In the last 5 days, we have seen who will play Ariel in the upcoming “The Little Mermaid” movie and the trailer for “Mulan”. With both movies, there have been changes that a number of people either didn’t like or hated.
It got me thinking about just how much people can say they want change but resist it when it means they have to change the way they think. If most of us can acknowledge that a change is needed in society today, then it is important to first acknowledge why the status quo doesn’t work for all people.
Doing that requires an understanding of these three concepts: equity, representation and revisionist history.
So equity means that we provide people with what they need to succeed. It goes beyond treating everyone the same. Treating everyone the same way will not yield the same results since everyone doesn’t start at the same place. This ignores the access that comes with certain privileges that exist in our world today.
Equity requires a true understanding of the people you serve and or live next to. It’s hard work because it means that you will have to admit that your way isn’t the only way. It also means that you will have to admit that your way can SOMETIMES disadvantage others. Tough pill to swallow but true.
Everyone wants to be the hero in their story so everyone should have that opportunity. That’s where representation comes in. Representation refers to when people act, symbolize and advocate for a group of people. The idea here is to be seen, heard and understood because the representative provides insight into what’s going on in a community that may otherwise not have a voice.
Revisionist history is what occurs when we don’t factor in equity and representation and retell history in a way that sugarcoats facts, makes up stories, erases people and elevates false heroes for the sake of systemizing oppression and maintaining the status quo.
How does all this information apply to the two upcoming Disney films you may ask? Well, in the case of “The Little Mermaid”, her race wasn’t central to the story so to suggest that only one race gets to play that story is misinformed. Unless you can convince me that mermaids are real and white.
In the case of “Mulan” not having Mushu or music, don’t ignore that a lot of Chinese people felt like the animated Disney version trivialized and westernized a folk tale that is important to them. So if the live action version of Mulan is seeking to be more true to the Chinese culture, who are we to suggest otherwise?
So once again if you say that you really want change, the first thing to lose is your need to be comforted. Then you need to understand context or the circumstances that formed for certain events to occur.
Change requires looking in the mirror, acknowledging your privileges, fighting for equity, championing representation and telling the right stories.
If you want real change, change how you look at the world. Examine your heart, step outside of your head, and open your eyes.