Starting with our earliest TV/film interactions as young children, some of our favorite cartoons reinforce stereotypes about age, ability/disability, gender, race, sexuality, and social class.
Social Justice Associates incorporates examples from cartoons – from a larger pop culture portfolio – for discussing how these stereotypes contribute to biases we hold. Expand your understanding of these issues by checking out a few examples below and scheduling education: https://www.socialjusticeassociates.org/dei-training
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
In this Disney classic, “Doc” is positioned as the most “superior” of the dwarfs (tallest, verbal) and “Dopey” as the most “inferior” (shortest, mute), reinforcing stereotypes about ableism and intellectual disability.
These stereotypes reinforce conscious or unconscious beliefs that non-disabled people are superior to persons with a disability. Common phrases that you may inadvertently use to refer to your experiences – e.g., “I feel stupid,” “Derp!” or “When I speak, it falls on deaf ears” – refers negatively to persons with disabilities.
Princess and the Frog
Princess Tiana (Disney’s first black princess) turns into a frog for most of the film, placing animalistic (rather than human) traits on her, which underscores that Tiana is “different” than other princesses.
Per Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, these and related stereotypes tie back to slavery ideology and practices where persons of color were seen and treated as less than human; see Stamped from the Beginning. A common way these stereotypes materialize in organizations is persons of color being passed over for promotions and other opportunities.
The Little Mermaid
Based on a real-life drag queen, Ursula is “queer coded” and positioned as a “villain” in this Disney classic, “curvy and fat, brazen and loud-mouthed, with blood red lips to match … she is entirely disinterested in men, aggressive to a fault …”
Employees who identify as queer are frequently stereotyped within organizations as “different” or as having accentuated “queer qualities,” and sometimes singled out for their opinion, for example, when it comes to matters such as “what to do for Pride month” and “how to navigate pronouns.”