Over the past decade or so, Disney has had great success in translating classic fantasy stories into real-action movies. His last attempt at a live fantasy box office hit is Dolittle starring Robert Downey Jr. as Dr. Dolittle. Although the movie’s trailers seem quite harmless, viewers might be surprised to learn that Dr. Dolittle’s character has surprisingly racist origins.
Why are Dolittle books so controversial?
The Encyclopedia Britannica says that the Dolittle series began a century ago when British author Hugo Lofting published The story of Dr. Dolittle in 1920. The book was a success. It led to several more published sequels over the next 28 years. The popular sequel of 1922 Dr. Dolittle’s Travels He won a prestigious Newbery Medal. Cinema Blend Reports Travels served as the basis for Robert Downey Jr.’s version of Dolittle.
Beloved at that time, books have become infamous in later years. According to the British attitudes of the 1920s, the content of these books is very racist towards blacks. The representation of Prince Bumpo, a black prince, is particularly annoying.
According to Washingtonian, The story of Dr. Dolittle It includes a scene in which the prince expresses his desire to turn white. The New York Times says that Bumpo wanted to turn white so that Sleeping Beauty, the beloved princess of fairy tales, was willing to marry him. Dr. Dolittle reluctantly agrees to help Bumpo change the color of his skin by bleaching it white.
How the Dolittle franchise has dealt with its past
Such a story is completely abhorrent to modern sensibilities. Even the publishers of the Dolittle books are aware of how they have aged horribly with regard to racial problems. The New York Times reports that a new edition of the books of the 1980s eliminated racial epithets, offensive illustrations of black characters and the aforementioned skin whitening scene. If you are familiar with Dolittle’s books, it is very likely that you have been exposed to these disinfected editions rather than the originals.
Has Dr. Dolittle’s awkward story overshadowed the character’s popularity? No. AllMovie reports that, in a dramatic and subversive turn of fate, a black actor, Eddie Murphy, assumed the role of the doctor in a 1998 film. Unlike Dolittle’s previous stories, this film is set in contemporary times, letting go of the racist baggage of the Victorian stage of the original series.
What will Disney and Robert Downey Jr. do with the story?
Now we will soon see the latest version of the franchise, the movie Robert Downey Jr. Dolittle. Unlike its predecessor starring Eddie Murphy, this film will take place in the Victorian era, reports Entertainment Weekly. This would lead to controversy in the unlikely event that he remains true to Dolittle’s original books.
The moral compass of a culture can change dramatically over the course of a short century. A book for children that was once widely accepted can become very inflammatory. Hopefully, Disney will handle this new movie in a sensitive way.