Ándale! Ándale! Arriba!
July 29, 2007 8:21 PM   Subscribe

Ándale! Ándale! Arriba! -- Step aside you rat! Speedy González (no relation to Alberto) debuted in 1953 as a Warner Brothers' cartoon mouse (The Fastest Mouse in Mexico). Originally voiced by the master, Mel Blanc, his time on screen has at times been controversial -- especially when paired with his cousin Slowpoke Rodriguez. Cartoon Network deemed his portrayal of Mexicans/Latinos to be offensive. "There evidently wasn't a problem with the Mexican caricatures at the beginning of Speedy's career. The 1955 animated short 'Speedy Gonzales' won an Academy Award [Best Short Subject (Cartoons)], and two other cartoons, Tabasco Road and The Pied Piper of Guadalupe, were nominated for Oscars in 1957 and 1961."
posted by ericb (48 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This is the least crappy post that has had the word Gonzales in it all week.
posted by Effigy2000 at 8:25 PM on July 29, 2007 [8 favorites]

I hear this mouse, González runs fast. But on whose behalf does he run?
posted by orthogonality at 8:30 PM on July 29, 2007

"Nobody here but us cheeekinz! Boc boc boc boc!"
posted by ZachsMind at 8:37 PM on July 29, 2007

posted by wendell at 8:42 PM on July 29, 2007

Omigod Wendell! That was like, FIVE YEARS AGO! Five years doth not a double make, you meanie beanie!
posted by ZachsMind at 8:44 PM on July 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

I was discussing banned cartoons with a Mexican co-worker a while ago. She wondered what had happened to Speedy too.
If you want an example of an offensive ethnic stereotype, see Dudley Do-Right. Slap in the face to all Canadians.
posted by Pseudonumb at 8:48 PM on July 29, 2007

And you failed to mention the 1962 Pat Boone song, his recent emergence as a spokescharacter for Volkswagen (in Spanish!) and the toon that got banned because Speedy sang the original lyric to "La Cucaracha", with the line "marijuana por fumar". (Yes, I had the same idea)
posted by wendell at 8:48 PM on July 29, 2007

i remember back a while ago when there was a post about controversial mexican stamp that commemorated a racists african cartoon character, i went looking for a speedy gonzalez stamp and didn't find one. also, tiny toons has no speedy related character, tho pepi le pu and his progeny have never aroused much of a backlash.

was the concept of a speedy border crossing mexican around when speedy was invented?
posted by es_de_bah at 8:49 PM on July 29, 2007

Take it to MetaTalk lady!!!!!!!

Oh wait, sorry.

I watched Speedy all the time growing up. I still say "andale arriba!!!!" when I want to signify speed. I am of course met with blank stares. "You know... Speedy Gonzales?.... Mouse?.... Runs real fast?.... Speedy?....Big hat?... No? OK."

I never thought about it being anything negative, I just thought it was funny. I never met a Mexican mouse, but I doubt that I would expect one to have a sombrero and run on two legs.
posted by The Deej at 8:54 PM on July 29, 2007

As a child, I knew or cared nothing about the ethnicity of cartoon characters.

All I knew was that screeching "Andale! Andale!" while already tearing around like some coked-out whippet somehow made you go even faster. There's a certain age where you can actually get your legs to turn into a circular cartoon blur and peel out, puff of dust and all.
posted by loquacious at 8:55 PM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Speedy was my folk hero. What's all this shit about being so ethnically correct? Would Speedy Ginsberg be any better? How has ethnicity got to be so much more important than humanity, or rodentity?
posted by donfactor at 9:04 PM on July 29, 2007

Good point, es_de_bah. Pepi Le Pew is basically a smelly French rapist, yet where's the outrage? IIRC, the character from the Hernandez Bros Love & Rockets was named after Speedy. I wonder if WB and Cartoon Network pre-emptively self-censored in the case of the mouse.

(Here's the best lovestruck skunk cartoon ever, if you're into that sort of thing. And/or Frank Sinatra.)
posted by maryh at 9:12 PM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

the spanish in the slowpoke link is surprising for a children's cartoon. in the youtube video, slowpoke begins to sing in spanish (at 00:17), and he sings,

"porque no tiene, porque le falta, marihuana que fumar"
which translates to: "because he does not have, because he is lacking, marijuana to smoke"

the song is "la cucaracha", perhaps the most famous mexican folk song. the song has many verses and variations. that line is fairly traditional line in the song, but still it seems an odd choice of a line for a children's song.
posted by Flood at 9:31 PM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hmm, interesting thing about children and ethnic stereotypes... they're very obviously acquired, not innate.

