Images built up
A tremendous sense of worth
As knowledge increased
Images built up
Images built up
A tremendous sense of worth
As knowledge increased
I didn’t feel judged at first since I grew up in a multiethnic area. My neighborhood had people of all races represented and everyone got along. No one had an issue with an interracial married couple moving in with my sister and I during my childhood. Having parents of differing ethnic stock was normal to me and I didn’t think that much about it. Sure, I was darker than my dad and lighter than my mom, but I didn’t had any issues with it when it came to my family.
During this time, I read a ton of books, yet I also watched a lot of TV shows (balances it out, right?). I didn’t think too much about the heroes at my young age. I wanted to see the coolest and unique characters. Maybe in hindsight, I should’ve paid more attention like how it was a bad idea for Zach to be the Black Ranger or even how Trini was the Yellow Ranger way back when. I collected action figures of various superheroes of different ethnic groups, but to be honest…most of the heroes were Caucasian that got attention for the toy marketers and whatnot. I know they’re inanimate objects, but maybe Bishop, Sunfire, and Warpath felt like tokens and I didn’t realize it (can’t you tell I was big into X-Men?). Deep in my mind though, I wondered why not many heroes looked like me. I certainly didn’t see that many superheroes who did and certainly not Disney protagonists.
I was fortunate not to deal with as much racism (that I know of) during my elementary school years. Sure, I had my own issues growing up, but nothing too severe as far as bigotry was concerned. With that being said, they slowly became more obvious as I was in my teenage years. Life wasn’t as innocent as I thought even with the history they did teach me in school. When my family moved to a majority-white suburb because of my dad’s job, that’s when it became more apparent as I didn’t see that many Black let alone other POC groups with the exception of a few people of Asian or Indian descent living there. People didn’t believe my mom and dad were married to each other. There were some neighbors who only saw my dad and said to him “At least you’re not part of a Black family moving in”. I didn’t know about that conversation until years later and it broke my heart that anyone would say that. I’m glad my dad called them out on their bigotry and we didn’t associate with them during our time in this town.
Besides that history, there was some dualism in the perception of me existing. There were people who were curious about my heritage which I wasn’t offended by them asking as long as they didn’t say “What are you?” or “Are you American?”. I’ve been mistaken for Indian, Arab, Polynesian, and Native American before (Side note: I’ve had two people directly from India ask if I was Indian and two people of MENA descent [Egyptian and Iranian respectively] wonder if I was a Middle-Easterner). There were people who didn’t have an issue with having both African and European ancestry which is awesome. Unfortunately, there were others who did low-key digs at my ethnic background or considered me worthless. I certainly had enough melanin to not look Caucasian which made me a racial bullying target for some white people and there have been been a couple of Black people who assumed I thought I was better than them because of my mixed heritage while also claiming that I didn’t know anything about being a victim of racism. Those assumptions made me so furious even though I kept quiet since I was bullied into silence back then. Even now, my self-esteem is low enough that I don’t believe I’m better than anyone and I could do an entire post listing all the times others said or did racist crap around me or to me.
I wasn’t the most cognizant of some of these factors when I was far younger, but I certainly got my wakeup call ages ago. Granted, I’m still learning and I can’t stand being put under a microscope by so many people including those that should know better. It’s due to all these jerks that I sadly have to prove my humanity or competence to anyone and everyone.
I longed for whatever heroes I could find
Who could relate to me and vice versa
Shame how I ignored that desire
As I was programmed to be like those who were placed above me
My forced autodidact tendencies had to fight back
While I become enlightened
I look back in regret
No knowing what needed to know back then
There was a comment I received from my friend from my last post. Part of it was about how she didn’t want to dismiss people’s likes or interests if they mean so much to them.
It did get me thinking if I’m guilty of doing so…
Yes, I’m still shocked that last post involved an indie pro wrestling show in England of all things. I get and I understand why people bash that form of entertainment especially given the stupid stuff that happens in the mainstream and even some of the indie feds. What I do wonder is that if I do the same thing in certain forms. Some of you know that I write reviews and I have certainly written my share of negative critiques to movies, anime, documentaries, and short films. I wonder if there are people who actually were inspired and felt empowered by the things I critically pan. Even when I have conversations with people online or face-to-face, I know there are times where I’ve become open with mentioning my dislikes. I won’t mention an obvious example of me bashing a certain movie franchise when I’ve talked about the bad things that one company has done, but I do wonder if me speaking these uncomfortable truths have hindered their inspiration or maybe they’re not willing to disassociate themselves with the lies.
