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I just realized it’s been forever since I actually covered a piece of film music, so I thought I’d ease myself back in with one of the less well-known pieces of Disney music: “The Siamese Cat Song” from Lady and the Tramp (1955). Sadly, Lady and the Tramp is not very high on the radar of kids today, which is a shame, as the film is a gem with its animation and songs.
“The Siamese Cat Song”, although one of my favorite pieces, is rather controversial, because it contains a blatant Asian stereotype in the form of Si and Am, the two Siamese cats introduced by Aunt Sarah (after Lady’s owners leave for a short vacation). In keeping with their Asian origins, the song is built around a pentatonic (five tone) melody and begins with the ominous ringing of a gong (also strongly associated with Asian cultures in general).
When Si and Am speak (in unison a lot of the time), they have visible buck teeth. And the way they talk/sing is overly formal with bad English (a parody of Asians speaking in English). For example, here is the first verse:
We are Siamese, if you please
We are Siamese if you *don’t* please
Now we lookin’ over our new domicile
If we like we stay for maybe quite a while
The language is overly formal (note the “if you please”), and the grammar…bad! But stereotypes aside, I really like this song, because while the cats remain very polite in tone throughout their song, their actions reveal that they are nothing but trouble!
Do you seeing that thing swimming round and round?
Yes. Maybe we can reaching in and make it drown.
If we sneaking up upon it carefully
There will be a head for you, a tail for me.
Do you hear what I hear?
A baby cry?
Where we finding baby there be milk nearby.
If we look in baby buggy there could be
Plenty milk for you and also some for me.
In short order, the two cats: topple a vase of flowers, shred the curtains, terrorize the goldfish (narrowly saved from being eaten by Lady), attempt to eat the pet bird, and in general make a huge mess. And then…the baby starts crying upstairs. Being clever cats, Si and Am deduce that there must be fresh milk nearby for the baby (and if so they will gladly help themselves). However, Lady has had enough of these two, and she makes a stand at the top of the stairs. Realizing they’ve gone too far, Si and Am run for it, and all three collide in a heap back in the sitting room, where the two devious felines make it look like Lady started it as soon as Aunt Sarah enters the room. I always hated this part because I knew none of this was Lady’s fault and yet here’s mean Aunt Sarah blaming everything on Lady.
I hope you liked this brief look at “The Siamese Cat Song”
Lady and the Tramp “Bella Notte” (1955)
Lady and the Tramp “He’s a Tramp” (1955)
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