Friday, February 18, 2005


Disney and the Caribs

According to Paul Lewis of the SVG Historical Society Disney executives insist that Caribs in Dominica be portrayed as cannibals. Adrian Fraser in his column (quoting Carib Chief Charles Williams) says that the scene will show Caribs roasting another Carib in the style of a barbecue. Furthurmore Disney people say the script cannot be changed.

That, of course, is nonsense. Scripts have been changed even with films in the can, if the change is necessary to market the film. And the easiest time to change a script is while it is just words on paper. What Disney doesn't understand is that a community that survived the attempted genocide by the British Empire is not likely to be fazed by a corporation that is dependent on popular approval.

Whether or not the Caribs roasted people, or even ate bits of them for ritual reasons, is, on the one hand, something for academics to argue about. Displaying it in a movie that is likely to be popular based on its predecessor is unnecessary promulgation of a racist myth for political purposes. A minor change in the script in which the europeans BELIEVE the Caribs are cannibals and in which the roastee is a european colonist, while the central characters discover, at the climax that the Yellow and Black Caribs are fierce freedom fighters defending their homes and independence would not only be much more acceptable to Caribbean academics, but would be considerably more acceptable to audiences in the Caribbean diaspora and the non-melanin-deficient international audience. And it would be a lot cheaper to change the script now, before any shooting, than to change the final cut after a lot of demonstrations.

There are lots of interesting questions about the Caribs that will be discussed in future blogs in this series. But it would be a useful thing if a lot of people showed that they care how the Garifuna and other peoples are portrayed in big production movies. It is too late in the twentyfirst century to slander an ethnic group simply out of ignorance and greed.

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