For me, it’s really hard to find inspiration and edification in several things. The fact that I found an unlikely one was great, but I know people are going to slag me off when it comes to me liking anything in that particular form of entertainment. I still stand by the notion that people need to find empowering images when they otherwise would be passed over, but I do wonder if I’m doing any harm in being so critical.
What are your thoughts?
This post might give some people whiplash if they know anything about me. I wouldn’t blame you if you raised an eyebrow. I’m actually going to talk about pro wrestling on this blog. Yes, even I’m shocked, too. Think about it, I, Curtis AKA Ospreyshire…an avant-garde spoken word artist/musician, film critic of random obscure international films/anime/documentaries, DIY author who writes deconstructive fiction, geography nerd, African history/culture enthusiast, and someone who likes a good amount of art that could be considered “highbrow” actually has an interest in the indie pro wrestling scene even if I don’t consider myself super knowledgeable about it. Before I get to the core of this article, let me clarify a few things.
1. I know it’s a pre-scripted and predetermined form of entertainment.
2. People have no right calling it “fake” when they watch reality shows let alone movies or other TV programs. Besides, even real sports events have had moments of being rigged/fixed like boxing and MMA at times.
3. It’s stage combat and one could make a case pro wrestlers are actors who do their own stunts with no chance to re-edit the videos if you really think about it.
4. I’m not a fan of WWE especially currently, and I’ll get into that later in this post.
5. Yes, I know there can be stupid stuff in pro wrestling which causes me to facepalm, but don’t act like your interests are lacking in idiocy at times.
6. I also have a small affinity for some real sports outside of this field, thank you very much.
My interests really are eclectic even if it seems random or partially contradictory, right? Hahahaha! 😛
My history with pro wrestling is a strange one. I wasn’t allowed to watch it when I was a child, and I grew up around the time when it was insanely popular with WCW and back when WWE was called WWF (The pandas would win against Vince McMahon in that lawsuit in the early 00s!). Some of the biggest names at the time were the NWO, Sting, Stone Cold Steve Austin, DX, and The Rock long before he became a Hollywood household name. I knew the names of a bunch of them, but I never watched it. Of course, I also grew up during the time when Macho Man Randy Savage was in those Slim Jim commercials, so these wrestlers were everywhere despite not seeing these TV shows or live events. I had friends and eventually coworkers who were knee deep in that interest and they would tell me about a bunch of things even to this day, so I had some knowledge even if it was secondhand. Some online reviewers I used to watch made some videos about this subject from time to time, so I had a tiny bit of familiarity early in my adulthood.
For those who follow Iridium Eye, some of you might remember me reviewing the documentary Eddie Dennis: A 5 Year Old’s Dream last year. It was part of my portfolio of atypical topics I’ve covered in documentary form on the blog like how I’ve also reviewed Paralympic fencers (Beatrice), the Asexual community ((A)sexual), or an experimental band who uses faith-based lyrics while wearing matching nurse/doctors outfits (Danielson: A Family Movie) just to name a few. Eddie Dennis is a Welsh wrestler who used to work as a math teacher at a boarding school (I’m not making this up). He quit his job to wrestle full-time and he eventually got a contract last year. It was an interesting watch even though it wasn’t my favorite film, but it opened up a rabbit hole into this immersion of the UK indie wrestling scene AKA BritWres over the past several months where I was exposed to multiple smaller feds and indie wrestlers. That’s how it got started. I was then exposed to the Nottingham-based promotion Wrestling Resurgence in my research. They do all their shows in art galleries and museums. One of the owners is also a university professor who has an immense background in avant-garde art, ballet, and theater. I can’t make any of this up to save my life. I saw some matches from that company and liked what I saw. The thing that REALLY caught my eye involved just two words…
