by Chris Bodenner
A new angle from readers:
I’m enjoying this thread immensely. Another great film marred by racism is Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of Japanese neighbor Mr. Yunioshi is so incredibly over the top that it becomes very difficult to watch. I couldn’t find a good clip from the film itself, but [above] is a scene from Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, where Bruce Lee shows his discomfort at Rooney’s character.
Yes, Peter Pan is bad but, Disney has a lot of clunkers in its vault. I recently watched their 1966 Dean Jones/Suzanne Pleshette film The Ugly Dachshund, which is both incredibly sexist and racist. (Much comedy is attempted at the expense of a pair of father/son Japanese caterers.) Whoever let that film be re-released on DVD ought to be fired by Disney.
The great musical South Pacific should come with a warning label: not safe to watch with your Asian children. It’s been a long time since I watched it, but I recall a terrible scene where Shirley Jones meets the children of the man she thinks she loves, and they turn out to be the fruit of his previous union with … a native! They have dark hair and slanty eyes! As Shirley Jones recoiled in horror, my recently-adopted children (then about seven years old) turned to me in puzzlement: “Mama, why she no like those kids?” Oh gosh, was it hard to think of a quick lie about that; but my daughters were neither old enough, nor linguistically proficient enough, for me to explain the actual truth. Major ouch.
Update from a reader:
Shirley Jones isn’t in South Pacific; that was Mitzi Gaynor who played Nellie Furbush. Did this reader not understand the plot of the movie? The entire love story is jeopardized by Nellie’s racism. That’s the point. There’s even a song about it: “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught”. This is why the musical won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The reader had no business showing a 7-year-old that movie in the first place. Not all musicals are for children.