Today was a good day. Chad let me sleep in, which he always does, which is why I will never divorce him no matter how often he makes me listen to Bryan Adams songs; we took the girls to see Santa and his elf, Albert, and for the first time ever *both* girls were brave enough to sit with Santa; and then we had lunch and sat down to watch some holiday programming on Netflix. Sylvia requested The Nutcracker, Maurice Sendak’s awesomely designed version of the ballet, so we rocked that. Then Ellie chose “Christmas Classics, Vol. 1,” a collection of short Christmas-themed animations from the 30s, 40s, and 50s. So: awesome, right? We embrace classic animation! Max Fleischer rules!
And the first video, the original cartoon of Rudolph, is just what you’d expect. Snow-Whitish animation, cheesy music, Reindeer doing silly things. All good. The second short, “Santa’s Surprise,” however, is … how can I put this … RACIST AS FUCK. OK, no, that might be too strong. On a scale of racism where 1 is a Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial event and 10 is a KKK rally, this movie was, like, a 7. So it could have been worse, but it’s still not something you want your kids watching.
It’s funny, because when you describe the film, it actually sounds kind of progressive. The story is that after Santa gets home from his journey around the world delivering gifts, an assortment of kiddies from different nations get together to make a Christmas surprise for Santa – they clean his house, get him a tree, and leave him a nicely wrapped present. Kids of all nations and colors working together! World harmony! It’s sweet! Except for how all the non-european kids are represented by the most screamingly blatant stereotypes you could possibly imagine. The little Asian boy personifies the Yellow Menace, the African boy is like the love-child of Little Black Sambo and Aunt Jemima – you get the idea. It’s bad enough when they’re just marching around singing about how they’re going to make a surprise for Santa, but then they start cleaning up and the white girl is sweeping whilst the black kid is shining shoes “to a boogie rhythm” and the Asian boy is … sigh … doing the laundry.
The thing is, it’s a short film, and I was so taken aback that all I managed to get out was “Um, this movie has some problematic racial stereotypes, kids …” (“What’s a stereotype, Mama?”) and then it was over. Fortunately, the rest of the shorts were harmless. UNfortunately, I’m pretty positive the girls are going to want to watch this collection again, and I have no idea how to explain in 6 and 3-year-old terms why that second film is a problem. I guess I could just forbid the whole thing, but that seems extreme. I feel like this is one of those educational opportunities you hear so much about, and I AM BIFFING IT.
Also I just found out that Bing Crosby was an asshole. So, you know. Whee!