• Aysha Yasin

Dear Disney...This You?

Disney. Saying that it’s made an impact on our childhood is an understatement.

We grew up alongside Disney - its TV shows, its films and its actors. We can’t deny how this multi-billion dollar company has really carved out and moulded our day to day lives.

We live in Disney’s world everyday, without even knowing it.

But it doesn’t mean that its faults should be swept under the carpet in the name of melancholy and sweet memories either.

Increasingly, there have been more instances where Disney is getting called out. People are now shining lights into the darker corners of this entertainment giant. Here’s what’s been happening...

John Boyega has called out the company for making him and other actors of colour feel as though they’ve been pushed to the side in their films.

John stars as Finn, a rebel troopstormer in the third Star Wars trilogy. I’m gonna be honest...I’m not a big Star Wars fan. But when I saw the first trailer I was actually excited. Hispanic and Black males being the faces of a new film universe? Safe to say I was shook. It finally felt like representation was on the agenda for the entertainment industry and this was definitely a welcome change.

Looking back, it was probably a bit naive to think that this could last...

The second film was... disappointing. And I agree with John - non-white characters like Finn, Rose and Po were all pushed aside. It’s like they didn’t realise that these characters had any sort of role to play and they were now...disposable.

The plot revolved continuously around the white protagonist and antagonist for the majority of the story and all the other characters played by actors of colour were pretty much erased.

This isn’t where it ends. The poster of Force Awakens in China has basically reduced Fin, who had a large portion of space on the original poster, to being shrunk to nothing whilst the white actors remain pretty much all you can see. So much for representation.

To say that it fell short of my expectations is a bit of an understatement.

I didn’t want to watch the third one. I watched the first two for the characters I found the most interesting, the ones I can see myself in...

...but the ploy of using people of colour to attract wider audiences of people like me into watching these films to then not do justice to characters of colour - that has left a lasting sour taste in my mouth. Did they really have diversity and inclusion at the heart of their casting? Or was it just greed for extra cash from hopeful viewers?

Now, let’s talk about Mulan...

The animated Mulan is one of my favourite movies of all time. The storytelling, beautiful shots and general script writing is immaculate, especially for an animation. So when Disney announced that Mulan was one of the next films to become a live-action, I was skeptical. And I feel I have every right to be.

And alas, there are some major flaws in production...

The actress playing Mulan, Liu Yifei, has shown her online support for Hong Kong police and its treatment of citizens. If you don’t know, Hong Kong police have been making headlines recently due to the increasing police brutality being exposed. Peaceful protesters have been under fire and at the receiving end of tear gas and rubber bullets. A widely circulating online video of a 12-year-old being tackled by the police is being met with anger and calls to action from other nations.

It's difficult to comprehend how Disney's latest star-actor can publicly justify that.
It’s also recently come to light that parts of Mulan were filmed in the Xinjiang province. From my previous post a couple of weeks ago, you'll know that this is the same place that Uyghur Muslims are being held and detained against their will.

Globally, people are standing up to this by deciding to boycott Mulan - both for those who live in Hong Kong and against the ethnic cleansing of Uyghur Muslims.

I don’t know what’s going on with Disney but something really isn’t right. Owning such large franchises like Marvel and Star Wars comes with social responsibilities - what worries me most is that what we see and watch is just one corporate voice. One corporation behind the manufacturing of all these films.

Actions like sidelining characters of colour or deciding to shoot scenes in a place where millions are being oppressed...these are conscious decisions they have made as a company and brand, and they should be inexcusable.

Criticism against Disney is never going to stop. But rather than repeating mistakes made, they should really address what’s going wrong and how they’re planning to fix it. 

Dear Disney,

Do better. Fix up.


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