Disney and Racial Stereotypes: Where are the Jews?

So many people grow up on Disney films. Their messages aren’t something we think about on a regular basis, if ever. But when you do think about messaging in Disney’s media, you tend to notice that beyond the surface, Disney is promoting oddly racist and sexist messages to their young viewers.

The manner in which Disney represents racial stereotypes and the frequency with which they portray these characters paints a startling picture of how the media giant views non-white communities. And these views get passed on to the children who view these films and, through social learning, become internalized as norms. 

One of the film giant’s favorite techniques to absolve itself of any guilt is by framing its films as true stories. Movies such as Pocahontas relate marginally to real-world stories, just enough that the average person wouldn’t question the content. But what Disney excels at is changing details about the historical timeline and adjusting facts to fit the desired narrative that even though the sense of historicism remains, any inkling of fact is wiped away. 

One of their similar excuses comes from the source of many of the stories depicted in the films, being European folklore. For instance, Sleeping Beauty is a story that traces back to renaissance era Italy. When Disney chooses to make films like this, based off of old fairy tales, many feel that the company can be absolved of guilt because the story is staying true to the original source material, rather than updating for the times.

One thing, that I have personally noticed about both Disney and intellectual discussions about Disney and inclusion, is that Jewish people are decidedly absent. There are next to no Jewish characters, or identifiably Jewish characters, in any Disney movies. And in discussions about inclusion, Jews are mentioned as infrequently for their exclusion as they are excluded. This notion extends beyond the realm of Disney and discussions surrounding it as well, but the absence of Jewish characters and discussion about Jewish identity provides a disservice to the community and to the rest of the audience. Because of the exclusion from the media, many gentiles grow up with little to no knowledge of true Jewish identity.

Without this education of Jewish life, the problems of that community become nonissues and sometimes even falsehoods in the eyes of others. This symbolic annihilation leads to the independent formation of ideas or the gathering of ideas that may or may not have any semblance of reality. And these ideas can sometimes radicalize into ideas that entice people to commit acts of terror against Jewish people.

Who knows? Maybe I should be happy that Jews haven’t been depicted much in Disney films. Walt Disney was a notorious anti-semite. No representation might just be better than the negative stereotypes that plagues early Disney short cartoons in the 1930s.

SGA candidates discuss parking, safety in town hall

Anticipating the upcoming general election at UNT, the Student Government Association held a town hall meeting Tuesday in the University Union where students could ask candidates questions about issues facing the university.

The three presidential and vice presidential candidates took questions from students both on Twitter and in the audience, giving their various opinions. Students’ questions ranged from issues with student parking to safety on campus.

Running mates Tiffany Miller and Mia Muric drew upon their involvement in various sexual violence awareness organizations to describe how they planned to handle sexual assault on campus.

“We would continue to attend those meetings as well as finding out what we can grasp from those meetings and bring out to students,” Muric said. “We were intending to expand upon the sexual assault awareness month and have that for the spring semester and the fall semester.”

The other two candidacy teams said they also hope to push awareness and raise student confidence and decrease shame, through the Student Wellness Center in Chesnut Hall. Running mates Roberto Navarro and Steven Maldonado placed a heavy emphasis on this.

“A lot of students don’t know about [these services],” Navarro said. “They don’t know where to go. They don’t know who to talk to. There are students who have already gone through this. They can give testimonies and provide support, and this exists on campus: student-to-student support. But it needs to be known on campus.”

Navarro and Maldonado said that they want to increase campus safety after dark, by increasing the quantity of the UNT police emergency phone stations across campus. They also said that they would like to create more lighting around campus and make the lighting more technologically advanced by means of motion sensors.

Barrett Cole and Lisa Umeh also said that they want to increase the amount of lighting on campus but want to consider more long-term, permanent solutions. They said they hope to do so in conjunction with the City of Denton’s transportation committee rather than the temporary lighting the university has erected in the lots near Victory Hall.

“I met with the city and their transportation safety committee and all those lights are technically city property,” Cole said. “It’s important for us to make sure that they know what students are going through every day, and that includes lots of follow-up.”

