Beloved and acclaimed media company, Disney, has had its share of racially and ethnically problematic portrayals. Perhaps the most distinct manifestation can be seen in the 1941 film Dumbo. Jim Crow and his group of friends are black crows who don tattered clothing and speak with a long, southern drawl. To match the look, they are depicted as lazy, poor and uneducated, exhibiting stereotypical traits that have long plagued African Americans. Even through the doe-eyed animation, the racial stereotyping and its call to minstrelsy is clear.
While blatant forms of racist depictions have become relatively unpopular, rather than erase them, popular culture merely hides racism and stereotyping more covertly but its audience is still cognizant of their undertones.
Recently, the Disney owned company, ABC decided to the cancel its reboot of Roseanne following a series of racist tweets by the show’s protagonist, Roseanne Barr.The move came just hours after Roseanne attacked former senior advisor to Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett, drawing on racially charged insults toward her appearance and demeanor.
Despite acclaim for its quick action, ABC’s cancellation was strategic. Roseanne’s racist track record has been well-documented and her show could have been cancelled at any other time. However, the opportunity presented itself so that Roseanne could be demonized and ABC would look heroic for ridding the world of such bigotry. Rather than genuine social welfare, they were motivated by a need for control, aiming to appeal to the liberal, ‘woke’ demographic.
Racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny are just as prevalent now as they ever were. In fact, they have become more normalized with the figurehead at the helm of our own corporation. The rise of Neo Nazism in the country has practically been endorsed by the White House, as even Trump recognizes the power of numbers and the longevity of white entitlement.
Society clearly champions the convenience of popularity over values. While America maintains its status as a capitalist society, media corporations will continue to reflect the bigoted values of its consumers. As long as even a fraction of the country is stuck in the past there will always be some damaging form of entertainment to validate their views, as companies aim to please-often to a cataclysmic fault. Only the most obvious and blatant forms of bigotry are condemned, hence the timing behind Roseanne’s cancellation.
The outrage over Roseanne has only served to resurface neglected national issues. The country has failed to remedy or even truly acknowledge the omnipresent national division, a token of the Civil War’s toxic affections. And, perhaps even more damning, those who do recognize the repercussions, choose to antagonize and dismiss the opposing views, only widening the divide and further facilitating extreme fringes.
The mentality falls in line with the traction of the recent #MeToo movement. Throughout history, women have continually pleaded for societal support against sexual violence, systemic oppression and an overarching gender imbalance. Female voices have not been holding a collective silence up until now, they have merely been obscured by a grander male-dominated narrative that was woefully unwilling to hear them. Only now do we acknowledge them under the falsity of political correctness along with sheer number and popularity.
In truth, words carry more weight than ever, particularly with the permeance of social media which allows negative, potentially violent ideas to fester in front of an impressionable audience, eager to join the next witch hunt.
Roseanne is merely the extremist scapegoat. Right wingers can capitalize on the controversy to argue for constitutional rights. Meanwhile, liberals can feel good about themselves for condemning a lone, figurehead racist.
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