Categories: Siamese Cats

Disney’s remake of Lady and the Tramp will ditch Siamese cat racist stereotypes

Well, this is a blow for cat lovers. Disney are going to remake the well-known animated film, Lady and the Tramp but they plan to scrap the twin Siamese cat characters. They’ve commissioned a songwriter, Janelle Monae to write a couple of brand-new songs for the film. It is believed that the cats represented racist stereotypes.

Siamese cats Si and Am from Lady and the Tramp (Rex)

According to the website Variety, Disney consider that the depiction of the Siamese cats to be racist. There was a 2013 analysis of the song, Siamese Cat Song (which I have expanded upon below) in which an author thought that the depiction of the two Siamese cats in the film, Si and Am, was a result of anxiety after the Second World War about foreigners.

The author whose name is Marcus Hunter said that the cats did not have an individuality. He thought that the cats had a sinister glare as “they cave at the slant” (a hint of racism perhaps?). He also thought that “they are jaundiced and sly; sick and feral; domesticated, though nevertheless propelled by the mysterious, impish nature to deceive and intimidate”. ‘Feral…domesticated’. Mr Hunter seems confused or perhaps he disliked cats.

My initial reaction to this is that it is about political correctness or am I being insensitive? It is a reflection of the modern age in which we live which is entirely different. Perhaps it is a good thing but it is a damn sight more complicated. I thought it was an excellent film and the Siamese were equally good. They played a major role in the film.

The film is due to be aired exclusively on Disney’s streaming service later this year, 2019.


Siamese Cat Song

I didn’t have much of a clue as to what the Siamese cat song was. The Siamese cat song was written for the Walt Disney animated feature (cartoon film), “The Lady and the Tramp”. It was released in the summer of 1955. The film is about 2 dogs, one a posh girl dog called “Lady” and the other a poor boy dog called “Tramp”. It’s a fine and successful film. Two Siamese cats are introduced into the story when the human “owners” of Lady go away for a few days and an aunt comes to baby sit. She brings with her two Siamese cats called Si and Am. {technical point – these would have been Traditional Siamese Cats!}.

As cats do, they explored their new environment, driven by their inquisitive natures and they predictably caused some problems. Si and Am took a fancy to the goldfish, the canary and the baby’s milk! Lady intervened and barked and the aunt didn’t like this. Peggy Lee sings the Siamese cat song during these scenes.

The song is called, “We Are Siamese (If You Please)”. Here are the lyrics:

We are Siamese if you please

We are Siamese if you don’t please

We are from a residence of Siam

There is no finer cat than I am

Do you see that thing swimming round and round

Maybe we can reach on in and make it drown

If we sneaking up upon it carefully

There will be head for you and a tail for me

We are Siamese if you please

We are Siamese if you please

Now we’re looking over our new domicile

If we like we stay for maybe quite a while

We are Siamese if you please

We are Siamese if you don’t please

We are from a residence of Siam

There is no finer cat than I am

Do you hear what I hear a baby cry

Where we finding baby there’s milk near by

And if we look in baby buggy there could be

Plenty of milk for you and also some for me

We are Siamese if you please

We are Siamese if you please

Now we’re looking over our new domicile

If we like we stay for maybe quite a while

We are Siamese if you please

We are Siamese if you don’t please

We are from a residence of Siam

There is no finer cat than I am

We are Siamese if you please

We are Siamese if you don’t please

We are from a residence of Siam

There is no finer cat than I am

We are Siamese if you please

We are Siamese if you don’t please

We are from a residence of Siam

There is no finer cat than I am

The lyrics are as far as I am aware, Copyright 1997 Disney Corporation. The Lyrics are the property of the respective authors, artists and labels.

The Siamese cats obviously thought themselves as rather superior. This is completely in keeping with the thoughts about Siamese cats in the 1950s and earlier. They were rare cats in the earlier part of the 1900s and Peggy Lee would know that. That rarity translates into being special which carries a certain self importance. Click on the link to read about Siamese cat history. Siamese cats are now quite commonplace and their appearance transformed by the breeders. Well, at the least the appearance of Siamese pedigree show cats has been transformed. There is still a large population of Traditional Siamese cats (many non-purebred or half Siamese) in the world.

The song was written by Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke. Peggy also contributed to the films score. Most of us know Peggy Lee as a famous vocalist of the 1950s. Sonny Burke is less well known. Sonny Burke was a big band leader (big bands were the “in thing” in those days) in the 1930s and 1940s and a band arranger at the time the Siamese cat song was composed. He did a bit of composing as well, hence his collaboration with Peggy Lee. His full name is Joseph Francis Burke. He died in 1980 aged 66.

About Peggy Lee: Her real name was Norma Deloris Egstrom. She was born 26 May 1920, in Jamestown, North Dakota, USA. She died aged 81 in 2002.She remained popular to the end and was singing in the UK as late as 1994 in a wheel chair to a sell out audience.

Siamese cat song – Lyrics source: MetroLyrics. Siamese cat song – Information sources: Wikipedia and various others

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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