Thursday, March 31, 2016

Racial Stereotypes Circa 1939

Via a TAG member:

... I’m disturbed that [an episode of] The Adventures of Puss in Boots is so horribly wrong. ...

Season 2, Episode 3 of The Adventures of Puss in Boots focuses on the unwanted attention Puss receives from a Fiji mermaid. ... [The character Feeje is] a dark-skinned, bug-eyed, large lipped, muscular, cornrow wearing mermaid named Feejee.

That’s right folks, a combination of cornrows and dreadlocks are put on a monkey-fish as a means of adding to her grotesque nature. The implications are so mind boggling, that as I write this, I’m pausing to crack my knuckles, say a few choice words, and take a few deep breaths before I continue ...

When characters like Feejee are shown with this hairstyle, they’re telling little black girls that their hair is disgusting. That they are other, less than, unwanted, and unattractive. That what makes a girl ugly is large lips, dark skin and black hair. That the only time a mermaid is considered beautiful is if she has pale skin and flaming red hair. ...

So I haven't seen the episode, though I've looked at the stills from the half-hour at the link. And maybe the writer is overly sensitive and maybe I'm wrong here, but this depiction of a black mermaid in the show seems a wee bit over the top to me.

Based on the visuals, I'm surprised that they didn't try to work Hattie McDaniel into the episode. Or Butterfly McQueen. Then the stereotyping would have been symmetrical and complete.

Add On: The member who sent this along noted:

I'm wondering how [this character] happened. The script introduced an "ugly Fiji mermaid" character, values her based on her appearance, and auctions her off like property. Eliminating loose individual hairs and fur made the character easier and cheaper for a TV schedule, but the character designer chose to give her cornrows/dreadlocks and dark skin instead of an Elsa braid and light skin. Whoever built the "ugly mermaid" model on a TV schedule failed to improve on the character design.

...and no one with authority at either Dreamworks or Netflix noticed the problem.


Grant said...

Someone has FAR to much time on their hands that would be better spent going to life drawing class so they can get a job. The design of the character is based on the famous Feejee Mermaid, concocted by P.T. Barnum.

Celshader said...

@Grant - Neither the P.T. Barnum Fiji Mermaid nor the Banff Merman depicted in your link have cornrows/dreadlocks.

Steve Hulett said...

The historical Barnum/Fiji mermaid is less important than what the Puss in Boots episodes does with it here.

Is Feejee a racial caricature/stereotype or not? That's really the question.

Grant said...

Noise and fury. How silly is this? A cartoon character on a show no one watches, with a character based on a P.T. Barnum fraud crossed with Bo Derek and her corn rowed hair is causing anyone to whine is just ridiculous. How about spending your time worrying that ted cruz might beat donald drumpf in the wing nut primary? cruz is FAR worse than drumpf--he actually BELIEVES everything he says.

Celshader said...

A cartoon character on a show no one watches,..

The article quoted in Steve's post was written by an actual viewer of the show who happens to be black, not by an animation artist.

...with a character based on a P.T. Barnum fraud crossed with Bo Derek and her corn rowed hair is causing anyone to whine is just ridiculous.

Feejee does not have Bo Derek's blond hair or light skin.

Grant said...

No, because mermaids tend not to have blonde hair. But the design is modeled after her corn rowed hair. And mermaids come in MANY colors, including dark colors. Are you someone who hates colors?

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