This was a show curated by South Londoner wrestler “Big Wavy” Roy Johnson. Everything Patterned was a major event of it’s kind since it involved a majority black card featuring wrestlers from England, America, Jamaica, and Uganda. This was to commemorate Black History Month in the UK where it’s celebrated in October (How come they get more days than us in America who only celebrate it in February even when the UK has a smaller black population compared to the US?). It was considered a big marketing risk, but the event was sold out when it was hosted in Leicester. I bought a digital copy of the show from their Vimeo page (the link is above the poster image) and thought it was great by seeing this positive representation going on. The matches were fun. It was awesome seeing the Rhio/Blaze match and seeing two strong women who are talented athletes that don’t resort to ratchet behavior. The main event between Johnson and Rampage Brown (not featured since he was a last-minute replacement for the then-injured O.J.M.O.) was a great heavyweight match where it was two guys fighting and you can take them seriously. There wasn’t an ounce of buffoonery in the headlining match. The Omari/Warren Banks match was insane in athletic prowess and would put so many cruiserweights to shame. Both of them are roughly 6’4″ and can pull off moves that one would expect only shorter wrestlers to do. I know the bloggers who know about my taste in movies are going to notice this, and I’m going to say this right now. No! I surprisingly didn’t freak out when one of the tag team matches involved a team called The Lion Kings. Long story short: One of the members of the LKs actually thanked me for telling him about Kimba the White Lion or how bogus Disney was with the Hakuna Matata trademark when I emailed him and we had a great discussion about Africa. There were serious moments, some funny moments, and some good in-ring action. It was a breath of fresh air not seeing any racist stereotypes or shucking and jiving going on like multiple cases of mainstream wrestling. Vince McMahon wouldn’t have the balls to pull something like this off (Yeah, I said it!). I wish nothing but success to everyone involved. It would also be phenomenal if at least one of the wrestlers from the Everything Patterned show could start their own promotion/federation in the near future.
Here are the videos that promoted the event as well as highlighting different perspectives of representation among other important factors in the context of wrestling.
The O. J. M. O.:
Sugar Dunkerton [Context: Kofi Kingston was still holding the WWE World Championship at the time it was filmed]:
I found their insights to be quite fascinating and I legitimately never thought about those things in that realm of athletic entertainment. Sugar Dunkerton’s video about Kofi really hit it home when it came to why representation matters with that Ghanaian wrestler being the first (fully) black WWE World Champion. I’m not counting The Rock since he always hypes up is Samoan lineage constantly and only talks about his black side when he does a movie with Kevin Hart, but I digress (and this is coming from a guy who also would be considered biracial!). I know this is an unrelated video, but Dunkerton also made an awesome video with such brutal truth to it. If you’re black, then you will DEFINITELY relate to this video. If you’re not, then consider this a moment of learning and I’m not just talking about how the word “urban” can be a dog whistle term that’s offensive.
Suge D, you kept it so real. This also transitions into my point about how there’s racist crap that still goes on to this day in wrestling. Exhibit A: ACH FKA Jordan Myles. ACH is a black wrestler who made his career in the indies and eventually got signed to NXT (WWE’s developmental system kind of like a AAA minor league feeder promotion to make a sports comparison). He went under the name Jordan Myles and eventually got this T-shirt with his now former WWE moniker in 2019. Weeks after Everything Patterned, this T-shirt would prove Resurgence’s supporters and the wrestlers involved right in realizing why a show like this was needed…
DO YOU SEE WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?!?
That t-shirt just SCREAMS minstrel show imagery! The fact that they pitched this to a black wrestler by masquerading it in a white and gray design before publishing it in black is maddening. This is the same crap that got Gucci and Prada in trouble in recent years when they tried that with the racist blackface sweater and sambo figurines respectively. ACH blasted them on Twitter and eventually quit working for the WWE. I know that company knows better. While some could argue that ACH could’ve handled the situation better, he had every right to put the WWE on blast for doing such a stupid and bigoted stunt. I applaud him for standing up for himself even when that company shifted the blame onto him for the whole thing. It’s bigotry like this that made me sigh in relief that I never spent a penny on their product. Besides, I don’t even like Raw or Smackdown. I’m not even watching NXT or even NXT UK (Sorry, Eddie) because of this garbage. I’ll save whatever fun money I have on promotions treat their roster with dignity regardless of color/creed/gender/etc. and for various indie wrestlers.
Sorry that this was a strange post given what I usually talk about or the things I create. I wanted to let you know how I was unexpectedly inspired by a UK wrestling show of all things. I actually bought some merch from some of the people in Everything Patterned and not only that, but I even got into fitness far more often as an indirect result. My December goals in exercising have been working so far and I already feel healthier. If you would have asked me years ago that I would make a post like this anywhere on the net, then I would’ve called you insane.
