Jimmy Kimmel has been busy all night hosting the 89th Academy Awards. His notable moments include sending candy down from the sky and bringing in a bus of unsuspecting tourists, but his most recent gag has some people feeling uncomfortable.
Kimmel approached young Sunny Pawar who stars in the hit Lion and, in case you hadn't noticed, is adorable. After some back and forth banter about candy and the Oscars, the host asked the 8-year-old if he had ever seen The Lion King. Then, he asked if they could recreate the iconic moment when Rafiki lifts Simaba up into the air. Sunny obliged, getting out of his chair and letting Kimmel lift him up in front of the entire audience.
It was meant as an adorable joke, but as Twitter is pointing out, the racial undertones can't be ignored.
A white man lifting up a child of color while The Lion King music plays creates a very uncomfortable racial dynamic. Even if it wasn't intended that way, the image is too stark to be ignored. It's even more uncomfortable when you remember that Pawar's grasp of English is actually very limited, so he likely didn't understand much of the host was asking him to do.
For the most part, people are accusing the host of using Sunny Pawar as a prop and a punchline for a racial joke.
"Jesus Christ Jimmy Kimmel, can you not use a little brown kid as a prop for an Disneyfied African-themed punchline?" one user asked.
While we're happy that Kimmel took a moment to give the absolutely adorable Pawar more screen time, we wish it had been done without these problematic connotations.