Winx Club is racist.
That’s the latest charge against the show. It stems from a scene in “Miss Magix” (1X12), where a dark-skinned girl has a meltdown over her hairdo, which looks like a normal afro. A writer for a blog about black natural hair called it “a clear-cut case of racism and ignorance” and “yet another attempt to impress upon little Black girls that their natural beauty is a ‘catastrophe.'” (Full post here.)
I’m not gonna try to defend this scene. It’s been done already, and the critics aren’t listening. No matter what we say, the problem’s still the same: this looks like an afro.
But I don’t agree the scene is racist. Calling it that implies the insult was intentional, and we don’t know that for sure. The blogger claims she does, but was she at Rainbow when they wrote the script? No. Neither were we.
All she knows is she’s offended. She’ll never know if this was meant to be offensive. She’s just guessing and reacting like we are. The difference is we know enough about Winx to give Rainbow the benefit of the doubt. She barely knows anything about it. (Did you see version one of her post? She really skimped on the research. Screenshots below.)
Now her readers think the whole show’s racist. Some have said they’ll never let their kids watch it. One even slammed the fans who defended it, saying they have “no concept of right and wrong.” Wow.
Those readers and that blogger don’t know what they’re missing. In reality, Winx Club is one of the least racist, most diverse, and most progressive cartoons on TV.
Disney introduced Tiana, their first black princess, in 2009. Rainbow added Aisha to the club in 2005. You’re late, Mickey.
Aisha’s not a slave fighting for freedom or a poverty-stricken girl trying to “better” herself. She’s a princess — always has been, always will be. Well, actually, one day she’ll be queen.
It’s an archetype we rarely see on American screens: a black person with status, and a woman at that. We’re used to watching slaves, maids, low-income families, gang members, drug dealers — characters that seem to lock us in the past and suggest all black people are the same. Even Disney couldn’t shake it off. Tiana was originally gonna be a chambermaid named Maddy. (The black community cried foul because the name sounds like “Mammy,” a Southern term for an old slave nanny.)
Winx Club never went there. Aisha’s no different than the other Winx girls. She’s strong (physically and magically), she’s courageous, and she’s respected.
And she’s beautiful. We know that was intentional, since Rainbow even named her “dark beauty.” That’s what her alternate name, Layla, means.
Since this started over hair, look at some of her many hairdos:
Of course, as India Arie might say, Aisha’s not her hair. It’s her strong, independent spirit we love about her.
LOVE IS COLOR BLIND
Let’s play a game. Name as many cartoons as you can that have interracial couples. And…go!
Did I stump you? Even I can’t think of many. If I had said “American cartoons,” it would have been even harder. That’s because America doesn’t accept interracial love yet.
Just two years ago, Cheerios featured a mixed race family in a commercial called “Just Checking.” The response on YouTube was ugly. Some people called the family “disgusting.” Others hurled racial slurs at them. Still others mocked the black father, saying he’ll leave in a few years. Cheerios eventually closed comments on the video, but the hate spread to their Facebook page and social media sites like Reddit. (Read more about it here.)
Those trolls could learn from this little Italian show. It’s had an interracial couple since season two: Flora and Helia. Flora looks Hispanic, and Helia looks Asian.
That same season, it flirted with mixed race love when Aisha was introduced. During the Pixie rescue mission, Sky pulls Aisha off a wall…and into his arms. Bloom’s not too happy about it. Aisha has to reassure her she’s not gonna steal her boyfriend.
You know Bloom, though. No one comes between her and her prince. She keeps trying to keep them apart as the mission goes on.
The episode before that, “Mr. Casanova” Brandon calls Aisha “cutie.”
Fast forward to season six. After dating two dark-skinned guys (and almost marrying one of them), Aisha meets Nex. He develops a crush on her and starts trying to woo her away from her boyfriend Roy.
Here are two more examples. One is another mixed race couple. The other is a white boy with a black woman who definitely seems to be his mom. They’re always seen together, sometimes holding hands, and she’s very affectionate towards him. And look! She’s wearing an afro!
Why is there so much interracial love in this show? (Other than the fact that this is 2015.) Maybe it’s because the creator, Iginio Straffi, is in a mixed race marriage himself. His wife and business partner, Joanne Lee, is Asian (birth place: Singapore).
A COLORFUL WORLD
Have you noticed I’ve tried not to call the characters “black,” “white,” “Hispanic,” etc.? That’s because most of them aren’t. Winx Club takes place in an alien universe, so race as we think of it doesn’t apply. Aisha looks Afro-European, Flora looks Hispanic, and Musa looks Asian, but they’re not since none of them are from Earth.
The truth is the show never brings up race at all. It treats all people and all skin tones as equal. It doesn’t even limit each race to one species, realm, or profession. Black, white, Asian, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern-looking characters are fairies, witches, wizards, mermaids, warriors, kings, queens, princes, princesses, villains, and heroes.
A world where anyone of any color can be anything. Even if it’s fictional, wouldn’t you want your kids to see it?
WINX CLUB IS NOT RACIST
I don’t know if I’m mad or sad about this controversy. On the one hand, I’m sick of people bashing Winx Club when they’ve barely watched any of it. This whole thing started over one minute of a 4,000+ minute series (not counting the movies). It’s crazy.
On the other hand, I’m sad for the kids of Black Girl Long Hair’s readers. Thank to one misguided blogger, many of them will never experience all the good things in this show.
We can’t stop people from getting offended by things. We’ve all done it. All we can do is tell them the truth and hope someone will listen.
So I hope they read this post and decide to give Winx a second chance.