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[Hunchback] Outcasts
Tonight, we were browsing around for Christmas specials on Netflix Instant Watch and we came across "Christmas Classics vol 1." We've watched about half of it so far and it's pretty great....especially since we remembered a couple of the cartoons. In one, an inventor fashioned toys for orphans out of stuff lying around the orphanage. As an adult, I'm a little torn. Yes, it's wonderful the kids have toys, but he turns everything in the kitchen into a toy and turns the umbrellas into a Christmas tree. What happens when it rains?

BUT one was pretty offensive. It's called Santa's Surprise and was made in 1947. Here it is on Youtube. (Warning, there are offensive racial stereotypes, even though the overall message is ATTEMPTING to be a good one.)

For me, the initial drawings were offensive and it got worse and worse. I assume it was an African-American boy based on his accent...which was pretty bad. ("He sure does look worn!") Then there was the Chinese boy... And, of course, when they're cleaning Santa's house, the African-American boy shines shoes and the Chinese boy does laundry.

Sooo...now I'm torn on this. Part of me is saying "Why was this included on this collection?" But another part of me feels that NOT including it is somehow worse, in a way. People of color shouldn't have to see offensive racial stereotypes in older movies, but then by deleting any and all racist content, it goes a long way to letting people think "Well, sure, people weren't as sensitive back then, but it wasn't that bad." The fact that a cartoon that was supposed to be about a group of children transcending culture barriers and helping someone included blatant racism is proof that it WAS that bad. And, honestly, despite the fact that I'm intellectually aware of how bad things were and that things like blackface and these stereotypes exist, seeing this stuff makes me realize exactly how bad it was and how in-grained these stereotypes were.

I guess what I'm coming down to is that it's good to remove this stuff so that people from attacked groups can enjoy things that have a lot of merit (Fantasia springs to mind), but somehow the content needs to be available and be seen so that people understand how bad certain things were back then and how it wasn't that long ago. To put it into context, we may have a black president in office now, but a lot of the people who voted (or were eligible to vote, at least) were alive when that cartoon was made and probably watched it as children.

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Hiding the content doesn't really do anything except make the creators look like cowards, though. It's one thing to make mistakes like these, it's another to sweep them under the rug and pretend they never happened. Erasing the content from Fantasia didn't do anything except call attention to it. Everyone knows about it now, so what good did trying to hide it do?

I'm part of the "own your mistakes!" camp. It's still part of the history of animation, and it deserves a spot -- even if its only in a "how not to" guide.

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