With all that being said, I thought it was amazing seeing someone like me being taken seriously in this field. I’m getting healthier, I’m slowly gaining self-esteem, and my sense of well-being has improved so far. So what if some people would insult me because of this recent interest? This was something inspiring in ways I didn’t even imagine.
Thank you, Wrestling Resurgence and everyone involved with Everything Patterned.
I hope you liked my journey explaining the different facets of my Representation Matters series on the Ospreyshire blog. Thank you for reading this and my other posts on the subject.
All images and videos are of “fair use”.
The Everything Patterned videos are courtesy of Wrestling Resurgence’s YouTube page.
SUGE. Number 3. is property of Sugar Dunkerton’s YouTube page.
The photo of Roy Johnson is from Twitter and is property of Wrestling Resurgence.
The Everything Patterned poster is from Vimeo and is property of Wrestling Resurgence.
The Jordan Myles T-shirt is from Bleacher Report and property of the WWE.
Welcome back to my Representation Matters series! For those who are new to my blog or only occasionally read my posts, you can check out the first one here and my second one about me creating my own characters here. Now we’re going to get into part three.
This is no secret, but I have an appreciation for Japanese animation. I’ve talked about that subject a few times on this blog and I have a whole separate blog called Iridium Eye Reviews where I critique that form of animation in addition to obscure movies, short films, and documentaries from all over the world. My first exposure to it was when I was very young and saw Teknoman (the English-dubbed edited version of Tekkaman Blade) on UPN. I thought the show looked really cool and wondered what that kind of a cartoon it was. I watched more of the stuff that was on TV back then and when I was in high school, I got into renting and owning various DVDs of certain series. What I liked about some of the anime that didn’t get played on Toonami or the other channels was the uniqueness of the stories, finding pieces of animation with actual artistry, and finding different stories I would never get from Western animation. If you think all anime is just DBZ, Pokemon, Naruto, or god forbid anything that’s hentai, then please slap yourself. There’s so much more than what the mainstream talks about.
One thought that I had during my teens was that some anime was a bit of a consolation prize of sorts for me. Because these series were made by nonwhite animators and featured characters who would be considered POCs in different contexts, I subconsciously settled for this despite not being of Japanese descent let alone Asian. It’s probably no wonder I was a Japanophile during my high school years not just because of some shows I thought (some I still think are) were legitimately good, but it even got to the point where I took Japanese classes at a community college during my last two years of high school. I can still remember numerous words or phrases to this day and would technically be my “2nd best” language next to English. Sure, I didn’t always think “Most of these characters aren’t white, so I can find them to be more relatable!” all the time, but I can’t lie to you that it was something in the corner of my mind at times during that point of my life. That interest faded out later in college and I had a hiatus of sorts until not long before I started Iridium Eye a couple of years ago.
While I still like certain anime series and movies, the Japanese animation industry has been marred with racist aspects, too. As much as I give a ton of crap to Disney and other American media companies for their bigotry and they deserve to be called out on those things, I can’t pretend that even the Japanese companies don’t do anything like that. Sure, they’re not going to do racist things against their compatriots or even other Asian ethnic groups most of the time, but they’ve had very questionable things go on. There’s obvious examples like Mr. Popo from the Dragon Ball franchise, Jynx from Pokemon, or even Pyunma/008 from Cyborg 009. The backlash got so big that the creators eventually changed their character designs by changing skin colors for the first two and for 008 shedding the sambo imagery into a more realistic African man (okay, I think the Call of Justice version looks like an anime version of Childish Gambino/Donald Glover, but I digress). This problem hasn’t gone away. There’s a more recent anime called The Promised Neverland which did look like it had an interesting plot, but I couldn’t bring myself to watch it when I saw pictures of one of the characters called Sister Krone.
I felt legitimately uncomfortable and that’s one of the less offensive images. She’s shown as this unstable psychopath while at the same time being subservient to a white woman who’s one of the villains in the show. Her character design is much worse in the original manga. This anime came out in 2019 and there is no excuse for this. If you don’t see what’s wrong with this kind of imagery, then let me remind you of this.
Those would be mammy figurines from the Jim Crow museum. This is the same kind of garbage that permeated the imagery of black women being servants, stupid, and being undesirable. That imagery has been around since even before the Emancipation Proclamation, and this is the same kind of stuff that people bash a certain Tom & Jerry supporting character or Gone With The Wind for. I know the creators of The Promised Neverland know better than this and they would NEVER write a white or Asian woman that way.
