Disney’s Fifteenth Animated Feature — 1955
The opening theme music to Lady and the Tramp is a full-blooded love song, “Bella Notte.” This love story happens to star dogs in all their simple and joyous honesty. As Josh Billings wrote (quoted at the top of the film), “In the whole history of the world there is but one thing that money can not buy … to wit—the wag of a dog’s tail.” To wit and to woo, as upper crusty cocker spaniel Lady is memorably wooed by the Tramp, a mongrel literally from the wrong side of the tracks. We meet him as he wakes up in a refuse heap at a train yard. The story is set in an earlier, quainter era. The opening moments of Lady and the Tramp show a horse-drawn sleigh similar to the “Once Upon A Wintertime” sequence in 1948’s Melody Time.
|That's Jock, the Tramp, Lady, |
|Aunt Sarah's face is only seen |
for a few seconds.
The story begins in earnest with grown-up Lady enjoying a very special day as she has just been given, “the greatest honor man can bestow; a badge of faith and respectability; a (dog) license.” Her neighborhood pals Jock, a Scottish terrier with a Scots accent, and Trusty, a bloodhound with a broad southern drawl, are thrilled for her. Lady doesn’t realize that her life’s about to change because Darling and Jim Dear are expecting a baby. And as all dogs know, this will mean a significant demotion for Lady. Jock warns her, “Babies are very expensive. You won’t be allowed to play with it.” All this is confirmed by the Tramp, who saunters into Lady’s yard, curious to see how the “leash and collar set” is doing. He’s immediately smitten with Lady, but affirms that she’ll be pushed aside when the baby is born. Lady refuses to believe it.
|Si and Am, the Siamese cats.|
Care for a few other examples of stereotypes in Lady and the Tramp? How about an Irish policeman with a red drinker’s nose? (Speaking for my Irish immigrant parents, thanks a lot, Walt!) An effeminate intellectual? A stern, humorless old maid? A shaddup-a-you-face Italian (that’s an actual piece of dialogue, by the way)? A soulful, dour, philosophical Russian (wolfhound, that is)? A skin-flint Scottie dog? How old do you have to be to understand that these characterizations are patronizing at best and racist at worst? With a world of choice in children’s media, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t share something with your kids if it makes you uncomfortable. Do the depictions in Lady and the Tramp make it a no-go? Only you can decide. Frankly, I think this film could be a great topic for a teen’s essay on stereotypes. It’s worthy of discussion—with a child who’s old enough to understand the conversation. Personally, my four-year-old is way too young for this children’s film. FYI: you can see this film for free on YouTube before you consider a purchase of the dvd.
|2005's Kronk's New Groove parodies |
the spaghetti dinner scene.
|The Tramp and Lady on their "date."|
|The happy family; notice |
the Tramp's dog license.
The circle is completed and reflected in the happiness of the holiday season as the importance of family, love, and friendship is celebrated. I don’t mean to sound snarky, but if it weren’t for all the stereotypes, this would be a great little film. As it stands, it’s in turns wonderful and cringe-inducing, like a lot of media created in 1955. It’s a time capsule of its era; but nonetheless a story that carries the most oft-repeated Disney theme: that every dog has his day. Nah, I’m only kidding. If you’ve been following this series, you know that the theme that appears in most Disney films is the message that true love conquers all. And as we always say in Ireland, faith and begorrah, t’is a fine message, that. ☺ Sounds pretty ridiculous when you put it that way, don’t you think?