Grammy-nominated singer, Janelle Monae, will rework the problematic Siamese Cat Song in the remake to “Lady and the Tramp.” The song is considered racist in its depictions of Asian characters as tricky and vicious. The original film “Lady and the Tramp” was released in 1955 with the song performed by Peggy Lee. She voiced the cats of Si and Am, who vilify the main character, the cocker spaniel, to the humans, according to The Guardian. In the song, oriental background music reverberates as the cats sing. Additionally, the cats sing in a caricature Asian accent. “We are Siamese if you please, we are Siamese if you don’t please.”
According to Variety, the Siamese cats will be removed in the remake set to debut on Disney Plus streaming. Disney isn’t saying what the cats will be replaced with at this moment.
The movie will take place in 1910. “Lady and the Tramp” is about the romance between a sheltered cocker spaniel named Lady and a tough street mutt named Tramp. Tessa Thompson will voice the Lady, while Justin Theroux will voice the Tramp.
Janelle Monae and her artist collective Wondaland will work on two original songs for “Lady and the Tramp.”
In a post titled “The Code Behind the Kitty: Unpacking the Racist Myth of the Siamese Cat,” Marcus Hunter wrote, “The Siamese cat, as canonical as it is controversial, has developed a legacy in American cinema for embodying undeniably racist stereotypes about Asians and Asian Americans — most notably through the Siamese duo Si and Am of Lady and the Tramp, often cited as one of the most racist cartoon characters ever depicted on film.”
He explained that after World War II, anti-Japanese sentiments were at a fever high along with anti-Asian sentiments. The cats merely reinforced painting Asians as an untrusty monolith. Furthermore, it tapped into the fear Americans had of the east.
“Si and Am of Lady and the Tramp, which premiered just a decade after the war’s end, were undoubtedly conjured by the remaining prejudices of this milieu, emblems of an era when anything categorically or characteristically “Asian” was met with misplaced fear and intemperate hostility used to create a dehumanized image of the “Other” and frame it as a direct affront to Western hegemony, justifying the prejudice against it.”
The live-action remake will be directed by Charlie Bean and written by Andrew Bujalski. It is scheduled to be released on November 12, 2019.