Soul Criticized: The European dubs of Disney and Power’s latest film, Soul, went on fire after viewers realized they had used white actors to portray a Black character.
Soul was recently released in December last year on Disney +, with the release of theater in countries that do not have broadcasting equipment. It has received excellent reviews and has been applauded for being yet another Strong film with beautifully crafted images and a thrilling story that delights adults and children alike.
Disney and Strong’s latest tearjerker tells the story of Joe Gardner, played by Jamie Foxx, a New York City middle school music teacher who aspires to become a major jazz pianist.
When he is finally given his dream job, he falls down into a feeding trough that puts him in a small place before he dies. Reluctant to accept death at the edge of his big break, he tries to escape but finds himself in The Great Before area, where he counsels a young, 22-year-old soul, played by Tina Fey, who is waiting to become human.
Using a funny and charming hi-jinx, Joe and 22 others explored New York, learning about life, purpose, and inspiration along the way. Although critics and audiences often praise Soul, it has also been criticized for its exposure overseas.
Why Soul is Criticized?
The New York Times reports that most European dubs of Soul are criticized for using white characters to name Joe, a Black character. It was first reported in Denmark and has since been reported on other European dubs in the film.
One such dub led to a request for a Portuguese re-release of the film, which was signed by more than 17,000 people, including some of Portugal’s top figures. However, not all European garbage victims are victims of this controversy, such as the French place played by Omar Sy.
Not to mention Joe’s point of view, many films use Joe’s life as a lens to capture the purpose, dreams, and meaning of life.
Thus, much of the movie is tied to Joe’s life as a Black man who dreams of playing jazz, a form of art produced by Black artists, in New York, exploring certain areas with very black communities (or, at least, a strong history of Black settlement).
While the movie does not specifically mention racism, considering the absence of Black actors and stories in Power’s films, many Black fans are happy to see themselves represented on screen.
Using white characters to portray Black characters is a feature of cartoons that have been considered before. Given that black stories in cartoons are already uncommon, it is easy to see why the audience was disappointed with the revelation.
The real dub of the Soul itself was nothing more than racial criticism. In many other animated films focusing on the characters, the protagonists waste most of the movie in non-human ways, such as The Frog in The Princess and the Frog or the llama in The Emperor’s New Groove.
While there are exceptions, such as Spider-Man: The Spider-Verse, Soul seems to be no different, and Joe has already used most of the film as a blue soul and white actress Tina Fey who enters Joe’s body most of the film.
And while the representation of people of color (sadly) is rare, movies like Soul testify to the need for these stories and how the audience is hungry to see them.