Here’s how anime can do better. They can write characters who aren’t Asian or Caucasian into characters one can take seriously across the board. They need to consult other ethnic groups for making certain characters. Don’t make race their only defining characteristic. They can also ask themselves this question: How would they feel if someone incorporated Japanese stereotypes in a character?
I know there are some anime series that are better at positive representation than others which I do appreciate, but I’d be lying if I said there was no bigotry in Japan. I’m not into anime as much as I used to even though I still review it. I think it can be sad that I do a better job at positive representation of multiple ethnic groups compared to animators on both sides of the Pacific at large.
All photos are under “fair use”.
The photo of Sister Krone is from The Promised Neverland and is property of Aniplex of America.
The photo of the mammy figurines is from Wikipedia.
Here we go, everybody. I’m thankful that there were bloggers who liked the first blog post in my Representation Matters series on the Ospreyshire blog. I wasn’t sure how people would take to my thoughts and personal experiences, but I’m glad there are those willing to read about them.
Let’s get to part 2 of this series.
I mentioned this in passing, but I remember seeing/hearing this quote which I see as a retort for those who have legitimate gripes with either the lack of (positive) representation or racial stereotypes: “Make your own characters!”. Those same people who say that are those who don’t have to deal with being derogated by their complexion en masse, let’s be honest here. It really shows an entitlement which inadvertently proved that study about TV watching in that previous post right if you really think about it.
Oh, I decided to heed those words, but not for the reasons that they would expect.
Some of you know this, but I have written multiple books. I have covered multiple genres and book formats such as novels, novellas, novelettes, and cell phone novels. One of my goals when I started writing the first Revezia book back in 2014 was to come up with multi-ethnic casts. With that particular series, it deconstructs and inverts so many tropes and cliches associated with fantasy, fairy tales, and one might argue a certain “canon” of sorts. The main character of the first book Terminal Rescue is Shamakani. He’s a black prince who leads a search/rescue operation for various healers in the area, is a talented swordsman, and he has a serious attitude even though he can be too serious at times to his detriment (I’m not going to write a Marty Stu character). In that series alone, I have protagonists of all ethnic groups and walks of life and that’s also the same with Hollandus Landing which is the first part of my cell phone novel series (It’s also free if you want. Just saying.). It was exhilarating creating these characters, but even then, I still had to be respectful. I’m thankful to have grown up in a multiracial city and I’ve talked with my friends to see if something was okay or not when it came to writing characters outside of my ethnic persuasion. This may sound cheesy, but I wanted to have that sense of humanity by having dynamic characters who are a certain ethnicity instead of just having their race define them. Trust me, there’s a difference.
Recently, the character I created who really helped increase my self-esteem a bit is Kasamba from Revezia: Sika Uvira Chronicle and the Revezia Electrum trilogy (Sika Uvira Chronicle is also free). Kasamba is a DIY inventor who can create various gadgets. He’s very intelligent, but also self-loathing and underestimates his own genius. Instead of being some muscle-bound freak, he is on the thinner side and uses his smarts and inventions whenever he is in a bad situation. I gave Kasamba some quirks like being really into indie movies while giving internalized snarky commentary on the state of mainstream films in a wink wink nudge nudge kind of way. His name is actually Tshiluba (a Congolese language) for “To Console” because writing him was a consolation to me and he’s able to do so for others in ways he doesn’t realize. After finding out I was of part Congolese descent, I thought I would incorporate that into this character and even his environment. He’s from a modern city on planet Revezia, has lots of decent technology equivalent to what we have on earth currently, and there’s not an ounce of poverty porn in his hometown! Not everything in Africa looks like mud huts, war zones, jungles, or the Pride Lands, GOT IT?! I’ve never even been to the continent and even I know that.
I guess by me creating my own characters, stories, or even art, this was therapy of sorts for me. I felt empowered by making some wonderful characters that I hope others could appreciate. If one person tells me that they really liked this hero or that hero especially if it’s someone like them, then I’d be beyond blessed. I would encourage you to give it a try even if it’s just a short story or drawing your own original characters if you ever felt that way. Mainstream media wasn’t going to placate me, so I have to take things in my own hands through my fiction, music, poetry, etc.