A former supervisor's kid is half Nebraskan caucasian and half 4th generation Chinese Canadian. I was watching Fantasia with him (he was 7 or 8 at the time) and was talking with him about the different characters that came up.

The very stereotypical "racist" depiction of the Amanita muscaria mushrooms (ie., reminescent of coolie hats and Mandarine coats/poa) came up and he started talking about how the mushrooms were "angry," because of the slanted eyes and completely missed the racial reference.

In the mid-80's, when I was about his age, I was taunted mercilesly about my slanted eyes and "ching chong ching chong" and crap like that (I actually have very large eyes and am conspicuously missing prominant epicanthic folds). Then again, this was in Vancouver BC where one of my committee member's (she's caucasian, her husband's Chinese Singaporean - she spent most of her professional life in Singapore) 13 year old kid was lamenting his lack of stiff black hair - apparently many of his friends were pureblood Chinese and had harsh spikey black hair. I'm still sooo jealous of that kid's slightly wavy medium black hair.


I loved Speedy Gonzalez animated shorts when I was a kid. I admired him for his quick wit and agile mind that went with his super speed.
posted by porpoise at 9:35 PM on July 29, 2007

Flood, those theatrical shorts were produced for general audiences, not specifically for children. I doubt that line would have been included in the shorts that were produced for Saturday morning TV, innocent & traditional as it might be.
posted by maryh at 9:44 PM on July 29, 2007

He was on all the time after elementary school in my part of the woods. South Texas. And nobody had a problem with it.
posted by gcbv at 9:45 PM on July 29, 2007

I totally loved Speedy as an important part of WB cartoons. I never picked up on any stereotypes.

And kids are no different from adults... if they want to make fun of someone, any obvious reason will do: Mexican, Chinese, fat, poor... they'll find some excuse to bug others. I don't think it's ever really about stereotypes. It's just about jerks.
posted by chudmonkey at 9:47 PM on July 29, 2007

That "Fastest Mouse" link says the Cartoon Network no longer censors Speedy:

However, fan campaigns to put Speedy back on the air, as well as lobbying by The League of United Latin American Citizens, who argued that Speedy's cleverness and personality was a positive depiction of Mexicans, turned the tide in his favor, and in 2002, "the fastest mouse in all Mexico" was put back into rotation.
posted by mediareport at 10:06 PM on July 29, 2007

Mel Blanc also voiced the Frito Bandito. No wonder he sounded like Speedy Gonzales.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:17 PM on July 29, 2007

"Speedy Gonzales has always been a very popular cartoon character, and cartoon fans are among the most diehard loyal fans around. They just want him back," she said in a telephone interview from Miami. "And these aren't just non-Mexicans; a lot of these are Mexicans themselves."

For what its worth, My Mexican family loved Speedy Gonzalez. The cartoons didn't come across as slurs but as benign and funny in-jokes, the types of things Mexicans laugh at themselves for too. That is, it was sympathetic and funny rather than mean and offensive.

Its not clear who, if anybody, actually complained about these cartoons or whether it was PC activism on behalf of Mexicans (which in many circumstances can be annoyingly patronizing)
posted by vacapinta at 10:27 PM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

on non-preview: So the linked article is from 2002.

thanks mediareport!
posted by vacapinta at 10:28 PM on July 29, 2007

Maya of The Evening Class wrote an interesting post about Speedy Gonzalez last year, delving into his background as the son of migrant workers and questioning WB's motivations in pulling the cartoons.
posted by Tuwa at 10:32 PM on July 29, 2007 [3 favorites]

That's a great link, Tuwa, thanks.
posted by mediareport at 10:41 PM on July 29, 2007

The thing about Slowpoke Rodriguez is, he carries a gun.
posted by jonson at 10:47 PM on July 29, 2007

My extremely Mexican coworker LOVES Speedy Gonzales, and calls anyone who slows down slightly Slowpoke Gonzales (I haven't corrected him on Slowpoke's last name, yet).

I, in turn, loved Speedy as a kid. Everybody did.
posted by deafmute at 11:06 PM on July 29, 2007

I'm beginning to think that the problem is slapping the word "controversial" on things that only a handful of cranks object to. We just magnify their idiocy and give it the patina of legitimacy by taking it seriously.
posted by RavinDave at 11:33 PM on July 29, 2007

Speedy Gonzales ruled.

Next thing you know people will find the Roadrunner's MEEP MEEP! offensive.

posted by bwg at 1:00 AM on July 30, 2007

I am going to go to the mat for political correctness. It's really easy for a bunch of overprivileged white people to sit around and moan about how ethnic stereotypes aren't offensive.

