The Color of Friendship

Racism and the Apartheid. Perfect subject for a Disney Channel movie, right?

Racism and the Apartheid. Perfect subject for a Disney Channel movie, right?

NOTE: Due to the nature of this film, there’s a good chance I might offend someone with the jokes I make about the film. If anything here comes across as Racist since I know nothing about anything, I apologize in advance.

Hello, Spongey here.

Well, it’s time once again to review a Disney Channel movie. But this one is special./ See, it’s currently Black History, and I guess people would call me racist if I didn’t do something about it. Or maybe they will if think I’m only doing this because I want to hide that fact that I’m racist.

Or something.

Anyway, This 2000 DCOM is one of the earlier ones, and one of the big ones that people remember. It gets decent praise from people today as one of good early DCOMs. Of course, it may due to Nostalgia Filler or the fact that it happens to tackle an interesting subject.

Today’s DCOM don’t due this because….this subject is old news, really. And it’s the only to do this besides the ones that tackle stuff like Growing up (See “Don’t look under the bed” and that one I praise a lot) which people don’t lump in with those. Well, there is another issue one….but it’s…well…I’ll get to if I find it.

I remember watching at school once quite a few years ago. I remember it being alright, but only one scene sticks out to me, and man I’ll have some stuff to say about it. There isn’t a ton more to say. The director and writer haven’t done a lot, and the only notable cast member is that chick from Zenon 2.

So with that, let’s see how the Disney Channel tackles racism and all that. Will it backfire as bad as I fear? Let’s find out.

This, is The Color of Friendship

The movie opens in 1977, as some 70’s sitcom music takes us to the home of our heroine, Piper lastname. Her Dad arrives home to the sound…off African drum music stuff, and he sees Piper with…African Make up stuff on her face. We find out this is to help convince Dad into letting the family host an exchange student, who Piper thinks will be black.

…There’s a lot wrong with that (including how stereotypical it is) but I’ll let that sit there. The music going on until that night, as Mom talks Dad into doing this. It works but Dad tells Piper the kid is her responsibility. Well, with that awkward set up out of the way, maybe this get more…normal.

We cut to South Africa, as we join our other heroine, the very white Mahree Bok, with her family. He is a policeman, who in this scene, tells them that Steve Biko was arrested for going outside his area or whatever. He’s a real guy and he was an Anti- Apartheid activist.

Yeah, we’re talking about the apartheid in a DCOM. It’s not as daft as Captain Planet talking about AIDS since…it’s gonna be treated with respect, I bet. And yes, this Dad is very much in favor of it.

Hopefully the uncformatble feeling I’m getting will leave once we move on. Mahree and Mom tells Dad about how she is gonna be an exchange student. She very much wants to experience new things and leave South Africa for the first time. Mom thinks this could be a good experience for her. So he says yes, and he didn’t need any stertypical white stuff!

By the way, it’s interesting that in most stories like this, we’d have a stuck up white family is America getting the black person from Africa, but in this, it’s about a black family in America getting a White chick from Afrca.

After Mahree talks to her Black Maid (no comment) we head back to the USA, where Piper and her friends ask her Black friend to tell her more about South Africa.

“Why me?”

“Cuz you’re African”

Wow, that kid is racist.

“I’m Nigerian!”

See?

He explains the Apartheid the audience, I mean the kid. They simplify by saying it’s about keeping whites and Blacks apart, and Blacks aren’t happy about being treated differently. Back with Mahree, she tells the maid the name of the dude they are staying with (Spoilers, it’s Piper’s congressmen Dad person) and she reacts oddly to it. Then the brother walks in and that bit is forgotten.

After that, we cut to later as she is about to leave. Piper assumes her exchange student will Black while Mahree assumes her family will be white. OH THE IRONY!

Mahree leaves and the maid goes inside and we find out why she reacted to that dude’s name: She recognizes as the main dude speaking out against Apartheid, which is naturally against as well.

So the white girl whose Dad approves of Apartheid is staying with the daughter of a dude against it. I smell a sitcom!

Wait, they didn’t actually find out whose family she was going to? You know they would do that research to make sure this kind of situation doesn’t happen. By the way Congressman Dad (named Ron) and his kids, including Piper are real too.