Miller and Muric, on the other hand, want to have the university police force patrol the parking lots at night more frequently and add security cameras to buildings that don’t currently have them. To accomplish this, they suggest increasing the student transportation fees, which they said haven’t changed in 14 years.

Miller and Muric also expressed a desire to address the parking issue on campus, citing that parking at UNT has been an issue long before either of them became students.

Miller, herself, has worked for the Parking and Transportation Department at UNT and recalled an incident in which she noticed a faculty and staff lot, between two student dorms, that was often empty and suggested to her superiors that the lot be changed to an Eagle Annual student lot. She said that within two weeks, the department made the changes she suggested. She has also introduced legislation to SGA in the past that suggested the elongation of the night time e-ride hours.

“We just want to park and go to class,” Miller said. “We understand that. And our goal in relations to faculty and administration is to make them understand.”

Maldonado said that although the team hasn’t done anything tangible to deal with the parking issue yet, they have arranged a meeting with Geary Robinson, director of transportation services.

Umeh and Cole said one of the largest issues with the parking system is that there is little to no communication between students and those who make vital decisions. They said more students’ voices need to be heard, and to do so they suggested adding more student representatives to the City of Denton’s transportation committees.

All three candidacy teams seemed to share one sentiment, that UNT is much greater than it seems. Miller discussed the fantastic departments, faculty, and colleges within the UNT system, while Maldonado expressed his hope for the future of UNT’s athletic programs. Umeh said that it all starts with students and the pride they hold in their own school.

Election Day is weird.

Election Day is weird.

It’s weird as a voter. It’s weird as a candidate. It’s weird for the winners and it’s weird for the losers. But it’s especially weird as a press photographer.

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We start our day bright and early. (Actually now that Daylight Savings screwed up my sleep, dark and early.) Out to the polls for a basic sunrise shot of lines of eager voters, excited to cast their ballots for candidates they either feel strongly about or strongly against. And in today’s polarized political climate, “strong” is an understatement.

It’s nothing special, but it starts the day.

For the most part after this, polling places are left to the reporters most of the day. Driving around checking the last of the county’s other polling locations takes a couple more hours out of my day.

I check my watch—it’s 10 a.m. What do I do now?

It’s a good thing I brought a pillow with me to work today because photo studios are much more relaxing when you’ve woken up at 5 a.m. A quick nap and a couple hours of boondoggling, and before I know it it’s 6 p.m. Time for election pizza. It’s a classic staple of newsrooms around the country. But for some reason, my day is just beginning.

7 o’clock means early voting numbers are soon to be released. So I mosey on over to a candidate party which, luck would have it, is hosting almost every Republican candidate in the county. Talk about killing eight birds with one stone.

This bar is my headquarters for the night. Grab a table near an outlet. Set up my laptop. Invite other press to share in the space (Gotta make friends with someone who understands). And wait for the results of “the most important election of our lifetime” to unravel. Here’s the thing: every election is always the most important of our lifetime, at least according to that cycle’s candidates.

As the night goes on, cheers and boos ring out as republicans and democrats win and lose throughout the country. But the biggest cheers come when local races get called.

Blending in is hard. I’m one of few people not wearing the color red. I’m carrying around 2 big cameras with big lenses on them. My press passes are jangling by the carabiner on my belt. I’m a walking target. The enemy of the people, as we’ve been called. I can assure you right now, I’m not here to make enemies with anyone. I’m just here to do my job and take some pictures of the party. But some people don’t understand that.

NBC News is on TV. Spectators grumble, asking “Why is NBC on? They hate us!” Someone goes to the manager for a channel change. Fox News is on now. “Much better,” they say.

As I meander through the crowd eyeing candidates, I have to make sure I get the shot I need before they see me and either run or shoot me a dirty look. It’s the strangest game of cat and mouse I’ve ever played. At larger parties for big-time candidates, it’s harder to run from a team of photographers all vying for photos. But in these local races at intimate parties, I’m one of two or three and I stick out like a sore thumb.

