Categories: film

Why is the Siamese cat song racist?

The lyrics of the Siamese cat song are not racist in my view but the part of the film that shows two Siamese cats singing the song has been deemed to be racist and I can understand that.

Siamese cat song is racist. Screenshot from YouTube video and deemed to be acceptable in terms of copyright.

The two Siamese cats who sing the song in the film Lady and the Tramp are named Si and Am. We know that Siamese cats come from Thailand which was once called Siam. It is argued that Si and Am represent stereotypical Thai people. The argument is that they are drawn (this is an animated i.e. drawn film) in a way which portrays them as feline versions of stereotypical human Thais in the minds of racist people. For example, their eyes are slanted like the eyes of Asian people and their canine teeth are very prominent in the film and perhaps this was a take on the way Westerners viewed Asians with buck teeth in an extremely derogatory stereotypical way. It is not clear whether the animators did this deliberately and knowingly or whether inherent racist instincts drove them to do it.

So their appearance is arguably a derogatory portrayal of Asian people to which you have to had their behaviour. In the film they behave very badly and by trickery portray to their owner that they are nice, sweet cats and that the damage that they do to the household possessions was in fact caused by the dog, a Cocker Spaniel, whose name is “Lady”.

It is said that this portrays the Thai people as dangerous and not to be trusted. I don’t know whether you can argue that the dog is meant to represent the West but if so she’s innocent and is easily tricked and fooled. Another observation is that the voices of the cats is very Asian in tone and character. There is this sinister trickery and unhand nature of the Siamese cats all of which is ostensibly a form of racism.

Lady and the Tramp is a 1955 Walt Disney animated film. It was made, therefore, not long after the end of the Second World War. Perhaps the derogatory portrayal of the people from the Far East was due to the legacy of the Second World War. Perhaps there is a reference there to the way the Japanese ill treated prisoners. I don’t know. I’m speculating.

Note: Sometimes video stop working. If this one has stopped I am sorry but I have on control over this.

The film itself is a classic and was highly popular and still is. It is a very successful film and I think you have to really look at the Siamese cats and their song in the film and ask yourself about whether they are racist and whether the song is racist. I am not sure that you immediately decide that they are. However, if you read an article such as the one written by Marcus Hunter in June 2013 on the website FlavorWire you have to come to the conclusion that it is racist. Although his argument is incredibly complicated and almost unintelligible but he does put into an historical context. However, I think he exaggerates the racist connotations of the song.

At the end of the day, arguably, everyone is racist. You could argue that racism is a form of tribalism and tribalism is inherent in all humans. People might not know that they are racist and they might not feel it but arguably they are. The most non-racist people have the discipline and integrity to suppress their inherent tendency to be racist. And racism comes from all races. It is stereotyping and racist to say that white people are the only ones who are racist. Although the most visible and predominant racism is from whites on people of colour. It is a minefield though in an era of snowflakes and political correctness.

P.S. The Siamese cat song was ditched when a remake was created and aired on 24 Mar 2020 (United Kingdom) and 12 Nov 2019 (United States). It achieved a modest 6.3/10 on the imdb.com website.

P.P.S.

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

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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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