picture perfect. All the Barbies have a perfect complexion to compliment their beautiful eye color and stunning choice of make-up. All one has to do is walk down an aisle at Target or any other store which sells children’s toys to see that there is a problem. I am not saying we need to create Barbies who are obese, but at least create a Barbie who is realistic. Barbies should reflect a person children can admire and emulate.
As the result of the stereotypical material in children’s movies and TV shows, my daughters are not allowed to watch TV unless it is educational; an example would be Jack Hanna’s program on Saturday mornings, which introduces children to many different animals in many different places. As for movies, I allow my daughters to view the Tinkerbell movies. These movies have fairies of all sizes, colors and “talents.” Each movie has a moral which children and adults can learn from. Each fairy has a responsibility to Pixie Hollow, and no matter how big or small it is, from cleaning the floors to making sure everyone has Pixie Dust, all the talents/fairies are equal.
I am not isolating my children, but I am doing everything I can to prevent my children from developing the stereotypes I developed growing up. If my children do watch programs in which there are stereotypes and prejudices displayed, we discuss what we saw and how it is wrong and what the characters have done differently. I open the lines of communication in which both my children and I can discuss issues our society is facing.
From one parent to another – all parents, adults, society must change the stereotypes children see day after day, month after month, to eliminate future generations from developing prejudices and possible racist attitudes. To do this, collectively we must voice our disgust with the current trends in the mainstream society. We must offer different courses of action, different avenues people can take to alter this path we are on as a country.
As you say goodnight to your children and tuck them in tonight think about what ideals you want your children to have, what traits you want them to display, and how you are going to make sure they develop them.