Happy Black History Month, dear readers! This month has always meant a lot to me on a personal level. Being a Black person, I’ve witnessed erasure of our achievements, dismissal of our problems, and omissions of us from opportunities. These types of slights often expand into nerd media, where representation is already scant. In that spirit, I want to discuss an issue that makes the existing representation troubling. We need to stop giving non-human characters Black traits to code them as “other”, as alien from the protagonist and audience. These characters, rather than just being another character in a group, are specifically different or strange.
So my husband and I have been continuing our Disney marathon, and while we were watching I discovered something: The Lion King actually has a lot of racist themes, especially in regards to the hyenas. I think some people tend to not think of the movie as racist because it is set in Africa and launched a successful musical that features a huge cast of Black actors—which are all great things on their own. I love the musical and I still love the Lion King movie, but the movie actually has a ton of issues from casting to racial coding.