Walt Disney’s cartoons are casually Anti-Semitist. Hi, hello, and welcome; I’m here to ruin your childhood. We’ve all heard about Anti-Semitism in the most obvious ways: the Holocaust, Anti-Jewish sentiment in America, etc. However, microaggressions and stereotypes are often less talked about because they are not as blatant. You may have noticed that many of the villains in Disney movies have a similar range of characteristics, both appearance-wise and behavioral: abnormally large noses, poofy and curly hair, dark features, overbearing and bossy, greedy and stingy with money, evil. Sounds vaguely familiar, right? That’s because all the aforementioned features are associated with the negative stereotyping of Jewish people.
Let’s start with the infamous Disney production, Tangled, which is a comedic movie following a blonde girl with exceptionally long and magical hair who is stolen by the evil antagonist, Mother Gothel, for the magic in her golden locks. Mother Gothel then keeps Rapunzel, the heroine, locked in a tower for the majority of her early childhood and adolescent life. However, Rapunzel meets a strapping, young criminal named Flynn Rider, learns about the real world, eventually escapes Mother Gothel’s firm grip and gets back to her family, and of course, lives happily ever after. Oh, and I should mention that Mother Gothel was being kept young by the gift of Rapunzel’s magical gold locks and when Flynn chopped her hair, causing it to turn brown and lose its gift, Mother Gothel shrivels up into an old hag. Luckily, Flynn is into brunettes as he mentions to Rapunzel before their heartwarming ever after.
Now, this may seem like a sweet movie, but in reality, the entire plot alludes to the blood libel, which was an ancient Anti-Semitist accusation that Jews would kidnap Christian children and use their blood for rituals. This is analogous to the entire Tangled film because Mother Gothel is meant to be portraying a Jewish person. Take a look at her physical appearance: she has a large, hooked nose and dark curly hair, which is all too similar to the Anti-Jewish cartoons of the 1900s. To really understand this, you have to think about these features being used in caricatures and political cartoons to demonize Jews and mock their appearance. Anyways, Gothel is depicted as greedy and evil because she steals Rapunzel for the gift of her hair, which is almost an exact mirror match of the blood libel allegation. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, right?
Mother Gothel is just one example of the many Disney villains who look stereotypically Jewish. Captain Hook, with his large and crooked nose, unruly and dark curly hair, insatiable greed for gold, and habit of kidnapping children. You can’t forget how his blood is an untoward color that scares him, too. Although not quite as much of an obvious allusion to the blood libel, it sounds excruciatingly familiar. Stereotypically-Jewish antagonist kidnaps children, is greedy for gold, and has weird blood. It really makes you think.
Now, let’s think about the potential impact. Children, particularly Jewish children, watching these movies are learning that these features (dark curly hair, bigger/hooked noses), which are inherently Jewish features, are ugly and inhuman. Not to mention the idea that all Jews are inherently greedy and bossy and that Jewish women are domineering and overbearing is detrimental to everyone. So, if Walt Disney’s cartoons are not Anti-Semitist, why put these ideas in movies that impressionable children watch and why use stereotypical Jewish features and Anti-Semitist concepts to demonize the antagonist? What the actual fuck, Disney?