There I said it. Sue me. Actually don’t! I can’t afford it. 🙂 But seriously this is something I’ve been dying to get off my chest for ages. I’ve heard many black people say ‘Why can’t Disney (or any other major children’s media producer) do more black or African cartoons?’ or ‘Why aren’t there many black characters in Disney cartoons?’ I get where they are coming from but my answer to that is why should Disney do that?
Hear me out on this. Let’s take the American context as an example. I am by no means denigrating or belittling the fight and struggle of many African Americans and blacks around the world to get American/western media to portray black people and our various cultures in a proper balanced way. I understand the historical context so I am not being flippant here. I just think that in today’s climate, waiting or lobbying for Disney to produce more Black content is a diversion of resources and energy.
For me Disney is a gigantic corporate machine that does what it needs to survive. That revolves around making as much money as possible. I don’t feel Disney thinks the African American market is significant enough to try really hard to get. Mainly because they have it already! That’s not to talk of catering for the African market. For a company like that it’ll be too much hassle. Disney will make sure it doesn’t intentionally offend as many people as possible to make as much money as it can globally. I will confidently make a prediction now. When the US population because mainly Hispanic the content Disney produces will reflect that fact or the company will suffer. It’s all about money. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not attacking Disney. I’ve watched their stuff since I was a kid. I’ve never really liked Mickey Mouse though. I’ve always preferred Bugs Bunny though he has a shady past when it comes to race issues but that’s for another time.
To be fair though Disney has made some good strides regarding producing more multicultural content. But they or the other big studios are not charities set up to look after the interests of black people worldwide. Who has more interest in seeing and producing more African and Black media content for kids? Disney, Pixar, Sony etc or the African/Black community? In whose interest is it that African, children of African descent and all children globally have access to quality media products that show the African/black story in a positive light? Disney or ours? Who is it critically more important for socially and culturally? Why leave this issue in the hands of corporations who don’t have a real vested interest in it? Does Disney care if a Yoruba cartoon exists? NO! And it shouldn’t. (this is where someone writes and tells me Disney did a Yoruba cartoon in 2004!)
We as the black community have to take responsibility over the issue of children‘s media for our children. I don’t expect Disney to do it. I don’t want Pixar to tell the African story. I don’t mind if they do. I’d probably watch it but that’s not the point. Who else can tell the African and black story in all it’s complexities better than we ourselves? Years ago big studios, TV stations and cinema chains controlled all the children’s cartoons, films that we used to consume and our access to them. Now, with the internet and new technology platforms that is not the case. There is a paradigm shift. I refuse to believe there isn’t enough talent , financial clout and resolve to develop and cater for our own markets. That’s crazy and sad in my opinion if that’s the case. But I don’t believe so.
African and black media companies have to do what Disney , Pixar, Marvel, etc did. Produce quality content that a market wants to see and build from that foundation. And the market has to support it. Every year the global black community invests millions indirectly or directly in Disney by buying it’s products. I have no problem with that. They make it extremely easy to do so. You can buy Disney products online, in shops, in planes, their films and series are in cinemas and TV networks and their toys are in the shops etc. But it has taken them many decades to get to this point.
We have to do the same. Stop complaining and produce and support the alternative children’s media properties that we say don’t exist. Actually we can keep complaining, I don‘t care. As long as action is been taken and we’re not waiting for someone else to do what we can viably do ourselves. Once we really start telling our stories, the world will listen, Disney included. We have to take the lead of Pioneers like Bill Cosby through to Dwayne Mcduffie. The issue is will it be done?
What are your thoughts on this? Am I wrong? Do you agree? Either way I’m happy to have the discussion.