Racism in Monstropolis

Sometimes, freezeframe fun does not provide fun, but sadness.

In the Pixar movie Monsters Inc., you can see the following file of a child at 12 min 40 sec:

Monsters scare children at night, and this is how they keep track of them. The file comes with a blueprint of the room, a list of date stamps, business-critical notes like “scared of snakes”, and the standard data like name, gender, age, and… uh, race??

Albert Lozano, age 8, seems to be “hispanic”, and for monsters, this is apparently a feature that is important to them.

Oh well, that’s Monstropolis, a world inhabited by monsters that scare little children. Modern societies, on the other hand, have understood that “race” is a detail that is just as useful to track as shoe size. Oh wait.


21 thoughts on “Racism in Monstropolis

  1. Julien Oster

    Well, also, their business model is scaring little children until they cry. I have a feeling they might have skipped the “ethics” part in their mission statement.

    Reply
  2. Robert

    Actually it provides a certain insight to how people and socities work, and the premise is that race matters to people because they are in general more likely to stay with people of their own color.

    Obviously it would be great if there was no discrimination based on race whatsoever, but ironically this is how most people work whether they’re aware of it or not.

    Reply
  3. Robert

    I would like to add something more:

    Racism is a heated topic, and can be very inflaming not just to this post but the whole of pagetable.com – a blog on which this topic, while important, is severely misplaced.

    The way this topic has been posted could also portray the OP in a negative light.

    I want to suggest retracting the whole post before this turns into a flame war, because that’s how it usually goes.

    Reply
  4. chorn

    I, as a monster, would like to protest this unfair portrayal of our documentation and filing practices. The movie you are referring has made years ago, and we have since adopted a new punch card system. We have no less that 3 bits set aside for Race, where Other is signified by 111.

    Reply
  5. Robert

    Admolato,

    You’re just someone who strikes at any chance you get to point and scream racist. People like you are the exact reason these topics go out of hand, and you have managed to prove the entire point of my second post perfectly.

    Reply
  6. Jordan

    I’m going to apply Occam’s razor here and guess that the inclusion of a race field on the form wasn’t some form of conscious racism on the part of Pixar (or an attempt by them to say “The monsters are racist.”). Instead I would suggest that it’s more likely that whoever designed that form at Pixar looked a bunch of standard forms, and the race field popped up enough that it seemed like a “normal” thing to include. Race is such a weird issue in the USA (and around the world), I really doubt that whoever designed that form thought “Gee, I wonder if people will think it’s racist to have a ‘race’ field on here?” It probably never even entered their mind.

    Additionally, I think this post is mistitled. a “Race” field on a form doesn’t imply racism, any more than an age field implies ageism, a gender field implies sexism, or, to use your example, a shoe size field implies “shoeism”. Certainly you could (correctly) argue that any classification scheme *could* be used for discrimination, but that is probably putting the cart before the horse here. Unless your definition of -ism’s is so broad that *any* classification whatsoever is considered an -ism. For example, when you go to the doctor’s office, the forms you fill out almost *always* include a race field, for completely valid reasons, as people of different races tend to have different levels of susceptibility to certain diseases. Obviously that’s probably not the purpose of the field is on this form, but I would argue the field was included on this form for no purpose at all other than to make it more “official-looking”.

    Reply
  7. Naiw

    I agree this blog post was the most stupid thing I read on the net in quite awhile.
    If the field said “Nationality” instead would you care?

    Reply
  8. Admolato

    Speaking of Occam?s razor, race just doesn’t make any sense for humans other than for discrimination. Even the Census Bureau itself essentially shares this view:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20100326155033/http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/2001/raceqandas.html
    “How does the Census Bureau define race and ethnicity?”
    “Answer: […] They generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country. They do not conform to any biological, anthropological or genetic criteria.”

    On the other hand, population discrimination based on arbitrary criteria (being called race, caste, or whatever) always is / was immensely successful as a political technique — an almost trivial application of the divide and conquer principle.

    Reply
  9. nitro2k01

    I get sick and tired when people scream racist at absolutely anything that even mentions race. The word racism has been so diluted that it has lost its meaning. The original definition of racism was believing that one’s race (I’ll come back to this in a second) was superior to all others. Nazis and the KKK are/were racist in this sense; they believe that they are a superior race destined to rule the world. Today it’s a staple label that can be applied to anyone who doesn’t conform to a strict standard of politically correct norms.

    Then there’s the comment “Race: human”. While it’s witty, it’s widely understood that “race” doesn’t refer to race in the biological sense.

    So, does a race field belong in a census? Yes it does, because it provides useful information for sociological studies. It is a fact there are statistical differences in socioeconomic status between “races”. That is not to imply that these differences are genetic, but they are undeniably there. You can either acknowledge them and try to understand them, or pretend they’re not there because you’re not comfortable with them. Which do you choose?

    Reply
  10. Chris

    In addition to the sociological reasons given in nitro2k01’s last paragraph, there are often legal reasons and sometimes medical reasons for stating race. Some races are considered genetically more predisposed to certain diseases (sickle-cell anemia, for example). Legally, there are obligations for employers to prove that they’re not racist, by hiring people of different races. For schools, there are often race-based affirmative action programs.

    Put simply, Americans are used to answering this question on various forms and, politics aside, we consider it reasonable part of a personal paper form of this nature. I doubt the Pixar animators thought twice about it.

    It’s unfortunate that the state of politics in the United States is such that the bottommost picture (“Human”) is taken by people from other countries as some kind of proof of the American Melting Pot Ideal. In reality, you’re aligning yourself with the most radical of our right-wing politicians (sadly, there’s not much of a left wing these days). This “don’t give your race to the Census” thing is part and parcel of the right-wing crusade to make English the “official language” of the United States (de jury, not just de facto), which is intended to disenfranchise recent Hispanic immigrants, who are often extremely poor.

    Reply
  11. Thomas

    You guys certainly have too much time at hand. Get your heads out of your lazy eternal asses and start living.

    Reply

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