Hope you enjoyed reading this. What are your thoughts on representation? Have you felt like you had trouble relating to so many fictional characters? How do you discuss the concept of positive representation to others?
I thought I would make a multi-part post series about representation. Some of you know that it’s an issue that is dear to my heart. Recently, I’ve been having some revelations from likely and unlikely places when it comes to this particular situation.
Let me tell you a personal story and how things correlated to a study I found out about with a video and a separate site.
I’ve always struggled with low self-esteem even to this day. When I was a child, I have to admit that I watched more TV than I should. Sure, I read a lot which certainly helped, but when I wasn’t in school or reading, I’d check out the TV. I watched a lot of cartoons and live action shows. One thing I wondered was that there weren’t many heroes who looked like me. There were a few token characters here and there, but none were really compelling. They were either the token best friend or comic relief. Some characters that I did find very interesting would only be there were only in a few episodes. One I can remember was Bishop from the X-Men cartoon back in the 90s. He was the first black male superhero I ever saw and I thought he was cool with his time traveling ability while also being legitimately tough. I’m sure I had an action figure of him amongst other heroes of different races. Even though I didn’t have cable until I was in high school when my family moved, I still watched the basic TV shows and I saw the cable stuff when I was at my grandparent’s house or at a friend’s place. As someone who would be considered an ethnic minority in America, it was tough finding positive representation in mainstream media. Sure, I have a white dad, but someone like me is obviously not considered Caucasian and I’m not just talking about my skin tone, but I digress. Some idiots have said online “Why don’t you make your own characters?” years ago. Oh wait, I’m a freaking indie author and I’ve made multiethnic casts in my stories. Just saying.
What really caught my eye was a video I saw that had a slideshow as part of it. The featured image is a screenshot from said video that featured statistics from different ethnic groups of children watching TV. I wasn’t surprised about some of the statistics when it came to the ratios despite not thinking about the numbers or hours. What really floored me was the last stat as shown in the picture: “Children’s self-esteem generally decreases as TV watching increases; except for white boys.” The rationale makes perfect sense especially in Western media. Most protagonists are white males where they are the lead characters, the most desirable, most heroic, and the most idealized characters in the show. This surprisingly applies to villains, too. Even they have agency in their stories and they may have some strengths like being legitimately threatening, powerful, smart, etc. The Joker certainly comes to mind among other examples. This is not meant to shame anyone, but the stats can really speak volumes on how impressionable children can get their values or see their own worth (or not) depending on their race or gender. Here’s a bit more information on that issue: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/tv-children-self-esteem-black-white_n_1616957.
Anyways, I will be talking about this sporadically (hopefully once a week) about positive representation in the media. I never realized how much of a psychological effect it had on me and I want to share these findings mixed with my own personal experiences.
The screenshot is property of Jabari Osaze from the video “Seven Little White Lies” on YouTube.
When I was in front of the silver screen or the tiny screen
When I immersed myself in hardcovers or paperbacks
I felt empty on the inside, but didn’t even know it then
As a child, I was impressionable
The others found their heroes (however fictional)
While I looked for others who didn’t look like me
Grasping for something to boost my esteem
As I died on the inside while being oblivious
The others found their heroes or morals
When they NEVER applied to me
The others assumed I was a villain
Who deserved to be punished at all costs
Even when I minded my own business
No prince, no superhero, no fairy tale protagonist
Looked like me
Years later, I was forced to create my own worlds and heroes
While it was constructive, I wished I did it sooner
[Warning: This post contains a very contrary opinion to most people and will contain controversial content. Read at your own peril]
I’m sure some of you are probably sick of me at this point bashing this Disney movie if you’ve read earlier posts on this blog or saw certain reviews on Iridium Eye. I’m not sorry for what I’m about to say on here. This frustration has been building up for the past couple of weeks and it’s something I need to vent about on this blog of all things regardless if people agree with this post or not.
[sigh] Here we go.
For starters, I didn’t always hate The Lion King. If anything, it used to be one of my favorite Disney movies when I was a kid. This is going to partially give away my age, but I saw that movie during it’s first theatrical run when I was very little. I even saw the stage adaptation in Chicago at the Cadillac Theatre when I was a bit older. One of my favorite soundtracks back then was the “Rhythm of the Pride Lands” which was the companion soundtrack and it was also the first time the song “He Lives In You” was used. Not Lion King II or the Broadway version. I saw the original VHS tape probably a hundred times during my childhood. I used to know the words to most of the songs way back when. However, I stopped paying attention to Disney during my teenage years because I was really into anime. Okay, I still like Japanese animation, but I was nowhere near as much of an otaku as I was when I was in high school.