Yeah, this movie is based on real life to the point where the characters bear the same names as the people. Due to laziness, I don’t know how much of the plot resembles real life but I doubt some of…the dumber elements actually happened.

(Though I bet most of the normal stuff did, since Ron is still alive and I doubt they would screws up his story in that case)

Oh, and here’s an amusing fact: The Real Ron’s son, Erik (who is shown as a kid here) would grow up to be an actor. His most interesting role? Koh the face stealer from Avatar The Last Airbender.

Yes.

(Wikipedia says he has a cameo in this but idk where).

So Mahree and Piper finally meet in America at the airport. From their reactions I can tell things are gonna get WACKY! …Well actually, they don’t go at each others throats just yet, They visit Dad who isn’t happy to see that Mahree is white. She in turns isn’t happy to see Ron is black.

Mom tells Piper this was all just silly assumption.

“Did you see how she acted when she found out who we were?”

And your reaction was better?

They arrive home, as Piper’s siblings greet them with this crazy African set up. Wah wah! Though to be honest, the look on their faces when they see Mahree is pretty funny.

“I thought we ordered a real African”

That sounds so racist out of context. Anyway, later at Dinner, Mahree is hiding in Piper’s room.

“She’s the one who treated us like we were diseased or something”

You’re the one jumped to conclusions, then said she wasn’t a real African. Dick.

That night, Mahree makes a call to her family and she tells hm she’s having the time of her life. Yeah, she lies about the “Black’ thing because…I would too, actually.

Piper’s parents talk about the whole Mahree situation.

“It goes against everything I know to have a Racist white South African living in my house”

How do you know she’s racist? She has done nothing but hide because your dumbass scared her with the African crap!

The next morning, Piper gets into her room to give Mahree some fries and a Cholalte shale. Before you comment on the fact that it;s Chocolate…

“You do like Chocolates don’t you? Or maybe you prefer Vanilla”

….I’m siding the potentially racist spoiled white kid. THAT’S NOT A GOOD THING.

Mom comes in to tell Mahree she’s made some calls, and they may find another host family for Mahree, if not, she’s going home.

“Are all South African’s weird? Or is just you?”

Okay, maybe Mahree’s reaction wasn’t the based but if I was in her position, seeing all that African shit, I wouldn’t be happy either. Though I wouldn’t hide in any room so maybe they do have a reason to think she’s racist.

However, Dad didn’t react well to seeing that Mahree was white. He didn’t know if she was racist, he just focused on the white part. So who is being racist here, hmmm?

MOM: Her problem is, she’s human, just like the rest of us.

Okay, the Mom is the best character now.

“I’m barely 13 and I have more sense than to act like that!”

Seriously, Mahree has said nothing to offend anyone so far. Where is this coming from? ….Okay, maybe I’m being too harsh. Tweak this a bit and it kind of makes sense. After all, Mom says Dad has an issue with how things are in South Africa and he likely knows Mahree’s family is full of Apartheid lovers as we saw.

But she herself didn’t do much so, there you go.

“Remember YOUR reaction at the airport?”

EXACTLY!

It turns out Mahree was standing behind Mom and Piper during their talk. She says she wants to stay here now. From what we saw of her reactions to this talk, it’s clear she figures that she should give this a try, as they both reacted badly.

See, now I see the point of this and I’m both sides. Was that so hard?

They talk later and they start to bond and stuff. They look at some pictures of this band Piper likes and Mahree says her little brother would be shocked to find out they are “Bantu” (I hope I spelled that right) and now White. I mention that part because that word is important later.

Dad comes home to find out Mahree is staying.

“What was I supposed to say? Sorry, we don’t allow White South Africans in our house?”

‘Would that have been so terrible?”

…Yes.

Dad finds out Mahree’s dad is a cop and well, he’s not happy to find that out. Mom says they could learn stuff from Mahree being here, and tells him Apartheid is a bit more complicated than they think. See, now Dad has a decent reason to be a dick to Mahree, because of her upbringing.

These characters have good reason to have these opinions, they the movie takes awhile to tell us that! With that out of the way, now this movie can get good.

The next morning at Breakfast, we go through the whole “Rich chick finds out not everyone lives like her” shtick. Mom tells Mahree that since she is part of their family, she will eat what they eat and all that.

