Disney, Dwarves and Asians

As a general rule I avoid any conversation that begins with “I don’t want to sound like a racist but…” However, I really don’t want to sound like racist but this one’s been bugging me.

For the last couple of years I have been noticing likenesses of the Disney version of the Seven Dwarves popping up in the back windows and dashboards of cars. Some are plastic figurines; others are six inch plush. In all cases, the set is complete and the cars have been driven by Asians. I have encountered a couple dozen such incidents over the last few years and am starting to wonder what’s up.

Has anybody else noticed this phenomenon? Can anyone explain it?

Well, every time I drove up anywhere near Disneyland from 1991 to 1995 every single car I saw with those damn figurines was driven by an Asian. But then, I was living in Tokyo and driving to Uriyatsu, where Tokyo Disneyland is located. :slight_smile:

I’d guess it’s a cultural thing. I’d also guess they’re Japanese. Japanese culture is an odd mix of ultra-modern, high-tech, corporation-conrolled society on one hand, and extremely traditional ways of living and doing things on the other.

I’ve always thought that the clash between these diametrically opposed ways of life (office workers will often go out to a bar with workmates after work…where they’ll be judged by their karaoke skills) somehow warps the Japanese mind; this has given rise to the completely freaky and fascinating pop-culture of Japan. Thinks like pokemon, for example…and those bizzare game shows/comercials that you sometimes see on “world’s weirdest tv”-sort of programs.

This’s also evident in their general enthusiasm for all things disgustingly cute (‘kawaii’, I think). “Super-deformed” characters (the big-headed ones), and so on. I’d say that’s what you’re seeing with the dwarves.

Disclaimer: The above is pure speculation with no basis in reality and should under no circumstances be taken seriously. No animals were harmed in the typing of this post.

Greetings from Pedantic Man!!!

It’s ‘dwarfs’ not ‘dwarves’.

Sorry, it drives me nutty.

From Merriam Webster:

Main Entry: 1dwarf
Pronunciation: 'dworf
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural dwarfs /'dworfs/; also dwarves /'dworvz/

I was sad to see dwarf bowling go the way of the dinosaur here in Chicagoland…
(Wond’ring aloud - Asians? What happened to the term “oriental”?)

The term “oriental” is now considered by some to be politically incorrect, along with the term “Far East” because it implies a Centre (London? well, Europe, anyway) from which all else is judged.

Seems silly to me, since Europe is “the West” and right next to that is the “Middle East” or “Near East”, so I don’t think those terms really do posit a Centre… but then, political correctness aint my thing.

Guano Lad is right. Disney uses the “dwarfs” spelling in the movie and so should I. Had I been refering to actual humans I would have used “little people.”

As for the “Oriental” thing, if the term reappeard in common parlance it would imply that everyone who was not Oriental was in fact Occidental – and somehow that just seems harsh!

CKDext: What isn’t considered by some to be politically incorrect?

“Oriental” isn’t a word that I use everyday, but if I had to differentiate the China-Japan-Korea area from, say, Central Asia or India, then Oriental is the word I’d use.

“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island

Ahhhh…you wily Occidentals!


The cars you see those stuffed toys in generally belong to Asian families with teenage or younger kids (at least in my city). The teen girls just find it cute and think it novel to put them in the rear window of their car. I also think it has to do a lot with the cuteness of it all.
About Asian vs Oriental. We don’t call Europeans “occidentals” normally, no? I prefer Asian because it refers to the specific place my ancestors come from. Specifically I use Southeast Asian (since the Philippines is in Southeast Asia). I also find the word “oriental” just so ugly in sound. Asia sounds better to my ears.

On a recent trip to Japan, I visited the historic city of Kamakura with its many buddist temples. Near the temples there are many gift shops as it it customary for pilgrims to the temples to return with gifts for family and friends. One popular item at the gift shops were sets of seven figurenes of buddist monks. A Japanese friend said they were characters in Japanese buddism. I am not sure if they are historic or mythilogic.
There were many artistic interpertations of these seven figures to appeal to different shoppers taste. While some were tall and regal, many others were short and gnome-like. The group was always sold in a complete set. Having the complete group would bring luck.

Who knows what will strike a chord in others?

On a wonderful trip back to Prince Edward Island I was nonplussed to see the Japanese tourists who were so moved and enthusiastic about visiting Lucy M. Montgomery’s “House of Green Gables”. I mean, it’s a quaint, antique girls book that got a terrific treatment in a recent (well, pretty recent) movies for TV.

But some of these folks were in tears, they were so happy at being at the real spot. Who would have thought that a gawky, redheaded orphan girl in a series of old novels would have struck that kind of chord? Not mocking; it was just suprising.

I’d love to learn the other side: what do orientals find funny and odd about western tastes?


The Japanese I encountered in Kanagawa Prefecture considered it downright disgusting when they saw Americans on base using mouth thermometers to check temperature. Their normal method is to place a thermometer in the child’s armpit.

I love the “Rugs are Oriental, people are Asian” line. Should I start calling my Russian friends Asian now?

Re: Asians and Dwarves
I chalk it up to that universal axiom “Every culture has weird quirks.” IIRC, in Japan you can purchase used panties in a can.

Pouring your own drinks at a social event is selfish by Japanese standards. You’re also expected to pour for other people around you.

You can refer to me as “Asian”, I’ve heard the term “Oriental” used. It strikes me as being a 60s kind of word, like “groovy” or “hip”. Having really never grown up in Asia, I prefer “Texan”. It’s a little more accurate description of who I am inside.

“…send lawyers, guns, and money…”

 Warren Zevon

Ukulele Ike: Ahhhh…you wily Occidentals!

It’s not my fault I’m occidental; my mom just forgot to take the Pill.

*Alphagene: I love the “Rugs are Oriental, people are Asian” line. Should I start calling my Russian friends Asian now? *

Good question! My dad’s parents came from Irkutsk, which is about as close to the middle of Asia as you can get. Am I Asian-American, even though I’m as WASP-looking as can be?

Also, my nephews were born in Africa while my sister and her husband were doing missionary work there. Are they American-Africans?

For the Oriental vs. Asian question. Speaking as an Asian, I think it’s all about connotation. The term “oriental” was often associated with working-class immigrants, subservience, and laundry. The term “asian” is new and has none of these connotations.

The same goes for colored vs. black. The term “colored” has a lot of negative connotation. There used to be signs that read, “We don’t serve colored people” and such.

By the way, what is really wrong with the term “nigger”?

One beer is less than two beers.

I tend not to think that most other nationalities in Asia will claim any affiliation with the Japanese. Even other “Asians” think they’re pretty weird in some ways.

As for the term “Asian” itself, I guess it doesn’t carry the same Charlie Chan baggage as “Oriental”, but I regard it as just as much of a misnomer. As noted above, the term “Asian” groups a lot of unrelated people, and tries to lend some rough–and usually inaccurate–geographical justification to what is basically a description of physical appearance.

Aside from some very specific groups like blacks and Indians, who generally have a common shared history, I don’t think ethnic or racial terms really have much semantic value to begin with. To wit, what are “Hispanics”? Or “Whites”, for that matter? Groups of people with nothing in common, that’s what.