Carib Indians In Peter Pan

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Given the character that treatment of Native populations by European Imperialist and their descendants (the United States, in particular) has historically taken, is the Walt Disney Company a tool of racial and/or cultural hegemony? Certainly, the Walt Disney Company is no stranger to accusations of racism stemming from repeated negative portrayals of non-white characters in movies spanning across the many decades of the company’s history: African-Americans in Song of the South (1946), and American Indians in Peter Pan (1953). It seems as though the Walt Disney Company is unconcerned with these accusations, as evidenced by its recent portrayal of Carib Indians in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006). The name “Carib” was not used in the movie (the fictional name “Pelegostos” was used instead); however, whether the “Pelegostos” (Pelegostos is placed in quotation marks to indicate the name as euphemistic for Carib) were intended to represent Carib Indians or not, the Caribs, themselves, believed they were (Williams). As demonstrated by its persistently dehumanizing portrayal of non-white characters, the Walt Disney Company perpetuates the Euro (white)-centric lie discussed in Kathryn Anne Hudepohl’s article, “Consuming Culture: Extralocal Exchanges and Kalinago Identity on Dominica”: “500 years of Columbus a lie, yet we survive” (226). 1. Cannibals or Not In order to evaluate the issue of Disney’s portrayal of Carib Indians in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, the question of Carib cannibalism must first be addressed. The consensus seems to be that most ethnographic accounts of Carib cannibalism can be dismissed as justification for slavery and occupation (Moore 117, Myers 176); however, Neil L. Whitehead con... ... middle of paper ... ...lism is from the character of Shrimper when he enthusiastically tells Turner about “delicious long pork,” and closest portrayal of cannibalism is Jack Sparrows tentative nibble of toenail. It seems that while the filmmakers may not have offered an accurate portrayal of “Pelegostos” or Carib life, they may have inadvertently offered a relatively accurate portrayal of early European colonists’ misinterpretations of “Pelegostos” or Carib life. As stated previously, “Early chroniclers did not explore alternative interpretations of the circumstantial evidence for cannibalism. Bones might have been kept for religious reasons, or boiled and cleaned for use as tools, household items, or musical instruments” (Myers 177); however, a more accurate portrayal of the indigenous people would have been contrary to the implicit goal of the filmmakers: to entertain and make money.

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