It was also around this time when I first heard about Kimba the White Lion. I heard that The Lion King ripped it off, but I thought it was shallow with just the main characters. Flash forward to my adult life when I saw a Cracked article involving childhood icons you didn’t know were shameless rip-offs, and the memories came back again. This piqued my interest, did more research and started to rent the DVDs on Netflix after Kimba stopped airing on Hulu (Disney is a partial owner of that site, so I don’t know if it was because of them or not). While it has it’s issues and has aged animation since it was made in the 60s, I enjoyed that anime for it’s usage of subject matter, originality, and seeing how much Disney stole from it. If you don’t believe me, check out this link. I couldn’t believe the scenes of Caesar (AKA Original Mufasa) consoling Kimba from the beyond in the night sky. I couldn’t believe the scene where the villainess Belladonna tried to kill Kimba by pushing him off a cliff. I couldn’t believe one of the major villains (Claw) just happened to be a scarred lion usurper with a black mane, dark fur, and had hyena henchmen with him. Every character not named Timon and Pumbaa in that movie is a copy of someone from Tezuka’s manga/anime series. Seriously, shame on Disney for stealing from this classic anime and for trying to block the Jungle Emperor Leo ’97 movie from North America. Trust me, you won’t be looking at The Lion King the same way again once you see the obvious similarities. I can’t see how any sane person could watch Kimba and not think that no one from Disney saw this. Why does The Lion King get a free pass in plagiarism when other media like Yuki Yuna is a Hero gets lambasted for having similarities to Madoka? You know if the situation was reversed, then all you Lion King fans would scream bloody murder that your favorite movie got plagiarized by a foreign (majority non-White) country if Kimba came afterwards. It would be amazing if Disney admitting to stealing from Tezuka’s creation, paid royalties to them, or got epic backlash for their thievery, but I know that will never happen because wishes never come true.
This segues into my next point. I wasn’t aware of this as a child, but growing up, I realized how racist the implications were with the hyenas. Have you not listened to how they talk? They straight up talk in stereotypical African-American Ebonics (Shenzi) and an exaggerated Mexican accent (Banzai). What ticks me off is when Disney fans don’t call their depiction racist or handwave it because you have Black cast members voicing some of the heroic lions namely James Earl Jones playing Mufasa. No, just because you have Black people playing both sides of the good/evil paradigm, it doesn’t make it bigotry-free. It’s the equivalent of a racist claiming they have a Black best friend or family members to prove they aren’t racist. That or saying slave owners can’t be racist because they have Black people around them. Let’s not forget Disney has a history with using animal characters as POC proxies with racist undertones. Look at the crows in Dumbo and the lead one’s name was JIM! You know, like the same laws in America that involved having enforced segregation, lynchings, or it being legal for White people to rape African-Americans? There’s also Siamese cats talking in broken English in Lady and the Tramp, Aristocats, and even an episode of Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers for crying out loud. You could even throw in Tito from Oliver & Company as a slap against the Latino community. Coincidentally enough, Cheech Marin would voice both Tito and Banzai in his voice acting career. Is this why so many Americans falsely assume that Black people let alone other ethnic groups act like the hyenas all the time? If you think so, then you need your head examined and we should question if you’re a bigot.
