After years of being told they aren’t doing enough with their platform, the Disney company is trying to revive its cultural authenticity.
This year for Black History Month, the company launched a “Celebrate soul-fully” campaign, promising a “variety of soul-stirring experiences in February 2022 in honor of Black History Month.”
This includes bringing more live entertainment to theme parks, paying tribute to jazz music with murals, and rebooting some beloved Black centered television shows, including “The Proud Family,” now dubbed as being “louder and prouder,” according to Disney.
“I think it is hugely beneficial to have a show that features a racially diverse cast,” said college student Sophie Lefkoe. “Especially when it’s marketed towards children.”
The original show debuted in 2001 and ran for a short three seasons but did not go unnoticed. The series won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 2003 and a BET Comedy Award for an Outstanding Animated Series.
Personally, I was obsessed with this show. I specifically remember making time to watch the “Proud Family Movie” premier on a family vacation to the beach. It was high stakes. The show taught me so many new things that I never would have been exposed to otherwise, such as what Kwanza is like, and why having a racially diverse friend group is a powerful and wonderful thing. I am beyond ready to catch up with the characters I have been missing for years.
Others are too.
“I watched it a lot growing up,” said recent Castleton University grad Katie Saunders. “I think it is really important to introduce children to cultural differences.”
But some people feel the release during Black History Month feels too much like a shameless plug for viewership.
“Yeah, I feel it’s a little gimmicky,” said Lefkoe. “However, it’s also just smart marketing. They know it will get more attention if it is released during the month of February.”
Saunders agrees but urges the company to keep it going.
“If [Disney] only puts effort into marketing it during Black History Month, they could be viewed as trying to market in a way that plays off the struggles of minorities,” Saunders said. “Much how like some companies use Pride Month and change their logo and pump out products geared toward LGBT+ people but don’t market that way for the rest of the year.”
Adam Mitchell, a Castleton senior, has a different opinion.
“I’m upset that companies only represent other cultures when they are under the public eye, such as during Black History Month,” said Mitchell. “It feels as though if it weren’t such a special occasion, it wouldn’t happen in the first place.”
Mitchell also agreed with Saunders that companies use these same tactics during Pride Month, just for monetary gain.
But all of those interviewed said a show geared toward kids, with such a culturally diverse cast, is refreshing.
“A diverse cast is representative of a diverse world,” said Mitchell. “Without representations of other cultures, people, and ideas, a lack of diversity will lead to bigotry and ignorance.”