Cartoons and Controversy
A handful of Looney Tunes are no longer aired on American television nor are available for sale by Warner Brothers due to stereotyping.
African-Americans, Germans, Italians, Japanese, and Jews included in some of the cartoons (Ironically, a significant number of the artists, executives, and producers of these cartoons were Jewish, even Mel Blanc was Jewish.). It should be noted most of these cartoons were made during the World War II era, when it was common to refer to Japanese and Germans in derogatory terms.
From the cartoon Bugs Bunny Nips The Nips
Eleven of these cartoons were taken out of syndication in 1968 and have come to be known as the so called "Censored 11." This has cause many voices on both side of the issue to become vocal. One side doesn't want to perpetuate stereotypes while the other side, admitting they are offensive by today's standards, says we as Americans cannot deny that side of America did exist and they feel that they should have access to these shorts.
These "censored 11" cartoons have been seen occasionally on TV when used for "educational purposes."
One of the "censored 11" Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs
But not all the withdrawn cartoons are World War II related.
In 1999 all Speedy Gonzales cartoons were made unavailable because of its stereotyping of Mexicans. While it's true Speedy is the hero the cartoons tend to show the other mice as lazy, shiftless and womanizing.
Because the level of stereotyping was minor compared to the World War II era cartoons mentioned above as well as the protests of many Latinos who said they are not offended by Speedy these shorts were made available for broadcast again in 2002.
Perhaps the difference it Speedy was born out of ignorance of typical Mexicans and Speedy in effect is the hero and always does win out. This opposed to the World War II cartoons deliberately set out to make Germans and especially Japanese, look comical and stupid.
Injun Joe was the last theatrical cartoon released by Warner Brothers in 1969 and is "censored" simply for the use of the word "Injun."
From Injun Joe starring Cool Cat.
In the Looney Tunes Golden Collection there is a forward by Whoopi Goldberg which explains that the cartoons are uncut and uncensored and contain scenes which may be considered unacceptable by today's standards.
I kind of view this from a gay perspective from the old TV show Soap which the way gay son Jodie was written is very offensive to me as a gay man. But I realize also it wasn't done purposely but it's clear from the writing no one connected with the show had any idea what being gay meant.
Warner Brothers was not alone in the controversy.
Donald and Mickey also made "propaganda" cartoons" with racial stereotypes.
Popeye made You're A Sap Mr Jap
The United States govenrment produced war cartoons with racial stereotypes
MGM's Tom and Jerry shorts had a gag where there would be an explosion and either character or both would be in blackface. Today it only takes a minor cut to exercise the cartoon of the offensive blackface and still leaves the cartoon "relatively" intact.
The overall fear is that while it's easy to understand the cartoons from a historical perspective, racists, bigots and nationalists could easily use these cartoons out of their true context to promote their warped agenda.
For instance one of the cartoons on the "censored 11" is Tin Pan Alley Cats. If you'd browsed my site you know I am a big fan of the "Tin Pan Alley" era of music. To me this cartoon is historical and of great entertainment value. The cartoon usually makes any list of "Ten Greatest Cartoons Ever Made," and it is a great cartoon. The musicians portrayed in that film were not offended by that portrayal of them and producer Bob Clampett was a great friend to the LA jazz scene. He even tried to arrange for all of the actual musicians to play on the cartoon, though only some were able to.
Clampett used to go down to Central Avenue just south of Downtown LA where the old Jazz clubs were to hear the greats play. He would invariably bring his sketchbook and draw interesting faces...many of them appearing in those two cartoons.
From Tin Pan Alley Cats
Admittedly the presentation of some of these cartoons was merely what white people thought Black culture was like. The stereotyping of the Asians during the World War II era was probably the worst although presenting Indians or Native Americans only as bloodthirsty savages is close.
But race isn't the only concern, even Porky Pig has come under fire.
In 1991, the National Stuttering Project (NSP) picketed Warner Brothers Studios demanding that they stop "belittling" people who stutter and instead use Porky Pig as an advocate for children who stutter.
The studio refused the NSP, but eventually agreed to grant $12,000 to the Stuttering Foundation of America for a 1994 conference.
Of course one could look at it the other way that the morally upright and ever-optimistic Porky provides a positive role model for stutterers.
List of the "censored 11"
- Hittin' the Trail to Hallelujah Land (1931)
- Sunday Go to Meetin' Time (1936)
- Clean Pastures (1937)
- Uncle Tom's Bungalow (1937)
- Jungle Jitters (1938)
- The Isle of Pingo Pongo (1938)
- All This and Rabbit Stew (1941)
- Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs (1943)
- Tin Pan Alley Cats (1943)
- Angel Puss (1944)
- Goldilocks and the Jivin' Bears (1944)
All the censored 11 are Merrie Melodies except for Angel Puss which is a Looney Tune
Note Uncle Tom's Cabana (1944) and Half-Pint Pygmy (1948) are sometimes included in this list. And while they are full of racial stereotypes and often censored they are not part of the "censored 11" list.
Summary of The Censored 11 that I've seen
Sunday Go-To Meetin' Time
A teenage black boy is chided by his
girlfriend to clean up his chicken-stealing ways, but only does it after
a nightmare in the courtroom of Hades... A very cool theme song, but
that's about all.
African natives try to dine on a lost door-to-door salesman, but are prevented by their homely queen, who falls in love with him. This one's in the public domain, so you may find it
The Isle of Pingo Pongo
A wild travelogue spoof about life on a cannibal island. The island has a local versions of Fats Waller and the Mills Brothers who scat-sing to Sweet Georgia Brown.
All This And Rabbit Stew
Bugs Bunny is pursued by a slow-witted black boy hunter, who's also the star of Angel Puss . This tape is in public domain so you may get to see it.
Tin Pan Alley Cats
A cat version of Fats Waller foresakes "that old-time religion" for a wild land of jazz. Great short but abounds with black sterotypes
Goldilocks and the Jivin' Bears
An updated "Goldilocks" "The Three Bears are
black characters and there is a sexy Goldilocks)