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Walking the “Politically Correct” Line

Article by Lilly


As a teenager I would always become enraged whenever Disney would change something that I loved in order to be more “Politically correct.” I always felt that people needed to stop picking at everything, just get over it and let things be.

One of the times I remember being most irritated was the refurbishment of Pirates of the Caribbean in the mid 90s. In this refurbishment, Disney made alterations in an attempt to be more politically correct. One change involved the scene which previously displayed two attractive women being chased by pirates and a third heavier woman is chasing the pirate. The scene was altered in a way that turned the focus away from the women and made the pirates appear to be after food or treasure (depending on the park).

In the same scene a large pirate sat against a barrel exhausted from chasing a woman that he is now trying to find. She is, of course, is in the barrel behind him. Here is his dialogue:

This was changed into dialogue about treasure in one park and food in the other park to match what is going on in the rest of the scene (currently, of course, it is Captain Jack Sparrow in the barrel). Now, I realize that comments like "It's sore I be to hoist me colors upon the likes of that shy little wench" and "I be willing to share, I be," aren’t exactly appropriate, but they are pirates and need I mention the girl in the barrel is giggling? Hardly someone who is being terrorized. I really felt that people were just overreacting.

Well, years go by and maturity begins to set in and I begin to realize just how damaging the effects of racism, sexism, and other prejudices are on our society, even when the intentions are innocent. For example, I hate how we use the term “pimp” or “pimpin’” as something cool. Pimps are really terrible men who use violence and drugs to to lure in prostitutes and keep them in line and more and more are becoming involved in the ever growing business of human trafficking. Not cool. Yet we throw around the term like it is.



So I’m boarding Pirates with my friend who is acutely aware of negative stereotypes and she asks me if I think it is a problem that our society thinks pirates are cool the way people think pimps are cool. Um....pirates are cool. Okay, she had me. I had to acknowledge that pirates are really terribly violent and self indulgent people that do horrible and unmentionable things. But at the same time, I love my version of pirates. You know the ones that are pirates, but still good men (like Boot Straps Bill). Never mind the fact that it is a completely inaccurate depiction of real pirates.

 So here comes the inner struggle. Do I think Disney really ought to try their best to be thoughtful and respectful to all races, cultures, sexes, etc. and only have the most uplifting material void of anything inappropriate? Yes. Do I want Disney to erase everything that had such content in the past? No. I can confidently say that if Bob Iger announced that they planned to tear down Pirates of the Caribbean due to the inappropriate romanticism of pirates, I would stand in front the the attraction with a very stern expression on my face that read something like “over my dead body.”

The truth is, although we love everything Disney stands for, they make tacky decisions here and there. That doesn’t mean we should try and erase every potentially offensive thing Disney has ever done. So many of those things are part of Disney “heritage” if you will.

I mean take Carousel of Progress for example. I have a friend that won’t ride it because of how derogatory it is towards women. I rode it again with her eyes and the truth is, it is degrading towards women in several parts. Should we tear it out? No. The Carousel of Progress was thought up by Walt Disney himself to show the amazing development of technology through time, one of his passions, and how it affected families and influenced culture during those times. Can’t we just ride it for what it is? It doesn’t mean that we have to think being demeaning towards women is okay, but maybe we can just recognize that wasn’t the intention and move on. 

If we took out everything that contained something inappropriate, we would lose many of the greatest works the Walt Disney Company has created.  Evette is getting seriously molested in this scene. Should they have included it? Perhaps not. Should we ban Beauty and the Beast? No. 

How about Peter Pan and the “What Makes the Red Man Red” scene? I doubt there is a Native American on the planet that feels that Native Americans are being accurately portrayed by lyrics like “When did he first say ‘Ug?’” and “Why does he ask you how?” And I’m sure they weren’t fond of the incredibly stereotyped way of the chief spoke, either. So should we take Peter Pan off the shelves for good? Absolutely not. 

Of course you know where this is going. Song of the South has not recently been released in the US due to the racially insensitive tone of the film. Now, I may or may not own a copy of this film and I have watched it many times. When I had first seen it, I argued that Disney executives were crazy. I thought there was nothing insensitive about the film. Okay, I’m over it now. Let’s be honest, black people working on cotton plantations in the south just after the civil war weren’t exactly laughing, singing and telling stories. Heck, even in 1946 when the film was released, James Baskett (Uncle Remus) didn’t go to the premiere because Atlanta was segregated and he wouldn’t have been able to participate in any of the events. Okay, it’s insensitive, I get it. But do we have to ban it? Of course there are rumors it is going to be released soon. Those rumors have been floating around for a long time. But really let’s just release it. Does that mean I excuse the racially insensitive tone of the film? No. It just means I can acknowledge it and still appreciate the role the film played in the development of Disney filmmaking as well as finally see the original source for the song “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.”

