The 5 Most Bafflingly Racist Beloved Fictional Universes
Depending on who you talk to, the world is either full of casual racism that pervades every aspect of our lives, or the world is full of a bunch of oversensitive PC types getting worked up about nothing. Well, here's what we can say for sure: If you go looking for hilariously terrible messages about race in pop culture, it is not hard to find them -- whether they're intentional or not. Tell us if we're wrong ...
Star Trek: Aliens Are Crude Racist Stereotypes
No matter which Star Trek series you're talking about, the show's message stays relatively the same: The future is fucking awesome, because humanity has let go of racism and bigotry, and people of all colors can finally live together in perfect harmony ...
The Horrible Message:
... that is, unless we're talking about all the alien species the Federation keeps bumping into. Sure, humans will work with those alien creeps, but there'll always be an insurmountable divide between us and them, because we come from two different worlds. There wouldn't be anything wrong with that, if it weren't for the fact that the aliens in Star Trek are all:
A) Crude stereotypes (Klingons are virtually all hyper-aggressive, Ferengi are all money-grubbing hustlers)
B) Obvious stand-ins for different Earth cultures.
For example, Vulcans are pretty clearly meant to be futuristic Asians.
In retrospect, Kimono Fridays were highly illogical.
They all have bowl haircuts, slanted eyebrows, and are purely science-driven, which is like a bingo card of Asian stereotypes. Spock constantly talks about logic and statistical probability, and in the 2009 movie, his decision to join Starfleet instead of the Vulcan Science Academy causes a huge rift between him and his father. That is the extraterrestrial equivalent of a Tiger Mom disowning her child for choosing Vassar over Harvard.
Then we have the Ferengi, who are the Star Trek version of Jewish people.
On an unrelated/gross note: Their ears are also their erogenous zones.
For instance, the Ferengi practice a sort of inverted set of Judaic customs. Ferengi men wear head coverings that leave the crown of their heads exposed like Bizarro-yarmulkes. Meanwhile, female Ferengi are forbidden from wearing clothes, the inverse of how Orthodox Jewish women are always expected to dress modestly.
However, the Ferengi also inherited a few more traditional antisemitic stereotypes. In the show, they're immoral, money-obsessed bankers and merchants who live their lives in accordance to the Rules of Acquisition, a distorted version of the rules of Mosaic Law which includes such gems as:
-- Once you have their money, you never give it back.
-- Never allow family to stand in the way of opportunity.
-- Dignity and an empty sack is worth the sack.
Seriously, nobody tell these guys about Starfleet replicators.
Now, even if you want to say that those parallels are pure coincidence or subconscious choices made by the creators, it doesn't change the fact that they intentionally designed their universe so that crude stereotypes could stand in for characterization. It's like this team of very progressive creators looked at centuries of antisemitism and thought, "Wow, that festering cloud of hideous racism sounds like a cool idea for an alien!"
DuckTales: Foreigners Are Gullible, Backwards Idiots
DuckTales was an insanely catchy song, usually followed by a cartoon about ducks looking for treasure. Scrooge McDuck and his three pet orphans would scour the globe looking for fanciful artifacts of extreme value. It was sort of like Indiana Jones for kids, only not terrible.
The Horrible Message:
Actually, we take back the "not awful" part, because it turns out that the booty-hunting adventures of Uncle Scrooge most often came down to him screwing over the people of Foreignlanguageistan. For example, in the episode "The Status Seekers," Scrooge obtains a rare mask from a primitive Polynesian-esque chieftain in exchange for peanut butter.
"Primitive? I'm not the one running around bottomless!"
Now, it's true that in the chief's village, having a big gut was a huge status symbol. So to him, the high-calorie peanut butter would be a valuable commodity. But he's clearly owed more than a half-empty jar of Skippy, seeing as how earlier another guy was offering him a solid gold car for the mask. Who cares, though? Maybe if the chief was smart enough to have been born in Birdmerica or whether the hell Duckburg is, he wouldn't have gotten fleeced.
They pull the same bullshit on the Grand Kishki of Macaroon (a blisteringly over-the-top caricature of an Indian person) in the episode "Working for Scales."
We can already hear his accent.
In the episode, the Kishki is almost robbed blind of his magical glowing fruit by Scrooge's rival Glomgold because of his adorably childlike understanding of modern technology and shrewd playground games. "Guess a number between one and 10," says the duck. The Indian stereotype guesses "seven," at which point Glomgold says he guessed wrong and takes his treasure. And the guy just accepts it, because how would anyone understand the concept of numbers or basic fairness if they're from India?
Nowhere is this more prominent than in "The Land of Trala La," in which the ducks travel to a vaguely Tibetan land that doesn't have the concept of money, and inadvertently teach the people there to use bottle caps as currency. However, capitalism proves too much for them to handle, and they soon go mad with greed and start revolting, leading Scrooge to anxiously remark: "The natives are getting restless." Because nothing delights children more than a show about cartoon duck imperialism.
"Still, it's our burden to teach them the right way to live."
