From your favorite Disney classics, such as Peter Pan and Pocahontas, to the newer more modern movies such as the Lone Ranger, Disney has always found a way to incorporate Native Americans in their movies. Now is the way that Disney portrays Native Americans, negative or positive?
In the 1953 classic, Peter Pan, did you ever notice, anything unusually strange? Probably not, considering the fact that you were most likely an innocent child at the time you watched thins movie. Anyway, the point of that question, was did you ever notice, “The Red Man”, and his tribe, or the song, “What Made the Red Man Red”?
In history, The Red Man was known as the chief of an Indian tribe, and often called Red because of his skin complexion. Nowadays, Native Americans take the term offensively.
The Red Man, and his tribe in the movie Peter Pan were described as exotic, savage, and crazy, just to name a few terms. They ran around in circles, made loud chants, talked in different languages (sign language), and were covered in extreme amounts of face paint, and feathers.
In this time period, the tribe and the Chief, were never taken as disrespectful, racist or controversial. In fact most people took it as a joke, yet what race deserves to be treated as a joke? Since then, times have changed, and numerous amounts of Native Americans, take The Red Man scene as degrading. The Times of London wrote:
“…the Never-Never-Land is peopled by Red Indians and Pirates, who lose no time in showing us that they know how to ‘behave as sich.’ [sic] The Red Indians always lay their ear to the ground, then give vent to unearthly yells, and prepare for scalping somebody—a Pirate, for choice.”
During a part of the scene, the tribe broke out into song, after smoking peace pipes, and they started singing “What Made the Red Man Red?” in the song they basically describe what made the red man red.
The tribe of Indians in Peter Pan lives up to about every stereotype, of Indians.
The story of Pocahontas is controversial because its total accuracy is unclear to historians, and the amount of stereotypes it contains. According to Chief Roy Crazy Horse, Pocahontas is known because she became the “good Indian” for Euro-Americans, the one who saved the life of a White man. This shows that a prominent theme in the movie is that of the good/bad Indian. With this stereotypical portrayal, children learn that “Indians” are bad people but some are exception to that rule, like Pocahontas.
The movie also depicts American Indians as aggressive while raising the image of the English settlers whom ultimately killed many Native Americans and deposed them of their land.
Another major stereotype that is brought up in the movie is, that Native Americans are “savages”. In the song Savages, the white settlers, say that Native Americans cannot be trusted, and that they are basically evil people.
Overall, some of Disney’s movies are considered extremely controversial, racist, and stereotypical. Not only to Native Americans, but other races of color.