All in all, I do hope the Walt Disney Company becomes increasingly sensitive moving forward. It is important. And also, Disney executives if you’re listening...don’t touch anymore of my attractions. Thanks.


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Reader Comments (29)

You hit the nail on the head with this one. They need to stop cartering to the few "PC" crusaders whom are NOT happy unless they are critizing someone else works and, to a certain degree, demonizing it. Pirates and SOTS are prime examples of the PC bandwagon... Enough is enough already...leave Disney attractions alone!

March 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEric Ross

It’s sad to hear that the skeletal pirates exiting at DL POC have been replaced by Captain Jack. One could argue that Jack Sparrows romanticizing is more damaging than the moral drama that used to take place at there.
What makes the Red Man Red is offensive for a children’s movie. Imagine what makes the White Man White… violins, air guitar, and saltine crackers?
We should be careful that these stories aren’t training wheels for future discrimination, but to cloak them is burning the books which may prevent such ignorance. That’s the sterility of political correctness.

March 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFiFi Phoggs

Due to the nature of our "PC" world my comment begins with an "I am sorry but..." In reality, I am not sorry. Not to anyone and not for my views. I watched Tom & Jerry, original Looney Tunes, Popeye, every Disney short, full length, and the whole host of other demonized cartoons. With that said I am NOT a bigot and never saw those cartoons as training facilities for hate and ignorance. I despair for the youth of America knowing that they get truncated and sterilized versions. I despair for all Americans knowing that these cartoons come with warning labels pleading with the consumer not to allow children to watch them.

Bigots beget bigots. Cartoons do not make kids racist, classist, and a host of other "ists." It is their ignorant parents.

To further my point, racism is not something only cracker ass whiteys practice. Every race holds the potential to be a jerk.

March 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersatsubatsu347

Well put!

March 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEric Ross

This was well put. I've been reviewing the Disney Animated features and have a section called "Through The Modern Lens" where I comment on things that upset me as a modern viewer, but I talk about what it was like when the film was made, and how we have to accept those darker times in our history and celebrate how far we've come.

Now, if "Red Man" made it into a movie today, I would be outraged. But looking at Carousel of Progress we have to understand that Walt grew up in a different time. He didn't create this ride to belittle women, that's just how life was like. If we erase all remembrances of past prejudices and "-isms" how can we make sure not to repeat them?

March 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfutureworld84

I don't know where to begin with this. I disagree with political correctness completely. I think its effect has been completely antithetical to its intentions. It has created a culture where people must carefully tip-toe around our differences out of fear of offending someone. Unfortunately, this serves only to highlight those differences and cause deeper divisions. If you look for it everything will eventually offend everyone.

You may say that the Carousel of Progress is degrading to women, while I can say that it is degrading to men. The final scene uses the dumb dad stereotype that has existed in nearly every sitcom for the past twenty years.

Pirates are bad guys. Bad guys do bad things. If they didn't, they wouldn't be bad. What I don't understand is why it's not OK to chase women, but it is OK to auction them off. It's also OK to make fun of the fat one.

The controversy surrounding Song of the South is completely ridiculous to me. Why is it so inconceivable that a man likes the family he works for? Are all plantation owners inherently evil racists a hair's breath away from joining a KKK lynch mob? Was the reconstruction era so universally horrible for every single African-American who lived through it that the thought of anyone ever smiling or telling stories is completely impossible? To deal with black and white in such black and white terms makes little sense. Besides, these are fables. If you're going to require that Song of the South address the cultural realities of the period it portrays, then you must also require that Cinderella deal with cultual realities of Europe in the period it represents. A prince marrying some common servant girl, what is this, some sort of fairytale?

Should Disney be thoughtful and respectful to all races, sexes, and cultures? Yes. Should they attempt to create material free from anything that could be seen as inappropriate or offensive? No. Not only is it an impossible task but such scrutiny would lead to works that are completely flat and not very entertaining. It is not the responsibility of Disney or any other entertainment company to raise or educate children. Granted, Disney does have some educational films, but Peter Pan is not one of them. At some point parents need to start taking some responsibility and stop blaming movies, music, and, video games for not raising their kids right.

March 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDan

We deal with this stuff because it’s real.

