Tuesday, July 03, 2007


It's a small world

Spent yesterday at Disneyland in Anaheim, noting the presence of what I'll generously call "American Indians" at "It's a Small World."

As you can see, the "Indian" is wearing a large feathered headdress. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know this representation is THE image of an Indian, as seen in children's books, toys, and other media.

So, it is no surprise to see this at Disneyland...

Disneyland, who gave us all Poca...

No wait. Lest you think (as I did) that there'd be Pocahontas merchandise and imagery in abundance, there wasn't! Quite the surprise to see that all they had was the DVD. No dolls. No dress-up clothes. No action figures. No coffee mugs. I asked at the Frontierland store, and the clerk said "We don't have anything at all. Doesn't make sense, does it?" Any reader know the backstory with the absence of Pocahontas at Disneyland?

What are YOUR thoughts on the "Indian" imagery in Disneyland?

Do you have a better picture than the one I took in Small World? I'd like to post it, if you'll send it to me.

I gather the imagery is different at the Disney parks around the world. If you've seen other parks, I'd love to hear from you.... What is Indian imagery in other Disney parks? Send me photos, if you've got them.

5 comments:

Liz Reese said...

While having a wonderful day in Disneyland with my brilliant mother Debbie Reese, I was also struck by the lack of Indians at Disneyland. They used to have a Pocahontas theater, now replaced by a Mid evil European dancing/Knighting ceremony. The one picture of the Indian in "Its a Small World" was the only Indian in the entire ride, and we would have missed him were it nor for my chance glance up right as we passed him.

So what is my reaction to this lack of Indians at Disneyland.... not as the scholar my mom is but as a 16 year old who has been aware of stereotypes and Indian imagery for my entire life? Well, I don't really know. Having expected at the least a section for Indians in "Its a Small world" (May I note here that they had Kangaroo's and a set of 10 or more dancing penguins which added insult to injury) I was torn between two reactions. "Well, its good that Disneyland isn't going all out to promote hurtful stereotypes." and "What the hell, you can't leave me out! Your on Indian land, and you choose to ignore us! WHHAAAAAAAAT?!??! Your doing it again, trying to ignore us so you feel better about what you did, well we don't just DISAPPEAR because you want us to! NATIVE PRIDE!"

But sitting back and evaluating my reaction it points to an important predicament about stereotypes. Is it better to leave out a culture, or to represent it inaccurately? I mean, I would have been mad if they had Stereotypes too, but I don't like being ignored either.

The lesson from this encounter with dancing and singing children, is that the state of our societies views on Natives, well sucks. Why is it that the two options are misrepresentation or no representation. Why don't we have the accurate representation option?

But really, what sucks is that we don't really get options. No one asks before they use Indian Imagery, they just do it. Whenever cultures are represented, people feel they have the right to the Image of a culture that is not their own, as if that Image doesn't effect the way others will view that culture. Why don't we have rights to our own images? If Walt Disney has the right to his "Walt Disney" logo, they why don't we have some kind of natural or legal copy right to images of our own culture/race? Now thats an Idea.

Liz Reese

Anonymous said...

the image of the indian child in disneyland's "its a small world" was designed by Mary Blair back in the early 1960. That attraction is a celebration of children across the world. you will notice that the french wear barets and can-can dresses, the indian women wear saries, the south seas children wear hula garb, the mexican children wear sombreros. The white american children wear cowboy hats - everyone can take offense of a sterio-type in that attraction if they want to. It's a Small World is one of walt disney's most beloved attractions - it's whole message is one of unity and love "it's a small world after all"

Rob said...

So some stereotypes justify other stereotypes, Anonymous? I don't think so. Two wrongs don't make a right--never have, never will.

Did you notice the black savages dancing with animals (to represent Africa)? Or the South Seas girl apparently being sacrificed to a volcano? Any comment on whether we should ignore or excuse these racist representations?

Rob said...

Thanks for the update on Disneyland, Debbie and Liz.

The park used to be worse when it came to portraying Indians. I wrote about the subject in Disneyland: Where Seldom Is Heard a Discouraging Word.

Ellie Byrne said...

HI, you might be interested in our discussion of Disney's Pocahontas in comparison with the representation of Native Americans in the earlier film, Peter Pan, in Deconstructing Disney, Pluto Press.