If a few kids miss out on Speedy on TV, they can always youtube it. No biggie.
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:19 AM on July 30, 2007

"porque no tiene, porque le falta, marihuana que fumar"
which translates to: "because he does not have, because he is lacking, marijuana to smoke"

They had a lot of stuff in that cartoons that kids probably woulnd't pick up, such as these lines:

(engage accent)
"that is speedy gonzalez, he knows my sister"

"speedy gonzalez knows everybody's sister..."

(disengage accent)

That mouse probably bought his condoms in family-size boxes...
posted by DreamerFi at 1:31 AM on July 30, 2007

MetaFilter: overprivileged white people
posted by bwg at 2:11 AM on July 30, 2007

After living through all those cartoons, I'm pretty sure I didn't base my opinion of Spanish people on them. Maybe I was just precocious, in that I pretty much knew they didn't all wear sombreros, walk to the beat of mariachi music and that the entire country probably didn't shut down for periodic "siestas" during the day. Come to think of it -- I can't remember ANY Warner Brothers' character that couldn't provide offense to someone determined to find it.
posted by RavinDave at 2:31 AM on July 30, 2007

Speedy's rendition of "La Cucaracha" can be heard, uncensored, on the Golden Collection DVD sets. It blew my mind the first time I noticed it, but gods love WB for having the guts to release it.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:37 AM on July 30, 2007

Yogi Bear is a demeaning stereotype of oveweight, overeating gay men living in the nation's parks.
posted by psmealey at 3:48 AM on July 30, 2007 [4 favorites]

Speedy's nationality is Mexican, not Spanish, RavinDave. I'll tolerate the lack of distinction from my elderly neighbor, who grew up in a different time, but that's about it.

I'll speak up for the potential offensiveness of the cartoon. It's easy to dismiss it as over-PCness or a few uptight cranks, but taken as a whole, in conjunction with Frito Bandito, that Taco-Bell dog, it just leaves a bad taste in my (taco-loving) mouth. I don't think Speedy was offensive, but like a lot of caricatures, the stereotypes that it reinforces kind of filter through society, so that the whole image of a culture gets tainted by it in a way that I think can be detrimental.

I remember my folks forgetting to pick me up an hour earlier than normal after a rehearsal. The teacher asked me if it had been siesta time. I wanted to tell her off that my parents were busy working their asses off, and that I'd never even heard of the word siesta until then. But whatever, it was a "harmless assumption" in her eyes, and I was a confused little kid.

I'd actually be interested in seeing the Speedy cartoons again, if just to compare to my childhood memories. But I think making a joke of it's potential offensiveness ignores bigger problems, that while the good people of MeFi might realize it's just a cartoon that features an over-blown portrayal, some people truly don't. For some of its Mexican viewers, Speedy can be an everyman hero, but for some others, he can be somebody to laugh at, not with, and that's what worries me.
posted by lychee at 4:51 AM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Pish. If I can take endless Lucky Charms Leprechaun commercials and the carnival if ignorance that is Saint Patrick's Day here in the US, you can take a couple sombrero jokes.
posted by sidereal at 6:05 AM on July 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

I think most of this controversy is over thinking un plato de frijoles. I was recently called a regular Speedy González for doing my work quickly by my supervisor. I was more bemused than offended, having born far worse when I was a youngster growing up in Texas. This was an interaction between adults; I'll leave it to you to guess at the ethnicities involved.

In any case, if there is stereotyping associated with Speedy, you've got to remember that the cartoon probably isn't at the root of it.
posted by Mister Cheese at 7:23 AM on July 30, 2007

That was actually my nickname as a young child, given to me by my grandmother.

I enjoyed those cartoons like all the other WB ones. Sure, there's a lot of stereotypes, but at the same time, when it comes to kids, parental involvement and teaching goes a long way. If parents help their kids understand diversity and the beauty of different groups, then there shouldn't be any issue. This goes for life, because there are often much bigger and more important examples than in cartoons.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:40 AM on July 30, 2007

It's really easy for a bunch of overprivileged white people to sit around and moan about how ethnic stereotypes aren't offensive.

That's funny, especially given this from Tuwa's link:

It's a crutch for guilty liberal white people to feel good about themselves. It doesn't mean a damn thing that Mexicans themselves do like Speedy Gonzales—some white folks at Cartoon Network have decided they shouldn't oughta like Speedy, and that's that. The important thing, you see, is for those nice white liberals at Cartoon Network to feel good about themselves, with a nice big pat on the back for being so 'enlightened' and 'sensitive.' "

That "overprivileged white people" thing cuts both ways.

lychee: For some of its Mexican viewers, Speedy can be an everyman hero, but for some others, he can be somebody to laugh at, not with, and that's what worries me.