I grumble to myself most of the night about how the lighting sucks or I wish the candidate would step into the light just once. Bars are dark. The party goes on like this for some time.

It’s early in the night, maybe 9:30. Texas is a red-voting state. Candidates are ready to make their victory speeches. This is a quick opportunity to get some good photos of each candidate. Except for one thing. They all expected to win. Nobody is really flush with excitement. There are no screams of joy. These victories aren’t an upset, just business as usual. Most are expected victories. So the challenge here is to make the same angle look interesting in 8 different ways. Yikes.

The party is winding down now, so it’s time to race back to the newsroom. Deadline is approaching. Shooting RAW is great and all, but nothing beats the turnaround time for deadline than a JPEG with some noise reduction. Quick edits. Quick cutlines. And I’m done. Cold pizza is waiting for me, my favorite. No, really.

The rest of the newsroom is scrambling to make some calls and pump out their stories, edit copy and design the pages. But I’ve been around all day. I was first to get in this morning—by a large margin I’d like to remind you—and I’ll be first to leave at night.

I told you, Election Day is weird.

Beto calls for voter turnout, urges unity

Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks to Denton County residents Saturday during a town hall event at Backyard on Bell in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC

Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks to Denton County residents Saturday during a town hall event at Backyard on Bell in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC

DENTON — Democrat Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke held a town hall rally Saturday at Backyard on Bell, fresh off the heels of a wave of favorable polls in the contentious Senate race.

O’Rourke is campaigning to unseat incumbent and former presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz who has held the seat since assuming office in 2013.

Traditionally a deeply republican state, Democrats are hoping to gain political ground in a fight for a “blue wave,” and thus far are beginning to see potential results. Recent polls show Cruz ahead by as much as nine points and as little as one point.

Democrats credit this polling surge to a grassroots campaign which has seen O’Rourke making campaign stops in all 254 of Texas’s counties. During his fifth Denton appearance since announcing his candidacy, the El Paso congressman urged Denton residents not only to get out and vote, but not to take the back seat on issues important to them.

Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks to Denton County residents Saturday during a town hall event at Backyard on Bell in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC

Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks to Denton County residents Saturday during a town hall event at Backyard on Bell in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC

Amber Briggle is a long-time Denton resident who vocalized her support for Beto’s positions on equality.

“He spoke about immigrants,” she said. “He talked about the LGBTQ community. He talked about equity and education. It’s equal rights for all. I’m kind of a fan of that.”

 Erica Ortega, on the other hand, is less familiar with O’Rourke’s platform.

“I want to know more about his [stance on] immigration reform, the children in cages,” she said. “And also, what he plans to do with education. I work with children who have special needs, and I really want to know what he plans to help reform not only the United States but especially Texas.”

O’Rourke’s campaign stop drew an estimated 2500 people to the outdoor music venue, according to bar staff. After the venue and indoor bar reached capacity, locals surrounded the area, hurled themselves on top of fences and sat on the curb across the street at the Denton Civic Center.

But despite large turnout for the town hall, some admit there is more work to be done to ensure a “blue wave.”

Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks to Denton County residents Saturday during a town hall event at Backyard on Bell in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC

Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks to Denton County residents Saturday during a town hall event at Backyard on Bell in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC

“I think there’s a lot of excitement,” Briggle said. “I think the challenge for every candidate of any political background is just to make sure that your supporters get to the polls. We can talk about a blue wave. We can talk about keeping Texas red. But what it really, ultimately comes down on who can get people out to vote.”

Despite democratic push for a “blue wave,” O’Rourke sends a different message when it comes to the political demographics of Texas.

“This is not going to be a blue wave,” he said. “This is not about changing the partisan color of the state. This is about making sure that every single one of us—republican, independent and democrat—is represented in the United States Senate.”

Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks during a press conference before going on stage for a town hall event at Backyard on Bell in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC

Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks during a press conference before going on stage for a town hall event at Backyard on Bell in Denton, Texas. Jake King/DRC