Narnia has gained a second life as an alternative to Harry Potter for unreasonably offended Christian people. Scholars have always pointed to the heroic lion, Aslan, as a pretty ham-fisted Christ metaphor. Aside from that, the first handful of Narnia books (the ones that have movies so far) steer clear of any real-world implications. They take place in the northern regions of a world comprised mostly of white people, talking animals, extremely white people, centaurs, the aforementioned Jesus lion and a special cameo by Guerrilla Santa Claus. The only things you might pick up from that is that old white women are evil and that lions are much friendlier than they really are.
"I know when you are sleeping ... and I've got a knife. Remember that."
But all of that changes when C.S. Lewis decided to take us to the southern realms of Narnia in the fifth book, The Horse and His Boy. The titular boy is Shasta, and when he finds out that his adoptive dad is planning to sell him into slavery, he packs his stuff and runs away.
The people of the south, including Shasta's adoptive father, are a dark-skinned people known as Calormenes. How do they differ from the cast of characters we meet up north? Well, the Calormenes live in the desert, have long beards, wear turbans and pointy slippers and are ruled by Tarkaans, which some have pointed out is vaguely similar to the Middle Eastern military rulers known as Tarkhans.
"Those filthy people plagiarized me. Arabs are notorious liars and ... this isn't helping, is it?"
While the Calormenes are very clear stand-ins for Middle Eastern people, their religion focuses on a Satanic figure named Tash who requires human sacrifices. Also, they are all assholes. The first Calormene we meet is trying to sell his own adopted son into slavery, and it doesn't get any better from there. They are all self-centered, traitorous, greedy, cruel and cowardly.
Some Lewis apologists like to point out that not all Calormenes are mustache-twirling psychopaths. The prime example, Aravis, is a princess who runs away from her family, culture and nation with a white boy she just met. The other one is Emmeth, a soldier in The Last Battle who is a firm believer of Tash until he meets him and sees he is really a demon. After that, he accepts Aslan in his heart and is granted entrance to Paradise.
"Woooah, that's my God? No wonder he won't let anyone draw him."
So basically, all the Middle Eastern characters are evil jerks except those who abandon their culture and faith. So the best case that can be made for Narnia is that Middle Eastern people aren't inherently evil, they just need to be converted to Christianity. It's the sort of thing that makes you wonder why Muslim people waste all their rage on Muhammad cartoons.
Also: Wizards make better Christ figures than lions. Lewis, deal with it.
Noddy is the main character in a series of children's books about a small wooden toy who lives in Toyland with other toys. His adventures were published from 1949 all the way to 1963. While relatively unknown in the U.S., Noddy books are a huge success in Europe and continue to be great sellers. It's even a multimedia empire, having spawned eight Noddy-based television shows since 1955, including Make Way for Noddy.
A horrible dystopian nightmare.
Just like the Toy Story series makes room for every different type of doll you might have grown up with, Noddy covered the bases of early 20th century toy boxes, featuring characters such as Mr. Tubby Bear (a Teddy bear), Dinah Doll (a china doll) and the Golliwogs (a family of racist monstrosities).
We're gonna have to invent a new kind of disbelieving whistle.
To be fair, Enid Blyton, the creator of Noddy, did not invent the idea of Golliwogs. They were based on real minstrel dolls that British children apparently used to pelt with rubber balls for being ugly. The dolls were even adapted into characters by an earlier children's book author, who apparently was also concerned that there might be some confusion about whether British children were racist.
Going back in time to punch children in the face might not be the worst use of a time machine.
In the Noddy books, the Golliwogs are portrayed as deceitful assholes who trick Noddy and steal his stuff. In Here Comes Noddy Again, the Golliwogs ask Noddy for help, only to take him into the woods and steal his car and clothes.
"This is for centuries of toy box repression!"
When a new entry in the Noddy saga was published in 2009, Blyton's granddaughter decided not to include the Golliwogs characters, explaining that "the toys themselves are symbols of an ugly racist period in our history. Suggesting that those toys would steal cars and clothing from white toys is just offensive. We obviously know that now."
Oh, sorry, that was actually the voice of reason we were quoting there. Blyton's granddaughter only reluctantly left the toys out because she thought including them would have been "too controversial."
This book has been featured several times here, mostly because parts of it are nightmare fuel, and also because its writer, Roald Dahl, was some sort of nymphomaniac James Bond. But there are also aspects of the book that don't make Dahl seem like an awesome guy to party with.
You probably remember the Oompa Loompas -- they look like compact clowns and sing creepy songs while getting rid of the corpses of the victims of Willy Wonka's shoddy factory safety standards. If you are wondering what's so racist about them it's because you are only familiar with them from the movies.
"Oompa Loompa doompa dee doo, when you're buried in our backyard, no one'll find you!"
In the original book, the Oompa Loompas don't come from Loompaland -- they come from Central Africa, and they were described as just regular ol' black pygmies and not hippie clown dwarfs. They were relocated to Loompaland and their skin was changed from black to white in the illustrations thanks to growing controversy in the '70s. Get your hands on one of the versions printed before the world came to its goddamn senses, and you'll read about how Willy Wonka simply found a tribe of Africans, enslaved them and used them to replace his regular work force because they were willing to work for chocolate. And before you complain that they were not slaves because they got paid, we'd remind you that even the worst slave owners fed their slaves a more balanced diet than Mr. Wonka.
1964 Africans, and 1973 Scottish soccer hooligans.
Of course, the original treatment of the Oompa Loompas is reminiscent of colonial Europe, when white folks were still able to convince each other that they were doing all the other races a favor by enslaving them. Unfortunately for Dahl apologists, the book was published in 1964, right around the time that the "Hey, everyone thinks black people are funny little animals" argument became a hundred goddamn years too late.
1998 punk rockers.
As we've pointed out before, Dahl even based some of the ideas from the book on actual events involving real chocolate companies. So Dahl was probably at least partially aware that a lot of the cacao plantation workers in Ivory Coast, the biggest producer of chocolate, were practically enslaved African children. It seems more than a little insensitive of Dahl to give Wonka a bunch of funny little African slaves who happily give away their freedom just to give white kids some chocolate. But then again, he's never been the most sympathetic guy when it comes to children.
"You tried to drink from my giant pool of delicious chocolate? Death by suffocation!"
For more racism in popular culture, check out The 9 Most Racist Disney Characters and 8 Racist Ads You Won't Believe Are From the Last Few Years.
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn more about tolerance, acceptance, and Ramen Noodles.
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