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Disney Defames Ukrainians?

January 8, 2012

I swear I’m doing actual work when I come across this stuff. I present to you a Letter to the Editor printed in The Ukrainian Weekly, a diaspora newspaper in Canada, from 1994.

So in short, the sender thinks the character (watch for yourself) Taurus Bulba,  from the Disney cartoon, Darkwing Duck, defames the Ukrainian nation, because he somehow resembles a Ukrainian and is a negative character on the show. As per background, Taras Bul’ba is a mythical Cossack hero from the Zaporizhian Sich, who was immortalized in Nikolai Gogol’s short story by the same name. The name Taurus Bulba (think “bull”) is obviously a play on words, since the character is a bull.

To start, if you don’t like ethnic stereotypes you probably shouldn’t watch any cartoons or read any comics (the list is endless). That said, how a child is going to connect a bull with a funny accent to the nation of Ukraine is beyond me. Most American adults don’t where or what Ukraine is – how he/she is going to grow up and hate Ukrainians is pretty confusing. Not to mention, the accent is generic and in no way specifically Ukrainian (sounds Hungarian to me). As for Taras Bul’ba – he was a “Cossack” (in make-believe land) and is not designated in the short-story as a “Ukrainian”, since that was a later national construct.

Ironically, the writer thinks that if children watch a bull with a funny accent it is going to incite “ethnic hatred” later in life, when the short-story “Taras Bul’ba” is likely to do more in that direction, as it contains negative, stereotypical depictions of Jews and Poles (though I’m doubtful this story will cause young people to start pogroms). Perhaps someone will include this cartoon into the very long and comical (pun intended) entry for Ukrainophobia on Wikipedia (note Daniel Mendelsohn and Everything is Illuminated are even included).

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