And in a shocking twist, she starts getting used to it right away! See,you can balance “fish out of water” with this called “getting used to shit realistically”. As Mom, Piper and Mahree drive around hey learn about each others cultures and how different their lives are. For example, Mahree finds out more shopping malls and how anyone can walk into a store, no matter their race. This is decently done, if a bit on the nose.

By the way, wanna know how this went down in real life? Well, for one, “Mahree” is actually Carrie. And, if what I read is right, (which I doubt it is), the Dellum family lost touch with her after she went home and while no one knows what happened after that, it’s been speculated that she, well, killed at age 16.

If that is true…I see why Disney left out that part.

Anyway, we have teenage girls at a mall so SHOPPING MONTAGE! Yep, it’s still a Disney Channel movie. Elsewhere, Ron gets a call from the South African embassy. They don’t say much except that Embassy lady says they want to keep track of Mahree since she staying over here.

You gotta love Ron’s badly disguised hate for South Africa in this case, and how she hangs up on him when he brings up that Steve Biko thing.

Later at home, the girls talk some more and…well rmemeber how I said we’d get back to the “Bantu’ thing later? Well, Mahree is surpsied to learn she will be going to Piper’s school,which is she says is a ‘Bantu” school.

And…well remember how I said only one bit of this film stuck out to me when I first saw it? Well….here it is.

“Does that mean nigger?”

What.

No, you did not read that wrong. I did not hear that wrong. I’ve seen this scene before. I skimmed through a late night airing of this picture while ago and saw this right. And here I am seeing it again.

This isn’t a Fred The Movie situation where I took it the wrong way. This is a Foodfight thing where they said “Bimbo” and I heard it right. Except this movie doesn’t suck.

Someone, just said the N word in a G rated Disney movie. A Disney CHANNEL movie. For Kids. They even say it again as Mahree assures her that some other word means…that, not Bantu.

Now, before you …type, anything, I have nothing against the context of the word in this film. There is nothing racist about it. Someone simply asked the meaning of a word, and nothing else. It’s perfectly fine.

What bugs me is that they seriously got away with saying that word in a kid’s movie! I mean, with how parents are, you would think this shit would get pulled. I don’t really have an issue with a writer slipping that word into a film like this to get a point across. But usually that wouldn’t slip through, much less stay there!

And it’s not like Disney is hiding it. This aired all the time back in the time, and they still air to this day! Not only as a 2 Am movie, but as part of that TBT on DC thing, just a couple weeks ago!

And don’t say that the ‘late night” thing says they know about this part and want to hide it. 11 Central isn’t too late AND they advertised on Twitter, as usual. Any 13 year old following can read that, and DVR the program to watch later.

With how Disney is, you think they wouldn’t be parading around this movie with that word in it. I give them credit for that, but it’s still baffling! I know I’m going on about something that has nothing to do with the film’s quality, but this still shocks me!

Seriously, the N word is in a Disney movie, and it has a TV-G rating! That is just odd to me. But hey, the fact that no one has reacted badly to this bit shows that people aren’t idiots after all. Hell, the only 2 negative reviews on IMDB don’t even mention that part (Though there’s a thread on the boards all about it).

….BACK TO THE MOVIE…

Mahree tells her Bantu simply means Negro/Black and it’s not racist. Piper finds it off that there are so many words for Blacks in South Africa, forgetting we have at least 3. She talks to her parents about what she learned from Mahree.

“They all these different classifications for people, like Whites, and Asians”

We technically have that too, we’re just not racist about it.

“We’d be Bantu. Or is it Cafer?

“SHE CALLED YOU A CAFER?!””

“DID SHE CALL YOU CAFER?!”

I hope I spelled that right. Anyway, I love their over the top reactions. Even the music is like DUN DUN DUN!

Piper assures him it was a mess up and tells him Mahree said she would never call her that. That had a point!

That night, Dad sees Mahree reading some book about the horrors of Slavery, and they use this chance to bond a bit. I do mean just a bit but here we see how Mahree is finding out about the horrors of Racism and all that.

“I don’t think you’re a bad person Mahree. You’ve just been taught some bad things.”

I know I’ve bitched about parts of this movie so far but scenes like this kind of make up for the flaws. The next morning, after an out of context line-

“What’s the fun of growing up in Africa if you can’t get chased by a Rhino?”

