Disney’s "Doc McStuffins" renewed after Twitter campaign: female African-American is its rare protagonist

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/11/17/disneys-doc-mcstuffins.html


“Female African American.”

Could you not have said “African American girl,” as in the article? This terminology sounds like you’re referring to a non-human. Would you have said “Female white?” Nope.


I think the reason they used “female” rather than “girl” is because it shows how broad it is, that even regardless of age there’s a vacuum of lead protagonists who are black and female.

The quote is taken directly from the Variety Article. Perhaps if Variety had transposed the words (i.e. “African American Female”) might have worked better, but I don’t think that your illustration is really fair. “White” and “African American” are not 100% interchangeable as parts of speech: “I am an African American” parses well, whereas “I am a White” does not. Perhaps at an academic level that’s more indicative of institutionalized racism itself and how it has affected usage and language, but it’s a pretty high editorial standard to examine the historic roots of usage.


My daughter claims she wants to be a doctor and while she doesn’t watch the show it is the only source of young children’s toys (at major retailers) that she can use to play doctor with her stuffed animals. It also helps her when she goes to one of her many doctor appointments to show her how things in general go before hand and let her act it out. I’m very grateful for this show (even though I’ve never seen it).

She does call Dr. McStuffins Dr Anna instead, which is the doctor in Daniel Tiger which is the only show she wants to watch.


This is excellent news. My daughter is now three, and has been a big fan of Doc McStuffins since before she could talk. We are not an African American family, but I strongly approve of her watching and enjoying the show because as much as it provides a role model for African American kids, it also normalizes non-white professionals for white families.

It’s also done a fantastic job of preparing her to be a patient. She went from hating doctor visits to, if not loving them, then sitting through them, understanding what was happening to her, and cooperating with doctors and nurses. She also loves the Doc McStuffins band-aids, which is a nice bonus when trying to deal with a small, scuffed child.


As far as kids shows go, Doc McStuffins is far better than most, so this is good news. Hopefully its a good sign for the human race that, when my daughter watches this, nothing registers to her as odd about an African American being a doctor.

But I have to dust off the old pendant hat and say: “Cheers for preschoolers”? Its obviously ER for preschoolers. Maybe even Grey’s Anatomy for preschoolers.


There is a long, sad history underlying the linguistic tendency to deny childhood to African American children. That’s why it sets off alarm bells, and why it’s especially important to avoid. In any case, “Female African American” used in conjunction with “rare protagonist” reads as though the author is referring to some sort of non-human animal, not a human child. It costs nothing to be careful with language.


That’s a great bonus benefit. When I was a kid I hated going to the doctor. Just the smell of the antiseptic and rubbing alcohol in the medical building used to trigger thoughts of syringes and send me screaming. My poor mother. Now I work in healthcare, go figure.


I’m somewhat reminded of the story that Nichelle Nichols was implored by Martin Luther King to not quit Star Trek. And I have some idea how influential her role was because I used to work with a woman who was named Nichelle after her.


As the mother of an African-American girl who wants to be a doctor, I gave the wording in the headline a lot of thought. As a journalist, I also considered what about the story is newsworthy. My daughter hates the term black, always has, but is used to it. I try not to use it. I think it’s important to distinguish that the character is female, not just a girl, because they are in general under-represented in positive roles. Thanks for your consideration though – on behalf of my daughter I appreciate the concern genuinely. Unfortunately in our country, these categories still need distinguishing and are relevant in the news. Thanks for reading.


I was about to correct you, but it turns out to be nice and Magrittesque:


A moment of pity for all the stuffed animals so desperate they must resort to unlicensed and untrained medical care.

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Doc McStuffins, as an animated character, is a non-human.

Would you have said “Female white?” Nope.

More likely they would have said female Anglo american.


I’m all for media criticism, but you really can’t accuse these folks here of the same biases you find in most ‘journalism’. Other biases, surely, but not that one.

Good luck with the concern trolling, which, fyi and no offense intended, that was.

By that logic, surely there are no human characters in any medium of fiction; for why would a fictional literary character be any more human than a fictional animated one?

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There are certainly human characters. But thats simply not the same thing as a person.

Which in the context of the comment I was replying to, makes sense.

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