Disney is replacing a racist song from the “Lady and the Tramp” in favor of a new track for its live-action remake releasing later this year.
The controversial number, titled “The Siamese Cat Song,” was originally performed by Peggy Lee, who played multiple characters in the 1955 classic such as the human Darling and the Tibetan Spaniel Peg.
Lee also voiced two villainous Siamese cats called Si and Am, who appeared to portray the racist caricatures of Asians at the time, especially with their big buck teeth.
In “The Siamese Cat Song,” Si and Am sing in choppy English with a mock Asian accent, backed by oriental musical elements such as the gong and rhythmic drumming.
The song includes lines in its lyrics such as “We are Siamese if you please, we are Siamese if you don’t please,” suggesting the duplicitous and vicious stereotyping of Asians in the 1950’s.
In 2004, Disney released a cover of the track performed by Hilary Duff and Haylie Duff for the “Disneymania 2” album.
A 2013 analysis of the song claimed that Si and Am represented the post-World War II anxiety America had about the foreign “other.”
“Si and Am move in perfect symmetry; they have no individuality; their innocent blue eyes bend into a sinister glare as they cave at the slant. They are jaundiced and sly; sick and feral; domesticated, though nevertheless propelled by their mischievous, impish nature to deceive and intimidate,” wrote author Marcus Hunter on Flavorwire.
In lieu of the controversial song, Grammy winner Janelle Monáe — who will voice Peg — will write a completely new track, according to Variety.
The outlet also reported that “the pair” will no longer be Siamese cats, suggesting that Si and Am will likely be dropped from the live-action cast.
Disney has been using live-action remakes to address issues in original pictures. Just recently, the studio removed the racist character Jim Crow from “Dumbo”.
“Lady and the Tramp” stars Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux as the titular canine couple. The film debuts with the launch of Disney Plus on Nov. 12.
Many people might not know this, but NextShark is a small media startup that runs on no outside funding or loans, and with no paywalls or subscription fees, we rely on help from our community and readers like you.
Everything you see today is built by Asians, for Asians to help amplify our voices globally and support each other. However, we still face many difficulties in our industry because of our commitment to accessible and informational Asian news coverage.
We hope you consider making a contribution to NextShark so we can continue to provide you quality journalism that informs, educates, and inspires the Asian community. Even a $1 contribution goes a long way. Thank you for supporting NextShark and our community.