The Emperors New Groove DANGEROUSLY FUNNY

I personally believe that it is an inherent part of human nature to find humor in other people’s misfortune. Why else would YouTube videos like “Scarlet takes a tumble" and “Beyonce Clown” have over 30 million views combined and can be considered examples of the most iconic viral videos to this day? Failure and making fun of other people as forms of entertainment has become a common part of life and has ultimately desensitized people to the actual horror of not only violence, but also the objectification of humans in general. Despite this, can we actually justify laughing at stereotypes and other people’s misfortune?

Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) is without a doubt one of the company’s biggest comedic successes in the past twenty years and also a prime example of this unique type of hilarious content. Coincidence? I think not. The film’s movement away from the classic princess-based love story ultimately allowed the animators to focus instead on humor, and it seemed to work. Just look at these tweets.

If that wasn't enough evidence, here is a BuzzFeed article claiming The Emperor's New Groove to be the best Disney movie of all time. Why does Sam Stryker think this? Because, he explains, it's unbelievably hilarious.

Although we can appreciate the film for all that it is, there are consequences of presenting content like this to little kids – the majority of Disney’s audience. Through the consistent hilarity of the film, the viewers will ultimately be exposed to a variety of damaging concepts without realizing their corresponding implications. In other words, kids will inevitably laugh at things that they definitely should not be laughing at. After watching The Emperor’s New Groove, children may be compelled to accept violence, misogyny and the objectification of ancient foreign cultures as the humorous nature of the film heavily distracts the audience from these issues at hand.

One major problem with The Emperor’s New Groove: its misogynistic comments. The funny aspects of the film come at the expense of the proper treatment of the female characters. In the movie’s beginning, Emperor Kuzco is given the opportunity to pick out a bride to help him rule the empire and he rejects them all. He makes extremely harsh remarks on their apparently “unappealing” physical characteristics. This can be seen in the video below.

Pretty terrible, right? The worst part about this is that this isn’t even the only occurrence of these comments. Yzma's appearance is constantly referred to as “scary beyond all reason.” Kuzco even makes a point of talking about her ugliness just before he fires her explaining that she is “living proof that the dinosaurs once roamed the Earth.”

It’s honestly hard not to laugh at the ridiculousness of these scenes – and this is a problem. There is potential for children to view this behavior as an acceptable way to treat other people despite the fact that I’m pretty sure the first thing we are taught as kids is to not judge a book by its cover. But if these comments are funny, like they are in the movie, why not make them? This major problem may have been fixed, however, according to Tristan Cooper from Dorkly because there was supposed to be another heroic female character that would have forced Kuzco to grow up and treat women with respect by the end of the film. The audience would have seen that his original comments were only made because he was young and dumb. The missing piece, Mata, fell in love with Kuzco even when he was a llama, and children would have realized through their story that true love isn’t based on appearances. In the end, however, she was cut from the final script, and without her we are only left with a handful of scenes where women are criticized and unfairly evaluated based on their looks.

Since were looking at The Emperor’s New Groove, we can’t forget to talk about Kronk. Despite his ignorant tendencies, he honestly is quite the complex character. The audience may think he is good despite his position as Yzma’s assistant, but in the end it turns out they are wrong in this assumption. Just look at the final scene where he tries to murder Yzma (skip to about 2:12).

Despite this demonstration of unnecessary violence, Kronk’s actions may be justifiable in the eyes of certain viewers; there is no guarantee that everyone in the audience will understand his wrongdoing. We know from the beginning that Kronk is incapable of even the easiest tasks when instead of opening the door to the entrance of the secret lab he accidentally lets Yzma free-fall into a pit of alligators. In a sense, it’s funny how incompetent he is. Children, distracted by the hilarity that is essentially anything Kronk does due to his extreme stupidity, may view Kronk’s action here as heroic and therefore justify the use of violence as a way of responding to authority. This is a pretty troubling predicament considering how often kids don’t want to do what their parents tell them to do. Just ask any child to do his chores and watch their response.

What usually accompanies these violent scenes is – you guessed it – some corresponding violent language. It is sometimes odd to think of The Emperor’s New Groove as a Disney movie made for kids when it seems like you can’t go through a few minutes without hearing words and phrases such as “kill,” “murder,” and “destroy.” In one particular scene, the audience is even forced to watch as a bug flies into a spider’s web and is eaten alive.

