Stereotyping also happens in the movies - GulfToday

Stereotyping also happens in the movies

Birjees Hussain

She has more than 10 years of experience in writing articles on a range of topics including health, beauty, lifestyle, finance, management and Quality Management.

She has more than 10 years of experience in writing articles on a range of topics including health, beauty, lifestyle, finance, management and Quality Management.

Dr Seuss

Several books by Dr Seuss were popular among children.

To be honest I don’t know what kind of books parents are reading to their children these days.

When I was a little kid and had just learnt to read I’d read books like Dr Seuss’ ‘Green Eggs and Ham’, the ‘Peter and Jane’ series and the many fairy tales. The books had an illustration on every page because new readers needed pictures to ensure the books looked interesting enough to finish them.

I’m sure a lot of the books I read were unintentionally riddled with innuendos both in the illustrations and in the text but in my days no one seemed to be bothered about the hidden meaning of the books and the characters illustrated in them.

But six of Dr Seuss’ books were recently recalled from the publishers for containing what they considered to be racist material. They are, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street”, “If I Ran the Zoo”, “McElligot’s Pool”, “On Beyond Zebra!”, “Scrambled Eggs Super!” and “The Cat’s Quizzer”. Now I read Dr Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” and don’t recall anything odd in it but then again I was only a kid. Dr Seuss has been labelled by some as being racist because his books describe his non-whites’ features in a not so flattering way and depicts them as being treated in a subordinate manner by his white characters.

I don’t know if Dr Seuss was racist or not but, in fairness, in our days there was no such thing as political correctness and some of the now racist terms were considered normal back them. Moreover, Dr Seuss’ stepdaughter insists that he was not racist. I tend to believe that characterisation because it’s coming from his stepdaughter and not someone blood related to him.

And now that I think of it, I wonder why all those expressing annoyance about Dr Seuss’ books don’t show the same frustration for so many other books and shows that have been around a long time too.

I can think of at least seven instances that could also be removed or banned. Let’s take the classic, ‘Gone With The Wind’. Anyone seeing that today must surely notice the painful stereotyping of people of colour. They were the servants, the slaves, the way they dressed, the way they spoke and the constant ‘Miss Scarlett’ was not only excruciating to watch but excruciating to hear. I personally disliked the movie but for different reasons. People of colour were also portrayed in a similar manner in many of Walt Disney’s early cartoons. Watch any classic Tom and Jerry and you see that a woman of colour is the housemaid or servant because her legs are showing and the intonation of her speech.

People could also take issue with Peter Sellers’ ‘The Party’ in which he portrayed an Indian at a party in England in the most unflattering and insulting way. To be honest, when I first saw that movie in the 70s I found it hilarious but now I would actually be insulted at the horrible stereotyping. I don’t hear people even mentioning that film. People should also take issue with ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ for its equally demeaning portrayal of people of colour. But the author of that book is often quoted for his insightful observations!

And since we are criticising people for their extreme stereotyping of certain nationalities and races, then how about ‘The Godfather’ and the ‘The Sopranos’ for their portrayal of Italian Americans, and ‘Sicilians’ specifically? According to them, all Italians and Sicilians might be gangsters who get involved in murder, fraud, drugs and racketeering which they are not. Neither show has been banned from being shown. In fact the Godfather trilogy ran just a couple of weeks ago.

Like Dr Seuss I’m sure the makers of ‘The Godfather’ and ‘The Sopranos’ were not racist either, or had anything against Italians. Nor do I think that Walt Disney had anything against people of colour although I think that his judgement on what was suitable for children to watch might have been questionable. And finally speaking of all the Han Christian Andersen fairy tales, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ should also surely be criticised for the fact that Snow White can only be played by a white person. Otherwise the tale cannot be called Snow White. But that cartoon continues to be a Christmas staple and there have been numerous Hollywood versions of it too. What’s that about?

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