Culture Clips: Is ‘VeggieTales’ Racist?

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veggietales

Hardly a week goes by these days without something somewhere in popular culture offending someone, it seems. Several more such stories made the rounds on the internet the last few days. And this week’s list includes a couple of surprising new “offenders.”

Starting with VeggieTales.

Yeah, that’s right, Bob, Larry and the gang have apparently touched a nerve. One student participating in the “Whiteness Forum” at California State University San Marcos called out the popular Christian animated franchise as a cultural influence that could be construed as racist. She said that the villains tended to have ethnic accents while the heroes sounded white. “When kids see the good white character triumph over the bad person of color character they are taught that white is right and minorities are the source of evil.” (Never mind that Bob and Larry were both vegetables of color—red and green respectively.)

Another student called out the NFL as racist since most coaches and owners are white and most players are black (as reported in the same article on The College Fix).

Meanwhile, USA Today reports that the all-male Princeton University a capella group The Princeton Tigertones has decided to stop performing the song “Kiss the Girl” from Disney’s 1989 film The Little Mermaid. Writing in The Daily Princetonian, Noa Wollstein said, “Even when gently crooned by an animated crab, the song “Kiss The Girl,” from the Disney hit The Little Mermaid, is more misogynistic and dismissive of consent than cute.”

While we’re on the subject of songs and sexual harassment, seems not everyone is onboard with banning the controversial song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which some have interpreted as subtly promoting date rape. San Francisco radio station KOIT asked listeners for feedback regarding whether the station should keep playing the song. The station’s outreach through polling, phone calls, email and social media found that 77% of its listeners opposed banning the song. KOIT Program Director Brian Figula said of the findings,

KOIT’s listeners have spoken, and the overwhelming message is they do want to hear ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ on our station, as they have throughout the years. More than seven out of every ten listeners who responded said although some lyrics of the song may reflect a different era and a different sensibility than today, still they love the tradition and history of the song, and want to hear it as part of their holiday season.

Similarly, when an online, unscientific poll by a New York CBS affiliate asked, “Should ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ be banned from radio?” 96% of respondents said, “No.”

Controversy also swirled around comedian Kevin Hart this week. For about 24 hours, Hart basked in the warm glow of friendly publicity surrounding him as the choice to host next year’s Oscar broadcast. Until, that is, tweets from 2009 to 2011 surfaced that many interpreted as being homophobic. Hart quickly withdrew from hosting.

While some in the culture, including Variety’s Owen Gleiberman, felt Hart was the wrong person to host the prestigious awards broadcast, others expressed concern about the aftermath of Hart’s decision to step down. National Review’s Ben Shapiro noted that the real issue here was less Hart’s “homophobia” than the comedian’s intent to raise his children by traditional values. He writes,

Now, there’s been a lot written about the puritanism of social media these days—the willingness to destroy people’s lives and reputations based on statements made years ago in jest, without nasty intent. But there’s a deeper problem many on the radical left have with Hart’s statements: He is imposing his own values on his child. This is a no-no. Parenting from a traditional values-based perspective is a threat to children, according to these radicals.

And Ellie Bufkin at The Federalist noted that applying a similar standard of judgment to other comedians immediately eliminates a whole bunch more who’ve said racist, sexist or homophobic things previously in their careers, including Tiffany Haddish, Donald Glover, Sarah Silverman and John Stewart, among others. Past hosts who’d now be DQed include Chris Rock, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel.

Elsewhere this week, CBS’s 60 Minutes aired a story about “groundbreaking” research on the effect of screen time on children. Psychologist and CBS News contributor Lisa Damour said of the  findings,

We know it triggers the reward centers in the brain. And this is true for grownups too, not teenagers and kids. We also know that digital technology disrupts things that are important for healthy development—so sleep, one-on-one interactions that are face-to-face, learning how to focus on one’s schoolwork, physical activity. So we should already start to be drawing some lines around digital technology, just to protect normal and healthy development.

Believe it or not, there were other newsy things this week that didn’t have to do with bans, controversy or screen time.

Actresses Nicole Kidman and Amy Adams talked candidly about their concerns regarding their children watching some of the explicit movies and TV shows they’ve been a part of. And Aquaman star Jason Momoa told Fox News that protecting his children from the effects of his fame turns him “into a bit of a different animal.”

Over in the hip-hop world, Chance the Rapper has decided to take a sabbatical to study the Bible, saying via Instagram, “I’m going away to learn the Word of God which I am admittedly very unfamiliar with. I’ve been brought up by my family to know Christ but I haven’t taken it upon myself to really just take a couple days and read my bible.”

And if you were afraid that interest in the Avengers film franchise was waning, well, it isn’t. The arrival of the first trailer for the fourth and (presumably) final entry in the franchise, Avengers: Endgame, set a new record for number of views in its first 24 hours: 289 million, according to Marvel Studios (as reported by Variety).

Finally, if you’re looking for something new, interesting and funny online, we invite you to check out Focus on the Family’s new short-form comedy seriesThe Elephant in the Room.”

Who wrote this?