I understand that the animators attempted to depict the jungle as a frightening setting, but they may have taken it too far. I don’t think any kid is going to find any particular liking to a fly getting brutally eaten by another bug. However, this isn’t even the worst part about the scene. Bill Bradley, a writer for the Huffington Post, cleverly points out that humans were transformed into creatures later in the film through Yzma’s pink potions, so this fly could have potentially been one of her test subjects – it did speak in English before being eaten alive. This means that the death of this insect could potentially represent the murder of a random and innocent man living in the empire. Children here witness the cruelty of death in its truest form, whether it is a human or bug. However, directly following this, Kuzco begins to mock Pacha in a funny voice and an adorable squirrel is introduced to the mix. Being easily distracted as kids are, the audience may be unable to understand the evil nature of this scene and instead see it as just a comical occurrence. Humor and horror begin to seem to be one in the same within the film.

Another thing that kids may fail to understand is the importance of these ancient civilizations that this movie so clearly represents in the context of modern day life. Although the film never explicitly states it, it’s pretty obvious that the setting revolves around an ancient Latin American society. The problem with this, however, is that some of the aspects of Latino culture are heavily misrepresented in The Emperor's New Groove.

The epitome of this issue comes from the scenes that incorporate the sombrero and the piñata, two objects heavily associated with Latin American culture. The hilarity of these two parts of The Emperors’ New Groove ultimately creates a false depiction of their respective intended uses. These objects are pretty common aspects of American birthday parties for children and they seem to be used in the same ways here in this movie, potentially explaining to kids that this is their only possible use. The youthful audience is ultimately exposed to a misrepresentation of the origins as well as actual purpose of these objects because of the funny ways they are utilized and portrayed in the movie.

This contemporary twist on the film has also made the empire seem to be run like a giant business. Yzma is fired from her position as the advisor to the emperor just as any employee would be let go from a company in America today. Chicha asks Kuzco, the emperor, to show “common courtesy” to her husband, a random village peasant. The Americanized language and capitalistic values that the characters portray are hilarious because, in the end, the movie has ancient Incan people talking and acting like employees in a giant American business! This historical inaccuracy may leave children with a lack of respect for as well as understanding of ancient Latin American civilizations.

This concept is epitomized by the authors of Animating Difference: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Contemporary Films for Children. Richard C. King and other contributors to this collection explain, "we find the most compelling example of the pre-Columbian empire as the corporate empire, however, in Kuzco’s intention to build Kuzcotopia to benefit himself (and the empire) at the expense of the people – one of the most devastating aspects of capitalism” (89). In other words, the emperors decision to create a fun water park for his birthday may seem innocent in the context of the film, but it directly correlates with one of the most horrifying components of American business. The humor of this endeavor ultimately takes away from an accurate depiction of ancient Mesoamerican culture. The audience may not only completely misunderstand how these ancient civilizations were run, but they may also place them as part of United States history due to their promotion of American business values within the film rather than understanding and appreciating their origins.

But, why am I going so in depth in my analysis of a movie made for little kids? Good question. I am trying to explain to you that Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove is not as harmless as it seems.

The humor that the common viewer will inevitably experience takes away from the alarming presence of violent behavior, misogynistic ideals regarding the physical appearance of women, and the misrepresentation of foreign cultures within the film. The Disney Corporation maintains an extremely substantial influence within the lives of children across the world, and without caution, their audience may be inclined to act inappropriately and accept unethical behavior. Whether it is within the realm of television or not, this exposure may lead children to become so insensitive to an unacceptable way of life that the dangers of immorality may become easy to ignore. Ultimately, filmmakers and parents must work together to bring an end to this frightening predicament; directors and animators must be more conscious of the messages that are promulgated through their work and adults must be more careful in picking what we can and cannot let our kids watch today.

Here are the links to the images I used in order: Image #1, Image #2, Image #3, Image #4, Image #5, Image #6, Image #7, Image #8, Image #9.

Here are the links to the tweets I used in order: Tweet #1, Tweet #2, Tweet #3.

All video credits go to YouTube.

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