My daughter's reaction to "Sing" reminded me of the importance of positive role models in children's entertainment.
In the midst of concerns over the cancellation of Disney’s animated series, “Doc McStuffins,” anchored by a Black girl doctor who treats toys and stuffed animals in her “clinic,” I couldn’t allow for that positive representation to be replaced with images — fictional, animated, or otherwise — with what “Blackish” actress and activist Yara Shahidi described in her speech at this year’s Points of Light Conference as narratives that “consciously and unconsciously perpetuate stereotypes by creating characters or casting people based on what a few in power seem to deem as believable.”
Shahidi also noted in her speech, “TV helps to define our collective reality.” This is true for movies as well, and especially with children who haven’t quite learned the difference between fact and fiction. Cartoons like “Doc McStuffins,” showing a girl in a position of power, strength, kindness and intelligence, have helped to shape the reality and perception of children, who because of positive representation, find it easy to imagine a woman president as head of state.
I am certain that the intent behind the making of “Sing” isn’t to regurgitate negative stereotypes or preserve an ugly history, but sometimes intent is short lived under the weight of perception.
Children’s entertainment should aim to be more inclusive, culturally competent and responsible about the images that are viewed by impressionable children who, in part, learn who they are based on what’s presented to them.
And the question in my child’s eyes and confusion on her face was a clear sign that her perception won this battle. There won’t be a rematch at the box office for this film, as my daughter and I will sit this one out.