The Invisible Web

Your Trip Into the Chapel Perilous

Disney, the Academy and Co Paves the Way Against Vodou

Posted by invizweb on March 7, 2010

Tonight Disney’s  the Princess and the Frog is up for an Academy Award.  It is too bad the Academy probably did not read up on what the real critics had to say about the film.  The following is from an article written by Jason Pitzl-Waters on the Wild Hunt blog:

According to Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado, assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Miami, the film gives a prejudiced and misinformed” reading of the often misunderstood religion.

“I do not know where to begin my comments on how this film perpetuates offensive stereotypes about Voodoo. The loas are represented as evil spirits full of greed and anger … The terms Voodoo, Hoodoo, and conjuring are used interchangeably throughout. In the end one is presented with an evil religion that will ultimately fail. I did not expect critical race analysis or a sophisticated presentation of Voodoo when I walked into the theater. It is, after all, Disney. I did not expect such a blatant, racist, and misinformed presentation of Voodoo, however. The reduction of religion to magic is also reaffirmed in the curious absence of Catholicism in the film. My son is correct, Disney Voodoo is bad magic; it just doesn’t have anything to do with the authentic African Diaspora religion.”

In addition to getting New Orleans/Louisiana Voodoo horribly wrong, it seems the film gets New Orleans itself all wrong. In another Religion Dispatches piece, Anthea Butler, associate professor of religion at the University of Pennsylvania, says the film is a big desecrating “lump of coal” that “picks up where Katrina left off”.

Surely a “harmless”  Disney film getting an award means nothing in the long run, right?   What does it mean in the big picture? Wired‘s Johnathan  Liu explains here how Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, authors of NurtureShock came to the conclusions form their studies of how racism may develop among kids:

And what are they learning? Here are a few depressing facts:

  • Only 8% of white American high-schoolers have a best friend of another race. (For blacks, it’s about 15%.)
  • The more diverse a school is, the less likely it is that kids will form cross-race friendships.
  • 75% of white parents never or almost never talk about race with their kids.
  • A child’s attitudes toward race are much harder to alter after third grade, but a lot of parents wait until then (or later) before they feel it’s “safe” to talk frankly about race.

If something as subtle as “color blindness” causes intolerance I can only imagine something more blatant such as the white-washing of New Orleans, and the vilification and misrepresentation of of Vodou practices and their Loas may cause something worst:

Nick Allen reports on Haiti’s voodoo high priest who claims that believers have been discriminated against by aid-giving evangelical Christians, in the Telegraph:

Max Beauvoir, Haiti’s “supreme master” of voodoo, alleged his faith’s opponents had deliberately prevented much-needed help from reaching followers of the religion, which blends the traditional beliefs of West African slaves with Roman Catholicism.

“The evangelicals are in control and they take everything for themselves,” he claimed. “They have the advantage that they control the airport where everything is stuck. They take everything they get to their own people and that’s a shame.

“Everyone is suffering the same and has the same needs. We are not asking for anything more than anyone else. We’re just asking for it to be fair.”

I think the Disinfo post sums up the this episode of human intolerance.  I can only imagine what message would be sent from the awarding of bigotry to the highest bidder.

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