It’s real on two fronts, to those that lived it, and to those future generations who see films reflecting it.
For those who lived it, race or gender discrimination isn’t such ancient history, as plundering pirates or feudal kingdoms. Yet the absurdity of a continuing political correctness is well taken, wrapped up in the hilariously funny and convincing Geico caveman commercials.
Film is a powerful medium then, especially coupled with a great story, which is why I love Peter Pan. Certainly the premise isn’t about oppression, any 5 year old can show us it's about freedom; we should never take that away. But let’s take care to also show a balanced view, as any sane parent would and does.

Hey, I’m part of the generation that feel they shared a good chunk of the PC bill, yet I’m still old enough to understand first hand its origin. From that perspective, PC won’t just fade away because of its many shortcomings, but when the ground for its existence disappears.

March 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFiFi Phoggs

Excellent article.

I agree with you completely and was glad to see the other comments were of intelligence. Only people show racism and only people can end the need for political correctness. Unfortunately, it's a strong motivator for those who find themselves in a corner or out of ideas in their arguments, hence the "Race Card". When reactions are nill and unnecessary complaining receives little, so will the need for PC-ness.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermost hated

I think Pirates of the Caribbean sends the wrong message to children. I mean when I was a kid it made me go home and dunk our local mayor in a well, sell women at auction, sing with donkeys, grow facial hair, and burn down the town I lived in.

March 30, 2010 | Registered CommenterMitch

Haha Mitch!

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLilly

Oh, you too? They just wrote it off as us being a bunch of hippies.

April 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFiFi Phoggs

Captain hook, we shall never join your crew. I hate pirates. Now if we had a ninja ride....

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

Mr. Toad's Wild of my favorites. Here it is in a nutshell: He breaks many laws, is involved in a high speed chase, gets hit by a train and goes to hell.

May 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Whalen

The current version of Carousel Of Progress is NOT derogatory toward women. In fact, it's just the opposite, it has chosen to go all the way in the other direction by making the Father a doofus of the first order. Remember how in the old Carousel Of Progress, the Act 3 idea of stirring paint in the food mixer was Mother's idea? Not anymore!

Truth be told, the only version of Carousel Of Progress that ever had something that could seem derogatory toward women was the original Act 4 that played at Disneyland from 67-73 where Mother would gush about her involvement in things like the Bowling League and the Garden Club etc. When Carousel moved to Florida, this was changed to make Mother a smart-talking community activist in Act 4, but then in the early 80s when Act 4 was revised again, they toned this down, probably in response to the emerging conservative trends in America and the defeat of ERA as something deemed too extreme.

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEric

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July 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterair jordan 6

I gotta give you this one. I didn't mind Jack Sparrow in POTC, but I HATED that they PCed the pirates. Yeah, Hi, what part of "Devils, scoundrels, and really bad eggs" didn't you get? I also never cared for how I hear the Jungle Cruise skippers don't use their guns anymore. At least not as often.
And personally, I could give you a list of reasons why I choose not to ride COP, but being offensive to women never crossed my mind XD

September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Ninja Pirate

I saw "Song of the South" at the movie theater as a kid (it was a re-release), and not ONCE did I see anything in it as derogatory towards blacks. Even as a kid, I think I would have seen it had it been there. All I saw was a neat guy called Uncle Remus singing wonderful songs and telling wonderful stories. Saying Remus is a slap at black people because he worked as a (free) servant is like saying Mary Poppins is a slap at English women because she did the same.

I think it's a terrible injustice to keep "Song of the South" in mothballs. James Baskett's fine work is being discarded and new generations of kids will be unable to enjoy it. I say release it, with the necessary PC disclaimers, and let the consumer decide whether it's offensive or not.

October 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEliasEverlasting

Your statement that ". Song of the South has never been released in the US" is inaccurate. It was, of course, released in 1946. I first saw it in a late-1950s rerelease, and again in a rerelease in the early 1970s. It hasn't be rereleased again since then, but had at least two US relreleases that I know of because I saw it at both of them.

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDouglas

I have heard people complain about the COP being insensitive to women but if Sarah talked about going to work in the 1920's they'd be complaining it was not historically accurate. it's a period piece.

I think the longer Disney keeps Song of the South in the vault the more racist rumors will spread about it. I saw it at the 1986 re-release when I was 4. When Splash Mountain opened my Mom's friend told me the movie was banned because it used the "N" word. So when I eventually found a PAL version years later I was expecting this awful racist film which it obviously is not. Some people love looking for flaws in Disney history. The star of that movie is the animated segments anyway, at least release those!

