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CP470A: Coco and How Disney Presents Race

Posted on the 17 October 2018 by Kandee @kandeecanread
CP470A: Coco and How Disney Presents Race
There has never been a point in time that Disney has not had a complicated relationship with race. We've mentioned it time and time again surrounding the ways in which they represent minority characters, especially in regards to the Disney Princesses, whom many people deem less diverse than Disney would think them to be. However, I don't think I've ever seen them deny or reject the possibility of a character being ethnic before, especially when there are so many clues that lead one to think so and Disney has traditionally had problems with inclusivity. Christopher Chavez' article titled, "Starlets, Subscribers, and Beneficiaries: Disney, Latino Children, and Television Labor" discusses the controversy surrounding the supposed inclusion of Disney's first Latina Princess, Princess Sofia.
 After the premiere of Sofia the First, many people noted links between the aforementioned princess and a Latin American coding, which they pretty much confirmed by the show's executive producer. However, after a series of criticisms over whether the character is “Hispanic enough,” Disney claims that Sofia was never supposed to be Latina in the first place, they withdrew their initial claims, stating that she was never meant to be considered Latin in the first place. In Chavez' article, he discusses Disney's postracial stance in regards to the cultural production of works like Sofia and contextualizes this case by way of other works featuring minority characters.
In class, we watched Coco, Disney Pixar's latest Oscar-award winning film, which also happens to utilize large elements of Latin culture to tell its story. Coco tells the story of a young Mexican boy named Miguel who longs to be a famous musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. However, his family holds disdain for music, causing Miguel to lash out after they disapprove of him wanting to perform for a Dia de las Muertos concert. This lashing out results in Miguel being transported to the land of the undead, where he must obtain his family's blessing by a certain amount of time or he will be stuck. The thing that struck most people about this film was its authenticity and its culturally conscious nature, especially coming from a white director. Therefore, not only is this film a big political statement towards adults in regards to the political climate in America and its stance towards people of color but it also one towards children in their color coding.
This, however, is quite different from the "color-blind" argument that Disney provides during the discussion on "Sofia the First", which suggests a certain hypocrisy. If Disney is doing well, they are all for representation, if they are not, then it is not their fault that people are color-coding their work. This raises many questions about Disney's integrity and moreover, how they view their audience-goers. Are they people or are they simply consumers? This is especially an important question in regards to the children that watch their content. Chavez writes that "today, children are big business." This is true, especially in regards to Disney, whose primary audience is children. Disney wanting to be caution in their representation of certain groups of people is important, and moreover, necessary. However, this also suggests that there is only one certain way to be in regards to this group, especially because they're only projecting one certain image of an entire culture. Therefore, its almost as if they're micromanaging certain identities to perpetuate revenue and unfortunately, with their track record in regards to other films featuring minority figures, it looks like they'll probably continue on with this mindset and business tack.

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