I think the main point being made by those objecting to the censoring is that there don't seem to have been any complaints to the Cartoon Network about Speedy being offensive. They just decided he was.
posted by mediareport at 7:46 AM on July 30, 2007

Mel Blanc also voiced the Frito Bandito. No wonder he sounded like Speedy Gonzales.

The hat I got for Christmas is too big...

(One of the best silly Christmas songs ever)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:47 AM on July 30, 2007

How about the portrayal of Native Americans in Bugs Bunny cartoons? Or the weird WWII propaganda stuff?

You could as easily argue that Yosemite Sam is some kind of racial stereotype. Or Elmer Fudd. Or... yeah. They're cartoons. :P
posted by Foosnark at 7:51 AM on July 30, 2007

"He's so fast he makes Speedy González look like Regular González!"
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 8:15 AM on July 30, 2007

Ya know, I loved Little Black Sambo, too. It's perfectly possible for things to be both wonderful and delightful and problematic at the same time. What's so frustrating about these pop culture debates is there's no room for nuance. Once something is branded evil, it's over.

Without Speedy Gonzales there's pretty much no other Latino culture in the 1950s cartoons, is there?
posted by Nelson at 8:51 AM on July 30, 2007

It's really easy for a bunch of overprivileged white people to sit around and moan about how ethnic stereotypes aren't offensive.

so let me get this right, mexicans depicted as lazy bums and also smart and fast and quick to get out of a jam. not really seeing the problem.

an ethnic stereotype i find offensive is that of an "overprivileged whitey" fretting and handwringing obsessively over everyone else's feelings. seems to me that fixing "other peoples" problems in regards to ethnicity is pretty damn racist in it's own right. sure you aren't using blatantly offensive language. but it's treating someone else as too lazy/stupid etc to take care of themselves.

i think of freedom summer in the 60's, when tons of white college kids headed south to enroll black people to vote. it started out great, everyone was really active and involved, till the overly eager problem solving college kids slowly took over. in alot of what i read, black's began to stop participating, cause the great white hope pushed them out of the way. those college kids were just as racist as everyone else at the time. "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

alot of political correctness i see seems more about the person trying to correct everyone then anything else. whenever i see someone emphatically correcting people it usually sounds more along the lines of "look at me, look at me, i care so much, i'm a good person!!!!!!!!!" cause standing around redfaced, pointing your finger at everyone else does nothing. it just pisses people off and makes someone want to rub your face in whatever self righteousness you're espousing. at the same time i totally empathize, but to me the important thing is recognizing your own racism, cause everyone is.
posted by andywolf at 10:01 AM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Friend of mine married a girl from Mexico City. On one of her visits stateside, he was flipping through the channels and hit upon a Speedy Gonzalez cartoon. He looked at her, then flipped past it. She asked why. He said he thought it might offend her.

"Oh, please," she pished, "We make fun of Norteños, too."
posted by goofyroo at 10:50 AM on July 30, 2007

those college kids were just as racist as everyone else at the time.

hate to derail, but this is bullshit. complete and utter bullshit.

many of those college kids risked life and limb to help blacks in the south. the good and noble "just folks" of the South often intimidated and assaulted the college kids even more than they did the blacks the college kids were trying to help.

of course there were leadership clashes and style clashes when two groups from completely different worlds met. hell, blacks from the south often got into other arguments with other blacks from the south on how best to work to get the rights granted to them in that "goddamn piece of paper;" some didn't want anything at all done for them -- by anyone.

a lot of people who fought for civil rights in that era made sacrifices that today's so-called liberals and progressives in America wouldn't even dream of making. don't belittle them.
posted by lord_wolf at 12:17 PM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

The Cartoon Network debate has since been made moot, because neither they, nor any other American network, are currently running ANY Looney Tunes cartoons.
posted by evilcolonel at 3:56 PM on July 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Um ... NOT running them makes the debate "current". When they start running them again it will be "moot".
posted by RavinDave at 8:19 PM on July 30, 2007

Actually I rather disliked the Speedy Gonzales cartoons for reasons entirely unrelated to the illustrated rodent's ethnicity. Especially the later Daffy/Speedy and Sylvester/Gonzales ones. Most of them, like the later Road Runner/Coyote cartoons, were made during WB Animation's decay.
posted by JHarris at 1:06 AM on July 31, 2007

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