January 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDonnie

My feeling is that if we deny these things happened, we won't really be able to learn from them.

February 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

I'd never seen the old version of POTC because I'm so young, but when I hear it described, I'm glad they changed it. That goes beyond sexism. It's rape humor in a family ride - that's not appropriate under any circumstances.

And as a matter of fact, the "take a wench for a bride" scene did make me feel bad when I was little, and now that I'm older I dislike it even more. Sex slavery's a real problem, and it's pretty tasteless to joke about it, especially at Disneyland. I don't want them to take it out, but if they did, I wouldn't be shedding any tears.

I suppose what I think is that you can't just say something's okay for little kids to see because it actually happened. That's a very valid argument in regards to censorship of media that isn't intended to be consumed by the general public, but for mainstream, family-friendly things, there are many things that are perfectly historically accurate that most people would not want their four-year-olds exposed to. There's a very fine line between being too "politically correct" and being completely inappropriate. You have to maintain a balance, and it's far more difficult than both strongly pro-PC people and strongly anti-PC people like to make it out to be.

For instance, of those who are fine with the wench-auction scene in POTC, how many would be okay with Disney releasing a new princess movie in which the female main character falls in love with, kisses, marries and raises children with....another princess? I'd have no problem at all with that and would actually be happy about it, but a lot of people (most, I daresay) would be totally outraged. But when homosexuality becomes accepted by the vast majority of people, maybe they'll make it. (I'm not counting on it - I notice they still haven't made one with an interracial couple, unless you count Pocahontas.)

Disney caters to a very diverse audience, few of whom agree on what's "offensive" and "inappropriate", especially in regards to the groups that they themselves belong to. So Disney is constantly having to choose between offending this or that group, or making a conscious effort to not offend anyone and ending up with a product that may be too sterilized. Guess which course of action is more profitable?

This is true in regards to both attractions in progress and already established ones, because people can just as well complain about an older attraction as a shiny new one. After all, when a ride was built doesn't change the fact that their children are going to be exposed to it, and what you may see as desecration, others may see as making a long-overdue improvement.

August 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeck

I guess I should clarify my post above - I do agree strongly that we shouldn't censor history, but there's a difference between censoring it and making different information available to different age groups. Obviously each child and family is unique - I know people who let their six-year-olds play the Call of Duty games with no ill effects and I know people who won't let their eleven-year-olds have Nerf guns. But those sorts of decisions should be up to the parents, and the parents shouldn't have to read up on Disney rides online to see whether they're appropriate for their kindergartener. They already have to do that a bit for the scariness factor, as in Snow White and Tower of Terror - they shouldn't need to for sexual content, of all things.

I suppose I feel pretty strongly about that in particular. Not so much the racial/gender stereotypes, probably because for every negative stereotype there's a positive one somewhere: for the Indians in Peter Pan, there's Pocahontas; for the Catholics in Hunchback of Notre Dame, there's Friar Tuck; for all the beautiful helpless princesses, there's Mulan (and Belle, to an extent); for all the burly violent princes, there's Milo from Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

Also, I love Song of the South. <3

August 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeck

I saw Song of the South forever ago (well, in the 80s) and I even had the novelization. I loved the story and my mom would read me chapters before bedtime. We didn't have a VCR until the 90s so it never occurred to me to ask for it on tape, and I was grown before I realized why it was controversial. I mean, Uncle Remus just cared about people!
Context is the key. My parents never taught me to discriminate, and they let me discover things on my own. Now that I'm somewhat grown, I realize what a great thing this was. It lets me truly have friends without worrying about the outside, but what's within.
Signed, the black girl that loved Song of the South

October 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterwendy

I really think the author of this article is over-thinking things. We have been programmed by the liberal media to look for political correctness in everything we see and do. The fact is, there are so many types of people in this world and every one of them has different opinions and thoughts on things that helps define what they find offensive or not. That being said, you can never win with the public ... so don't even try. If people get offended by something so innocent like Carousel of Progress then by all means don't ride on the fricken ride ... but it shouldn't be changed because a few people are offended. How boring would entertainment be if everything is 100% politically correct?... and is that even possible? The problem with this whole topic isn't the fact that there are indeed politically incorrect things that can be found but the simple fact that we have been trained to look for them and analyze them ... that to me is the sad part because once we do that we no longer see the innocence of the bigger picture. People need to lighten up and move on and not change things. When the movie "White Men Can't Jump" came out I wasn't outraged, I thought it was funny. When Chris Rock does stand up and rags on white people I don't cry racism. I find it funny and move on. I'm so sick of this political correctness. You can't even find old Looney Tunes or old Disney cartoons on tv anymore. So I did what others do and just bought (or acquired) them. As for Song of the South, its a disgrace that Disney won't leave it up to the public to make up our own mind on what we feel is appropriate and inappropriate. Luckily for me I "acquired" this one too.