Adam R. Holz is a senior associate editor for Plugged In. He also writes for Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine and has been a Boundless contributor. In his free time (which there is sometimes precious little of) Adam enjoys playing guitar and constructing LEGO kits with his son. Adam and his wife, Jennifer, are the proud parents, in fact, of three children, one boy and two girls.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Most criminals who are on the news for raping or stabbing or kidnapping people tend to be black or Hispanic, so it makes sense that Veggietales would follow suit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
That's some GR8 B8 M8 I R8 8/8, No H8.

-Evan
Apryl Newkirk More than 1 year ago
Although I think there has been a tiny bit of oversensitivity, I kind of understand where the college student is coming from. I loved Veggie Tales when I was growing up and I watched it into my teen and college years. However, when I start seeing the blue, green, and orange eyes on the show, it turned me off. At first, I thought it was just me, but I asked the rest of my family who used to be serious Veggie Tale watchers. They had the same feelings. Despite, the accents, Veggie Tales were about vegetables going about their daily life learning morals and Biblical lessons. However, the coloring of the eyes me made really think, "Bob and Larry really are white and so are the rest of characters." That's fine, but it's disappointing. I would think Veggie Tales would grow with the times and actually be more aware of diversity and other issues of the day. As a kid, I love VT for its relevancy, timeliness, and stories. Maybe some nostalgia is talking too, but as a person of color I find the new Veggie Tales leaves a bad taste in my mouth and brought to life some concerns I never considered. VT may not be intentionally racist, but it's not reflecting and respecting the various taste and colors of all vegetables like it should.  
Julienne Dy More than 1 year ago
The Scallions were British.  The Peas were French.  Mr. Nezzer sounded like...Oogie Boogie, I think?  Those are standard villain accents.  Also, Mr. Nezzer didn't play the villain all the time.  He played "Gandalf" in Lord of the Beans.  Okay, Mr. Lunt has been cast as a bad guy a couple of times, and he's got an admittedly ethnic-sounding accent, but outside of those roles, he's an all-around loveable character.
Rocketshipper More than 1 year ago
Better be careful ^_^.  Calling any accent a "standard villain accent" could be construed as racist.  no ethnicity/race is a standard villain.  

But of course those two accents in particular would not be considered "people of color".  British and French are both "white" by today's standards.  Mr. Lunt seems like he is supposed to be from some Latin origin country though.  
Julienne Dy More than 1 year ago
I don't know.  British actors seem to pride themselves on being comfortable playing villains, something that Jaguar capitalized back in the day.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fun Fact: Mr. Nezzer was actually modeled after Oogie Boogie from Nightmare Before Christmas (In fact, that's the reason he wasn't in the Netflix show was because they couldn't find a black actor to play him and Dreamworks has a policy where you need to share your ethnicity with the character you voice or something like that.)

Also Mr. Lunt (who is my favorite character BTW) was modeled after Cheech Marin, I think?

-Evan
Julienne Dy More than 1 year ago
Hold it.  Oogie Boogie was black?  I mean, I guess he could be black, but all I was getting from the voice was that he was some kind of Southern.  There are white Southern people (stating the obvious).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well, Oogie Boogie was voiced by Ken Page and based his voice of Levi Stubb's performance as the plant from Little Shop of Horrors, both of whom are black musicians.

So, in other words: A dark green plant inspired a brown burlap sack monster inspired a dark green plant. Funny how these things come full circle, don't they?

-Evan
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How could I have forgotten to mention that the French Peas were parodies of the French Knights from Monty Python! That was something that made me really enjoy them more after discovering that fact.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Regarding the VeggieTales thing: I’m a little puzzled by how much attention this is getting. This was one college student who said something silly during a forum at a state college. College students, almost by definition, say dopey things sometimes. Why is this one being magnified to the point that it’s getting national attention?

 

It especially bothers me because it plays into the whole “culture wars” narrative that’s polarizing our country. Fanning those flames divides us further. We should be uniting in support of our cherished democratic institutions – not getting outraged about a student who said something ludicrous.

 

-- The Kenosha Kid 

Lyn Chartowich More than 1 year ago
Okay, world, you're going overboard. Why does every little seemingly racist mistake or such get every one so riled up? The same thing might happen to someone with light skin, and it'd be supposedly FINE. But if the "victim" has dark skinned, it's suddenly a huge problem. I just don't get it.
Miss Priss More than 1 year ago
It's ironic that LGBTQ advocates call for tolerance, and yet lack any tolerance for viewpoints that don't align with their own. If someone doesn't agree with or approve of an alternate lifestyle, that person should be able to say so without being labelled as a bigot or someone using hate-speech.  
Rocketshipper More than 1 year ago
Maybe it is a bit of a paradox but it isn't inconsistent.  When the world values "tolerance" then the greatest "sin" of all is "intolerance", and "intolerance" of "intolerance" is ok.  I.E. everyone is free to believe and live however they want, the ONLY thing that is wrong is to tell someone else they are wrong.  That will not be tolerated.
Anonymous 8 months ago
Sure.  And people should be able to disapprove of blacks without being called racist.  Right?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I hate Netflix's reboot of VeggieTales. They make everyone and everything too goofy. It feels too different from the original shows. Once the show even had a piece of bacon as a character. Nevertheless, I feel that the student's claim that VeggieTales is racist lacks evidence and it doesn't help that the student doesn't actually reference specific characters or episodes. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While he's at it, Chance should learn how to rap...
David The Clown