District 9: Apartheid Had Some Good Ideas
District 9 tells the story of the alien "Prawns" trapped in a Johannesburg ghetto, where they are reduced to second-class status by an abusive government. It's a thinly-veiled allegory for apartheid, and one of the strongest cinematic arguments against it, next to Danny Glover's impassioned outburst in the middle of Lethal Weapon 2 ...
"I know my rights as a crustacean ... bug ... cthulu ... thing."
The Horrible Message:
... except for the fact that the alien Prawns (who, remember, are meant to represent the oppressed blacks in South Africa in this parable) are helpless, stupid, feral monsters who eat both cat food and human beings. They're completely unable to take care of themselves without their benevolent white slumlords. There are one or two exceptions (specifically, the hilariously-named Christopher Johnson and his secret child), but on the whole, the movie gives us every reason to believe that the aliens would have wandered into the desert and gotten eaten by lions a long time ago if their white masters hadn't put a fence around their ghetto.
To make things worse, all of the actual black people in the film are violent, insane Nigerian gangsters. And not just your run-of-the-mill gangsters; they're deranged, cultish savages, obsessed with eating the Prawns in the superstitious belief that consuming their flesh will give them superpowers. There's even a sequence in which they drag our white hero into their tent to eat him, which is like an image from a woodcut out of a racist 17th-century encyclopedia.
Worst of all, they made him lose one of his J. Crew oxford shirt buttons.
The portrayal was so offensive that the Nigerian government asked Sony Pictures for an apology, because of course they did.
TaleSpin: Imperial Japan Got What Was Coming To It
TaleSpin was a '90s animated series in need of a space in the title, starring Disney characters going on adventures in airplanes. It was different from DuckTales in that it starred a bunch of anthropomorphic bears and took place in the 1930s.
The Horrible Message:
Unfortunately, in addition to its setting, the show also seems to have borrowed its racial sensitivities from the 1930s, as seen in "Last Horizons." In this episode, main character Baloo discovers Panda-La, a hidden city populated entirely by Chinese restaurant mascots from South Carolina.
Made in the 19-goddamn-90s.
But to be fair, the residents of Panda-La aren't really substitutes for Chinese people. They're supposed to be Japanese, despite the fact that pandas are native to China and do not live in Japan. We know the pandas in this episode are supposed to be Japanese because their leader, Emperor Wan Lo (voiced by Japanese-Canadian actor Robert Ito), convinces Baloo to lead the pandas to Baloo's home town of Cape Suzette -- which they immediately begin to bomb in a treacherous sneak attack. Also, we are informed that the attack on Cape Suzette is happening 20 years after the events of "the Great War."
And light years after the point at which a script reader should have said, "Dude, what the fuck?"
But don't worry, the villainous Panda-La is defeated when Baloo detonates their fortress in a gigantic explosion, which they totally deserved for being shifty assholes.
Take that, misnomers!
So, yeah ... Disney filmed a cartoon reenactment of the attack on Pearl Harbor using characters from The Jungle Book and a bunch of evil pandas. "Last Horizons" was banned (albeit temporarily) for its stereotypical portrayal of Asians, and also for possibly trying to justify nuking Japan to a bunch of unsuspecting kids who just wanted to watch some cartoon bears.
The Twilight Series: Catholics Are (Literal) Monsters
Twilight is a piece of fan fiction about not having sex with a vampire before marriage, but still obeying his every whim and command, because that is your duty as a woman.
The Horrible Message:
Catholics don't appreciate the dangerous fantasy of the Twilight universe, because the main villains in the series are part of what is essentially the Vampire Vatican.
No, really. The undead of Twilight are ruled by a secretive group called the Volturi. They are headquartered in Italy (hint), ruling from a large, domed, basilica-like building (big hint), and they claim the right to tell other vampires how to live their lives (Hint Eastwood). The evil vampire Illuminati is structured exactly like the Catholic Church.
"No vampire will use a dental dam while sucking blood. It's not natural."
And when someone breaks one of their sacred rules, the Volturi have a few handy sadists to interrogate/torture the heretics. For instance, the powerful Volturi Jane loves to torture people with her psychic ability to make them feel like they are being burned alive. Looking at her, you wouldn't expect her to be so vicious. But then again, nobody expects the Vampire Inquisition.
"Our chief weapons are surprise and crippling psychic agony!"
In Breaking Dawn, one free-thinking vampire even tells the Volturi, "We never put on white hats and called ourselves saints." It makes even more sense when you consider that the author of the Twilight series, Stephanie Meyer, is a practicing member of the Mormon faith -- an unofficial branch of Christianity long at odds with Catholicism. Catholicism in turn considers Mormonism to be the religious equivalent of a weirdo slumber party full of all the kids no one wants to hang out with. So it makes sense that Meyer would use her bestselling novels to call Catholics a bunch of evil, self-righteous parasites. Feel free to try to figure out on your own who the werewolves are supposed to be.
There's a few other products you should probably avoid if you aren't into that whole racism thing. Check out what a bigot Sherlock Holmes really was in The 6 Most Secretly Racist Classic Children's Books. Or see the Justice League's rampant racism in the Seanbaby classic 5 Shockingly Racist Scenes In Famous Superhero Comics.
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