-the kids go to school. After a bit, we cut to later as Mom asks one of the brothers how school was. I can’t remember the answer over how bad his acting was in that line. Mahree has a book report (even in the 70’s, no school was this cruel) on a book about South Africa.

Piper is shocked to find out she has never heard of it. There are many books about America I’ve never heard of. Your point?

Okay, to be fair it is from South Africa’s most famous author, and Mahree says it was likely banned as there are books and movies that are banned over there. By the way, just to remind us it’s the 70’s, and this is a Disney movie, Piper wants to go see Freaky Friday. We even see them go to see it!

By the way, that film came in 1976, and this movie is set in 77, a year later. Though it was December of ’76, so it’s likely it would be playing if this is February or something. ..Why am I nitpicking that?

What follows is the good times montage set to some funky music, just to remind once more that it is the 70’s. But when they get him, they see that people from the South African Embassy are here. Wah wah.

The lady and some dude tell Mahree she is leaving now. They say her parents don’t know about this but they will be notified. Ah, I knew this movie needed some generic villains! We go through the thing where Mom is LIKE NOOO DON’T and the dude is like LOLFUCKYOU.

I feel like this movie should have been longer, because, while we are not an hour in, I feel like the girls only just now became actual friends and suddenly the villains are here. But eh, we at least got some development.

They take Mahree to the embassy, where an Anti-Apartheid rally is going on. This is going on cuz that Steve guy killed himself. Racism, the N word, and Suicide. A FAMILY Picture!

Anyway, this is also part of why they wanted to Mahree out of here. She is less than pleased but she gets the “You’ll understand when you’re older” crap. However, we cut to Ron who learns that Steve Diko actually died from being beaten by the police.

Again, a FAMILY picture!

Piper talks to her friend about this, and cuz he’s a dick, he just jokes that he didn’t expect Mahree to last this long.

“South Africa may have a lot of problems-”

But a bitch ain’t- *shot*

“But Mahree’s my friend”

He tells her that Steve Biko was beaten. Wait, Ron just got that part a minute ago, how does some kid already know?

“Killed. For trying to make things better for blacks. I wonder what you’re “friend’ thinks about that”

This is only the 2nd running joke from the NC I’ve taken today but….DOUCHE.

Ron shows up at the embassy and then it cuts to Mahree at Piper’s house. Well, that was fast. Movie over!

Ron explains that he told the Embassy dude that, with the Steve thing going on, they didn’t want to ruin the image of South Africa by taking a girl from her American host. Holy shit, a DCOM where logic wins out! That’s just as unlikely as….the other things we’ve seen.

The girls talk and we find out Mahree knows nothing about the Steve Biko thing (which doesn’t much sense but I’ll buy it). She is not exactly to find out about the whole policing killing him thing.

By the way, the whole world knows about the beating part now. News spreads fast!

This causes an argument as Mahree tries to defend the police, since her Dad is a policeman.

“This Biko is a common terrorist. You Americans would call him a thug!”

Needless to say, this doesn’t go over well with Piper. Mahree tells her about Flora, and Piper breaks it to her that Flora is a maid and chances her if she wasn’t paid in some way she would be gone.

Piper breaks it to her that South Africa is more than a little racist. Mahree runs off crying. Now, this scene is….insanely good. We really see both sides and their friendship is actually put to the test here. They find out how different their beliefs are.. Mahree never saw anything South Africa did as bad, and both parties are very much conflicted here.

And while Piper is obviously the right one here, neither come across as a bitch. You know why Mahree thinks the way she does, and all that. This scene is actually pretty solid and I think it sums up why Nostalgia-tards like to jizz on it.

Only The epic sad scene from 16 Wishes and Climax from Smart House rival this bit and….i kind of like those scenes more, don’t kill more. But let’s move on.

She talks to Ron about this. He says that the attitude Mahree’s friends and family have about blacks is due to the government, and not just those people themselves.

“Everyone had to learn their lesson. Now it’s South Africa’s time”

Hey, I think the writers don’t like South Africa. But maybe it’s just me. Piper overhears their talk and she comes out so they can make up. After a heavy handed speech from Mahree, they patch things and boom, they are friend in the next scene.

