God is Red

August 7, 2007

I rented Disney’s Peter Pan for my two children to watch. I chose it because it has pirates, who are high on Tom’s list of the absolute very best things. Like most of these old Disney movies, I’d seen Peter Pan, but not for many, many years. And, like others we’ve recently viewed, it is plagued with racist segments. This time it was the Indians. Do you remember the song “Why Is the Redman Red?” Well, it’s because years ago, an Indian princess kissed him, he blushed, and now he’s permanently red.

This time, the theatrics bothered me as I watched my two children, who are both at least partially Maya, soak up the white cartoon children dancing around among Indians made to look primitive, sexualized, and clownish.

I don’t know how my children see things, though. If you watch the video of the song, you’ll see that the big chief is the main narrator of the song’s tale. At about 00:45 in the video, he stands up and crosses his arms over his chest and does a little jig. Tom watched this and said to me, “Look Dad, it’s Jesus.” I said, “What?” He said, “It’s Jesus.”

It is very doubtful that Tom was making some theological point, but we do all see ourselves in Christ. That is the nature of the Messiah: salvific of all despite the man Jesus’ specific ethnicity, gender, etc.

Of course, God is red. That is why the redman is red.

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9 Responses to “God is Red”

  1. Little Mary Says:

    oh my god! what do you DO with all that information?

  2. sheepdays Says:

    These stupid movies are so complicated. I guess if I was a better parent, I wouldn’t let them watch movies or television at all. But Peter Pan is also about imagination, adventure, bravery, youth, and also responsibility. Plus, it’s fun to watch people fly around and fight pirates. So far, we’re letting them watch these things. I don’t know…

  3. Alex Says:

    I love you guys…

  4. Joy Says:

    HOpefully being a good parent is more about how we deal with questions about movies/television/and songs than about letting them watch and listen. I don’t think kids get all the complicated stuff. They are just enjoying watching “people fly around”. I think about all the songs I listened to and belt out in my room as a teenager. Now I listen to those songs and think…oohh my gosh, is that what that song was really about. I’m not a theologian so I don’t think about all the complicated stuff. Maybe thats good maybe thats not so good. I think we just need to have open communication with our kids so they are comfortable asking us about the “complicated stuff”. Just wait til they want to start watching pg-13 and R movies. uuuggghhh

  5. ale Says:

    I wonder how children internalize these things. Like Joy, I would like to think it is more about people flying around. I never made the “red indian”-Maya connection, I think I thought “red indians” were a thing of the movies, I was sure people weren’t that red 🙂 One thing I do remember is that I noticed that heros (like Johnny Quest) tended to be white and the sidekicks were either pets or people of a color other than white. So I guess, yeah, we did get the message that whiter was smarter…some message to feed our little Guatemalan minds. My parents did a lot of “parental control” on our daily encounters with people, but didn’t censor the cartoons we watched on TV. I think real life control mattered more in the end.

  6. sheepdays Says:

    Thanks, Joy and Ale, for your comments. I think “real life” will be more of an issue than cartoons as well.

  7. Scott and Carrie Cummings Says:

    Brett – we read your blog from time to time, to keep up with you guys and also to “listen” to your interesting thoughts on life, kids, theology, etc. We have noticed those same types of issues in the Disney stuff that our oldest, Jake, absolutely reveres. We first came across some really offensive “painted Indian” references in a Sing-a-long video that was cowboy-western themed – where Pecos Bill comes in. Scott remembers watching Pecos Bill as a kid, but wow! Watching it as adults- and people who are responsible for teaching our children the fine art of respecting differences and being sensitive and interested in other cultures- it was so embarrassing watching that with our then-3-year old and cringing. You get a big “Amen” from us!

  8. sheepdays Says:

    Hi Scott and Carrie! Welcome to my blog. I had that Pecos Bill record when I was a kid, and like Scott, I don’t remember anything untoward. How true that kids and adults see things differently.

  9. rdb Says:

    The original(?) Pecos Bill lines were in a song that told how Bill, once he grew up and became a cowboy, singlehandedly created some features of the American West. He was responsible, for example, for putting all the “gold in them thar hills”. My cousins and I listened many times to the 78 rpm records (the story was told by Roy Rogers accompanied by the Sons of the Pioneers) and collectively we can remember most of it. The lines I recall were as follows:

    Once a tribe of painted Indians did a war dance.
    Pecos started shootin’ up their little game.
    He gave them Redskins such a shakeup
    that they jumped out of their makeup.
    That’s the way the Painted Desert got its name.

    Obviously, the Indians had to be “painted” or that part of the story in the song wouldn’t have worked. Is the “new” video version different?


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