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFishPharm

When you look at how much our ideas of what is and isn't offensive have changed in the past fifty years or so, you wonder how much of what we find acceptible today that our grandchildren will find offensive. I try to keep that in mind when I find myself getting too self-righteous.

I have mixed feelings about political correctness. I'm completely in favor of being respectful of the feelings of others and trying to be sensitive to where they're coming from, but if we go too far in trying to remove the sharp edges from everything, we end up with no haunted houses, no adventure stories, and no bad guys of any sort. You can only take so much of "The Village of the Happy People."

When it comes to the Song of the South, I could see where people might find the tar baby offensive, but Uncle Remus was practically a saint. My understanding of the movie was that it was an attempt to celebrate African American folklore and culture in a child-friendly way. Finding a healthy point between showing happy slaves and stirring up old hatreds is not always easy to do. I wonder if black people were involved in the creation of the film, and if that would have made any difference in how people see it or if some people would still have been offended.

I appreciate your comments, Lilly.

April 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim

I'm with the crowd that believes too much PC-ness is a bad thing. I saw Song of the South three times when a child. Loved it. Don't remember much about the movie in it's entirety except the animated scenes, including Tar Baby and would love to see at LEAST those scenes released on DVD. They're fabulous. Every bit as good as any Bugs Bunny if not better. Oh wait, I forgot, Bugs is bad. Ooops. Seems odd to me that kids of all society levels behaved BETTER in the days when these cartoons were watched and laughed at and the Ponies and Power Puff generation deals with guns being shot in their schools. What made the old school stuff so great WAS the look at life through the lens of laughter and what if and people, even kids, used to get that. PC-ness has dampened creativity and free expression and it's a crying shame.

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterL montin

Loved this article. My neighbor has not allowed the 90's films to be shown either. Pocahontas shows too much skin. Jasmin shows more skin and marries a thief "street rat". Ariel shows even more skin, disobeys her father and lives happily ever after at 16. Lion King - Premeditated murder!

She has a point, but I think this only opens discussion with your kids.

By the way, all of the animated scenes of "Song of the South" are on Disney's Sing-A-Longs except the Tar Baby. Now that I agree can't be used as humor even in my house. To want to punch a tar baby is one of the worst things said on a G film.

October 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRusty

What's great about historical dramas and Disney animated films is not that they depict history in an accurate manner. However they give us a snapshot of the time that they were made! Cinderella? Reflects societies ideal woman in the 50s... cooks, cleans, doesn't complain and has the body of a Barbie doll! Should we ban it? No. Nor edit it! But parents might want to take a hand in.raising their children and talk with them about what they've seen.
SOTS is a rough one... I've got a copy... it's sold in Japan!!! I watch it and there are times I cringe, and others that my mom-p.c. historically informeded self says, yeah reformation post- Civil War- sharecroppers (white and black) living on a farm- 10 years a slave was probably more.accurate, but sorry that was over the top.
SOTS won't be released anytime soon in the U.S. Look at Ferguson Mo and picture the same scene at every Disney store and park in USA.

Remember above all-Disney doesn't show us how things are, or were, it shows us how things could have been - the best we can imagine -at the time.of creation.

November 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDZENGLISH

My mother, who would have been 105 now, picked cotton and onions, and she was not black, although she was mixed race 1/2 Caucasian with her mom being 100% born on a reservation American Indian!

I have taught my children to be proud of their mixed, AMERICA INDIAN [NOT Native American] heritage.

My parents, of the Greatest Generation were not totally obsessed with THEMSELVES. My mother would have thought the comments about "demeaning women" in the Carousel of Progress are stupid. Matter of fact I took her to see Disney World when she was about 65 and It's A Small World and Carousel were her favorites.

EVERYONE needs to get over themselves. I use the term American Indians because that is whet we are. WE ARE REDSKINS!!! Who cares what anyone else thinks or calls us!

I have had several copies of SOTS. VHS, then DVD, NOW on a Flash Drive most recently copied off the web. I will say this about the caricatures. It is what it is! Get over it!

It is like them removing the "Hatfields & Coys segment" from Make Mine Music [or Melody Time don't remember off-hand] GOOD GRIEF, how stupid can we get.

May 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHarold

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