The Adventures of Wee Rob Roy
An early comic animation
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Content advisory: Racist depiction of indigenous black people.
This is an early animated short film about the adventures of Wee Rob Roy. There are both cultural (Scottish Highlander) and racial (African) stereotypes used in the film.
In this film we see 'Wee Rob Roy' playing the bagpipes in his living-room. He wears a kilt and a Tam O'Shanter hat. His mother tells him to stop and he is sent out. Wee Rob goes hunting and takes pot shots at a bird and a rabbit. He then watches some golfers and jumps into a car parked outside the Thistle Inn. He runs over a policeman and a fisherman, travels over rough terrain, crashes and is sent flying through the air.
In a second sequence Rob Roy holds onto a bird's legs as it flies across the ocean, landing on an island where he is captured by the indigenous people. These people are depicted using racial stereotypes. They appear wearing grass skirts, hold spears and live in straw huts. They have large lips and eyes that roll. They are shown as 'uncivilised' (unclothed, with spears) and childlike (playing on a seesaw).
Wee Rob Roy is then shot out of a cannon and flies back across the ocean. He lands safely back where he started - although on a thistle!
The cannon may be an image taken from the story of the defense of Algeria from colonial invasion by the French. In 1683 the French consul at the time (Jean le Vacher) was put into the cannon and blasted from it during a failed attempt by the French navy to take the city. In 1830 the French removed the cannon. Algerians are now campaigning for its return.
Updated January 2021
Questions & Activities
- What elements in the film show Scottish culture?
- How realistic is this film? What genre is it?
- What stereotypes can you see in the film? What is wrong with these images of people?
- How does the depiction of the indigenous people on the island reflect the attitudes of white people at the time the film was made? How are these harmful?
- Can you spot uses of Scots language?
- What do you know about life in 1916?
- Where do you think this film was shown and to whom?
Research the history of the British Empire and Colonialism.
Discuss racism in the film. Find other films that use racist and stereotyped images of black or indigenous people.
Find out about the history of the motor car.
Find out about cinemagoing during the First World War.
Create a short animation using paper cut-outs.
Create a soundtrack for the film using voice and percussion.
Have a discussion about the use of comedy and fantasy in animation.
Create a presentation on the 'Highlander' stereotype in comedy.
|Resource Rights Holder||National Library of Scotland|
|School Subject||English, Media Studies, ICT, Geography, Social History, Music|
|Subject Matter||Colonialism, Racism|
|Who||Rob Roy (character)|
|Event||First World War, Colonialism, British Empire, Golf|
|Attributes||Black and White, Silent|