It was handled fine….but that was still kind of rushed. At some thingy, Ron gives a speech to people about Piper and Mahree’s friendship and all that. He gives the message we’ve been hearing the entire movie: We can all live together and be friends, no matter who we are.

After that, we cut Mahree at the airport about to leave. Geez, this movie moves fast when it wants to be. Actually,not a lot really happens in this film when you think about it, but i’ll go into that in the final thoughts.

So Mahree arrives back in South Africa and she lets a bird free cuz of some heavy handed metaphor I skipped. And….the credits roll!

Well, actually we get text telling us the real Ron passed in Anti-Apartheid bill in 1986 and his family showed up for the first free election in South African in 1994. But other than that, it just….ends!

I know I keep bitching about abrupt endings, but this is pretty odd. The film just…kind of stops. Since little happened, it makes this worse. I mean how will things go with Mahree nad her family now that she knows her Dad’s views?

I don’t know! The real interesting stuff is just cut out and we are left to assume everything is fine! But….eh, whatever. At least it’s over.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, this movie was pretty good, but slightly overrated. Then again, I’m just bitter people like to bash perfectly harmless Disney stuff to praise this film, ignoring other, better DCOM’s. On the other hand, that’s kind of stupid when I shouldn’t care about what other people think.

First off, I do like how it handles it’s subject matter. This film actually talks about the main issue of Racism, without flat out sugar coating it for kids. They really talk about how things were back then, down some of the darker stuff.

For a flat out kid’s movie in general, this is pretty ballsy. My only issue with this is that at times, it get can a little…heavy handed. I mean, I get it by now. Racism is bad! I just want people to see that this has been done better in other films.

But since it wasn’t done THAT much back then, I’ll give it a pass. But it’s still a tad heavy handed. Another thing I like is how simple the film is. A white girl raised in South Africa lives with a Black girl in America. That’s it! We just see their friendship and how they tackle the race barrier.

That’s interesting! We don’t need pointless bull crap. Just give us a simple scenario and you’re good! Yes, we get a kind of villain but that is short lived. They use this simple premise to go into some deep stuff, and I like that.

On the other hand, there is a down side to this. As a result, the film oddly enough, feels too simple in the end. When it closes, you feel like they left something out. You feel like the film was kind of empty, when it wasn’t.

So while I appreciate the simple-ness, a better ending would be nice. The characters are fine, but I do think there isn’t a ton to Mahree and Piper by themselves, something the fans forget. But as a fan myself, I did like their relationship and what the writer did with it, so I can forgive that.

The acting is decent. Nothing amazing but solid. The leads have chemistry, but I think Carl Lumby steals the show as Ron. He’s great and he helps sell every scene he’s in.

I don’t have much else to say. It may lack a good ending, but it does tackle some daring issues for a family film and while I have my issues with it,. It’s a fine film.

…But seriously, how did they get away with saying the N Word?

Grade: B+

So now it’s time to do it again. You know what I mean. I did 2 good films in a row. So now it’s time for that gag where I say I need to do a bad one, than you see a poster for an infamously bad movie.

Well, whatever. What is it?

R.I.P.D._Poster

…Bah.

See ya.

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About Spongey444

I'm 20 and I'm a slightly below average man who can barely spell. I mostly spend my time watching TV and movies, hence why i ended doing a blog all about those things. I tend to have weird tastes, but I like think I'm just fair on things.
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One Response to The Color of Friendship

  1. Steph says:

    I think you gave the girl more credit than the family .she did seem racist not just scared. If you remember at the airport she told them about her bags (as if they were maids). And when she found out there were black congressmen she laughed like they couldn’t be and asked was this a joke?then locked herself in the bedroom for a while. Yet the family tried several times to talk to her and get her to come out. She also didnt think she would go to a black school even though her host family was black.She was taught her way of thinking,but all of her assumptions came from racism that was normalized from her home.However she was open to accept that and knew she didn’t have to be held by those views.I think this is a good movie because disney usually opts to tackle lighter issues like boys,friend arguments,money,bullies,grades,etc.it’s never something that would make kids feel too uncomfortable.so they covered racism ,while adding some knowledge ,and avoided going into harsh realities.All of the racism was more assumptions and subtle than hateful and scary like it could be in the real world.(I’m surprised they said nigger too!)

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