Following the silly decision to overhaul Splash Mountain because someone, somewhere objected to cartoon trickster rabbits who like briar patches, Walt Disney World Imagineers are gunning for the beloved Jungle Cruise. Entertainment Weekly reports:
“This is not a re-envisioning of the entire attraction. It’s the Jungle Cruise you know and love, with the skippers still leading the way, and at the same time, we’re addressing the negative depictions of ‘natives.’ So that’s one of the scenes we’re going to go in and change,” said Disney Imagineering Creative Portfolio Executive Chris Beatty in an interview with D23, the official Disney fan club.
Apparently, the depiction of native peoples doesn’t live up to our new moral standards and must be purged. Of course, the only native peoples I remember on the Jungle Cruise were cannibals. They had shrunken heads on display. But the so-called “negative” portrayal of the human-eating indigenous people is an issue, I guess.
But why get rid of them entirely? Isn’t that like erasing the existence of cannibals? Don’t cannibals deserve representation? Wikipedia still tells us cannibals are real (who knows for how long—I knew I should have kept that hard copy Encyclopedia Britannica set).
The Island Carib people of the Lesser Antilles, from whom the word “cannibalism” is derived, acquired a long-standing reputation as cannibals after their legends were recorded in the 17th century. Some controversy exists over the accuracy of these legends and the prevalence of actual cannibalism in the culture. Cannibalism was practised in New Guinea and in parts of the Solomon Islands, and flesh markets existed in some parts of Melanesia. Fiji was once known as the “Cannibal Isles”. Cannibalism has been well documented in much of the world, including Fiji, the Amazon Basin, the Congo, and the Māori people of New Zealand. Neanderthals are believed to have practised cannibalism, and Neanderthals may have been eaten by anatomically modern humans. Cannibalism was also practised in ancient Egypt, Roman Egypt and during famines in Egypt such as the great famine of 1199–1202.
Cannibalism has recently been both practised and fiercely condemned in several wars, especially in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was still practised in Papua New Guinea as of 2012, for cultural reasons and in ritual and in war in various Melanesian tribes. Cannibalism has been said to test the bounds of cultural relativism because it challenges anthropologists “to define what is or is not beyond the pale of acceptable human behavior”.
The criticism is that Disney portrayed these people in a negative way. Is there any other way to portray cannibals? I’m just asking. And are we not allowed to acknowledge that cannibals existed (or still exist in many cases—see Jeffrey Dahmer, etc.)? What a strange thing this all is. At least there doesn’t appear to be a need for party drugs anymore when the whole world is on an acid trip. How can there be so many people concerned for the feelings of freaking cannibals that Disney World has to spend millions of dollars purging any mention of them?
As for the ride, I don’t think I’ll miss the cannibals, per se, and I’m sure the skippers would love to have some new jokes to tell—not that showing us the backside of water was ever not funny. It’s just a sad thing that updates seem to only happen when someone gets outraged over something instead of for the purpose of making it better. I’m sure I won’t be disappointed in the new storyline and updates to this classic ride. I just wish it hadn’t been spurred on by cancel-culture wokescolds who are driving this ship into an iceberg.