Disney movies are well-known for their emotional and catchy soundtracks.
Phil Collins didn’t have to go so hard on the Tarzan soundtrack, but he did that for us. Frozen’s “Let It Go” was one of the most popular songs of 2014 thanks to Idina Menzel’s powerful vocals. Disney songs give us hope and courage to accomplish our dreams (thanks “Go the Distance”), and quotable lyrics that are fun to do karaoke to (yes I’m talking about “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You”).
But of course, not every song is full of rainbows and sunshine.
And I’m not just talking about villain songs, because those can also be a bop (personal favorite: “Poor Unfortunate Souls”). Villain songs are different because, as with the typical songs throughout each movie, it introduces an individual’s character and their motives. Typically, this involves dark tones, evil smirking, and crazy light effects. But, I’m talking about the songs that has some pretty cringy lyrics; the songs we sang when we were younger because we didn’t know their meanings or implications. If Disney can easily kill off villains AND parents like they’re nothing, questionable song lyrics shouldn’t be too far off either.
Here are a few songs from popular Disney films that can turn heads when you really pay attention.
What Makes The Red Man Red? – Peter Pan (1953)
The beat brings you in but the way indigenous people are portrayed is in very poor taste. Yes friends, these are racist stereotypes. The film came under fire for such portrayals but considering we’re not any closer to treating indigenous people like actual people who lived here waaaaay before colonizers now than we were then, you could say some people stopped paying attention to this.
Ev’rybody Wants To Be A Cat – The Aristocats (1970)
This song is doing so well until 1:45. Behold, racist Chinese stereotypes! It’s pretty self-explanatory as to why this is offensive, cringy, and downright wrong. It’s insulting their accents and culture with the purposefully mispronounced words and the use of chopsticks for piano playing. All I can say is, why does this exist?
Hellfire – The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Personally, I feel like this is the anthem for trash entitled men everywhere. When you’re not caught up in the cool dramatic music you notice what Frollo is singing. Basically he says, “Esmerelda, either be with me or die.” This song shows the extreme of his chastity vs. lust theme in that it displays more of a “If I can’t have you no one can” attitude. Add some hell themes with some Church Latin lyrics and you have this guy singing in front of the fire he wants to kill Esmerelda with.
Savages – Pocahontas (1995)
All right. I don’t know how this came to fruition but this song is intense to say the least. The Englishmen are going to way with the indigenous people (otherwise known as “savages” throughout the movie) with the inspiration of Radcliff starting this song. He calls them “heathens” with skin that’s “hellish red” and “vermin.” Meanwhile, on the other side of the land the indigenous people just want the “pale face” to leave. Killing Kocoum was the last straw, as they showed how they’re “barely even human.” I love this song solely because of all the theatrics put into this portion of the movie. But, it needs to be recognized that while this movie isn’t an accurate portrayal, the names and views of the Englishmen regarding the indigenous people are pretty clear here and throughout history.
As with other songs from out childhood, Disney songs aren’t exempt from presenting problematic images and lyrics.
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Cute and Depressed Black Girl is a grad student who binges anime when she's supposed to be studying. She also reads and re-reads a lot of Gambit x Rogue fanfic after watching the Cajun Spice episode of X-Men Evolution multiple times. When she's not reading or binging, she's in the dance studio getting her queen on.