A Variety report by Matt Donnelly and Chris Willman assures that Disney’s forthcoming Lady And The Tramp reboot (not “animated” but a blend of CG and live action) will be scrubbed clean of politically incorrect inferences and foul racist stereotyping.
I’n alluding to the notorious Siamese cat song, sung by the Asian-accented “Si” and “Am” (i.e., Peggy Lee) in the original 1955 animated feature (“We are Siamese if you please, we are Siamese if you don’t please”), and Disney’s decision to give it a p.c. makeover.
The tune is being rewritten by Janelle Monae, and the cats in the new version are “not Siamese,” according to the Variety story. That way progressive Asians (including those who made and celebrated the immaculately tasteful Crazy Rich Asians) won’t feel offended.
To explain p.c. objections to this 64-year-old song, Donnelly and Willman reference an influential Flavorwire essay titled “The Code Behind the Kitty: Unpacking the Racist Myth of the Siamese Cat.” The article was posted by Marcus Hunter on 6.13.13.
The piece noted that Si and Am are among “the most racist cartoon characters ever depicted on film,” and described them as “jaundiced and sly, slick and feral [and] domesticated, though nevertheless propelled by their mischievous, impish nature to deceive and intimidate.”
In other words, Si and Am denigrate Asians. They could also be regarded, I suppose, as animated cousins of Mickey Rooney’s Asian landlord in Breakfast at Tiffany’s as well as characterizations of what Secretary of State Dean Rusk once called “the yellow peril.”
Lee singing the Siamese cat song with an Asian accent is another offensive element, I presume, but if you’re going to depict talking Siamese cats in a family-friendly cartoon, is it really that terrible to make them sound as if they were born in Asia or come from an Asian family?
As for Si and Am being depicted as “sly”, “feral”, “impish” and “mischievous”…well, that’s what cats are like, right?
Cats are not disloyal or lacking in affection, but they’re not dogs. They have their own agendas and attitudes. Especially extra-smart, extra-shrewd Siamese cats. I live with one so don’t tell me. (Her name is Anya.) If she were to try and topple a glass fishbowl in order to eat a goldfish or attack the cage of a canary bird, she would do so out of basic instinct. It doesn’t make her evil — it makes her a cat.
Filed from Savannah on 10.31.18: A live-action CG-hybrid version of Lady and the Tramp was shooting in the Chippewa Square region of Savannah yesterday. The Disney production, which is calling itself Goodbye Stranger for some reason, had de-aged the area with the surrounding streets covered in soil. I noticed a dog-catcher wagon parked near the northern fence. Filming began on 9.10 and is expected to end on 11.7, or a week from today.
The voice actors are Tessa Thompson (Lady), Justin Theroux (Tramp), Janelle Monae, Ashley Jensen, Benedict Wong, Sam Elliott, Kiersey Clemons.
HE to a couple of heavyish, middle-aged production guys standing around: “What’s the show? Is it…?”
Employee #1: “It’s not a show — it’s a movie.”
Employee #2: “An animated movie.”
HE: “Well, whenever something is shooting in New York or Los Angeles they call it a ‘show.'”
Employee #2: “It’s called Goodbye Stranger.”
HE: “I heard it was Lady and the Tramp.”
Employee #1: “For now it’s Goodbye Stranger.”