At the time of this post, over 187K+ people signed the petition in that link above. I’m one of them because I practice what I preach.
Some of you may have seen my #TrademarkWars post not too long ago. I’m not sorry for repeating the information, but some of this maybe new to some of you. For those of you who didn’t see that earlier post, let me give you the scoop. Disney owns a trademark for the words “Hakuna Matata”.
“But Ospreyshire, that’s a stupid thing to worry about!” You might say. “What’s the big deal?”
It’s because making a dollar of a foreign phrase is cultural appropriation. That’s why.
This offends me more than The Lion King ripping off Kimba the White Lion, and that’s saying something. The thing is “Hakuna Matata” has been a very common phrase that the Swahili-speaking world (examples: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, DRC, etc.) has said for centuries. Disney acts like they can just own foreign words like some kind of hidden treasure. That’s colonizer thinking right there. Could you imagine the outrage if Disney or any other conglomerate were to trademark foreign phrases such as “C’est La Vie” from the French or “Que Sara Sara” from the Italians? Everybody would riot if that were to happen. Even English speakers know what those phrases mean and would call out something like that. Keep in mind, even Paris Hilton couldn’t trademark “That’s hot” and Donald Trump couldn’t trademark “You’re fired” when The Apprentice was a hit show, so what does that tell you? I guess since this involves Africans, then they don’t matter in Disney’s eyes by taking a common saying that’s spoken throughout multiple countries in that continent.
Cultural appropriation is another form of racism as it steals from others while benefiting the appropriator. I’m sick and tired of people getting away with thieving cultural elements that clearly never belonged to them to the first place. The Swahili speaking public got nothing out of this trademark even though they’ve been saying it long before the invention of animation.
If this irks you that colonialism still permeates even in kids movies, then I would urge you to sign.
Hakuna Matata: Not some remorse-free philosophy
I know this is an older story, but I just have to talk about it.
I apologize if this issue is getting old especially for those in the aniblogger community, but holy crap…did Disney have to steal something else especially in regards to The Lion King? Ripping off Kimba the White Lion wasn’t enough for them?
Basically, Disney owns a trademark for the words “Hakuna Matata” which is stupid on so many levels for a common phrase in the Swahili-speaking community in Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, DRC, Uganda, etc.). I also didn’t know that there was a popular song in the 70s that used the phrase in it’s chorus.
Sure, some of you are rolling your eyes to me bashing Disney since I am a former fan of The Lion King. Besides the shameless stealing of Kimba, I couldn’t stand some of the plot holes, the protagonist centered morality of Mufasa, and the racist implications of the hyenas (come on, you don’t think they sounded like ethnic stereotypes?). Not to mention the whole Elephant Graveyard situation is much more disturbing in hindsight when you research things like the Congolese genocide, the Namibian genocide, or the genocides against Native Americans to name a few where people where exiled and starved out at punishment. Makes me wonder if Disney fans see the hyenas as proxies for Black people to be punished at all costs while claiming that company isn’t racist for hiring minorities as some rhetorical dodge for it not being racist (strawman defeated). Please, that’s like saying the porn industry can’t be sexist because they hire women.
The thing isn’t just about trademarking a common Swahili phrase or for me ragging on Disney for their business practices. The bigger picture is cultural appropriation. One other example that Dr. Mumbi gave in the video was Louis Vuitton capitalizing on traditional Masai cloth by giving it the luxury treatment which is idiotic and offensive to me. Culture isn’t some free for all object for people to steal. I would bet you money if someone were to steal stuff from Louis Vuitton or any other big company, then lawsuits would be handed like candy on Halloween. Screw that double standard. If you want to incorporate something like someone’s culture then do it respectfully and pay the price for it.
This trademarking is so shameful on many levels. If you want to sign the petition about this matter, then here’s the link: https://www.change.org/p/the-walt-disney-company-get-disney-to-reverse-their-trademark-of-hakuna-matata
Video is property of Dr. Mumbi Seraki.