Extending onto that point is how the hyenas were treated with the Elephant Graveyard. Besides the name being a blatant carbon copy of the place in Kimba where the animals had to rescue Roger Ranger in one of the later episodes, I found the place to be disturbing, but not for the same reasons as it was portrayed in the movie. As an adult, I had this realization that this punishment against those animals involved isolating the hyenas in a barren wasteland and they’re forced to starve. It hit me when I researched lesser-known aspects of history: Mufasa was committing genocide against them and I was sickened by it. Scar did bad things, but his big brother is not much better if you really think about it; he’s just applauded for his actions. If you think I’m being crazy, then maybe you should read up on the Congolese Genocide under King Leopold II or the Namibian Genocide by Germany’s 2nd Reich. The former had a body count of 10 MILLION Congolese and Leopold never got punished for it. If you take away the hand chopping, guns, and mass rape, then it would be the same thing. The latter had a concentration camp called Shark Island where the Germans starved out the Herero and Nama tribes and there was a valley of bones left behind. By the way, one of the perpetrators was General Franz Ritter von Epp who would eventually employ Adolf Hitler and Hitler said he was influenced by this general. LET THAT SINK IN! It’s as if the animators were aroused by putting anti-Black racism with that act as they believe melanated people don’t belong in their circle of life. Come on, if those hyenas talked in Yiddish accents instead of stereotypical Black and Latino accents, then the ADL would’ve thrashed Mickey Mouse in a heartbeat and everybody knows this. But because it’s happening to the bad guys and because they talk in a racially-coded way, it’s somehow justified in the animators’ and fans’ eyes. No, that’s protagonist centered morality on Mufasa’s part (saying nothing how that punishment contradicts his circle of life speech), and it’s propaganda in a form of G-rated White Supremacy. In my adulthood, I’ve seriously pondered if White people actually saw me as one of those hyenas in the past before. I’ve been discriminated against, so I wouldn’t put it past them. It’s hard to watch that knowing about the genocides against Black people, the 1994 crime bill which overloaded the prison-industrial complex (while being soft on Caucasian offenders, let’s be honest), Apartheid South Africa, and gentrification to name a few things to punish them. Do you enjoy Black people or any other POC group getting punished or afflicted at all costs and is The Lion King your film of choice of vicariously having that joy in a supposedly “innocent” way? Are you more offended by me pointing out the racist implications of this Disney movie than the millions of dead bodies from those aforementioned genocides let alone other atrocities?
Let’s also talk about the depiction of Africa. There are no humans in it! Was there some extinction of Africans before the beginning of the story? Disney sucks at this fact and Tarzan is another example of this when that continent is shown without Black people. So people who look like me and darker shouldn’t be seen? Is this a wish fulfillment about depopulating Africa in animated form? Think about it. They wouldn’t try it with Europe or America. Even if they do have furry characters (don’t lie. furries love The Lion King and you all know this. Also, how come that movie doesn’t get called a furry film with all the anthropomorphic stuff in it?), they make them upright, clothed and human-like in attitude like Zootopia or DuckTales for example. Are they insinuating that Africa should just be one giant savanna or natural utopia without the humans who would live in that part of the world? If not, then they’ll show it as one big piece of poverty porn and/or a giant war zone. It’s as if the animals are treated with dignity if something happens to them than the humans who live there. Cecil the lion? I rest my case. Screw stereotypes. Those furries and their sick fantasies can go away.
Those are some of my main points that have angered me. Disney needs a moral overhaul. Was it enough to steal from a 60s Japanese anime and from millions of Swahili-speaking Africans by trademarking “Hakuna Matata”? I could go on about the plot holes such as the Nala incest theory, how much that movie ripped off Kimba, how heredity monarchy is not always a good thing, how that movie isn’t that deep/meaningful, or how The Lion King or it’s fanbase avoids being called furries when other movies get labeled as such, but I think you get the point. Even I’ve had enough from defenders of this movie franchise and for people trying to shame me not liking that film, let alone bullying me for my ethnic background or even what media I like. You’re only proving me right that way. It sickens me how there’s that remake coming out (it’s not live action, people. it’s just realistic looking CGI) and for people making fun of me for not liking it anymore. You all have no right to moralize to me especially with all the things that have happened in American history let alone what happened to the African diaspora. I’m not saying you’re automatically evil if you’re White since that would be very stupid of me to insinuate that of one’s skin color. Spare me from your attempts of putting words in my mouth or for strawmanning my arguments. What I am saying is that you shouldn’t take movies at face value and assume everything is innocent just because it’s family-friendly from a content standpoint. For one, I’ve become offended the more I’ve learned about history, part of my culture, and with storytelling techniques. I’m sick and tired of being a scapegoat because of the color of my skin and my heritage. I would never even imagine doing the things done to my ancestors to anyone regardless of race. Not everyone is going to like what I typed, nor am I begging people to like it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to listen to real artists from the continent instead of that artificial crap from Hans Zimmer and Elton John.
All images and videos are property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws.
The fan art is property of WhiteLionWarrior at DeviantArt.
Kimba is property of Kimba the White Lion and Tezuka Productions.
Simba is property of The Lion King and Disney.