Censoring Cartoons
June 4, 2001 6:54 AM   Subscribe

Censoring Cartoons and in effect, censoring my childhood. Without a doubt, some of these cartoons are racist, but I'd prefer that they not be shown rather than cut up. Other cuts just don't make sense to me.
posted by plinth (28 comments total)
Wow! Great link. This is been a question in my mind for some time; I know that the networks censor cartoons, but then I haven't watched the networks for years...

Now that I know Cartoon Network also censors them I feel the need to write a letter saying "stop insulting the artists; leave their works intact". I'd write the networks, but it became apparent long ago that they are not interested in anything approaching artistic integrity.
posted by hadashi at 7:58 AM on June 4, 2001

I was watching some bugs/road runner toons the other day. I was thinking to myself about how violent they were, BUT that they are no match for power rangers or even pokemon. I was thinking that the bugs/rr toons are so much about cartoony violence. as in, sure, the coyote falls from a cliff and smacks on the ground but he also gets sqeezed through a pipe and squirs out onto the ground and walks away funny.

Point? Its just that the "cartoon violence" of yesterday is so fake and goofy that it pales in comparison to the potential problems that power rangers can cause - ie little kid (4 years old) bloodying 2 other kids noses whilst trying a new powerranger kick (true story).

why not just stick to sesame street I say.
posted by tomplus2 at 8:10 AM on June 4, 2001

My kids spent a good portion of a stormy weekend watching the "June Bugs" marathon on the Cartoon Network. I noticed several sections were missing from when I saw them as a ... umm... child. I also noticed what they left in. Still a lot of shooting and violence. It seems that the censors are, at best, sloppy.

Do we rehash the history vs. censorship argument? Seems like it's been done to exhaustion already.
posted by goto11 at 8:13 AM on June 4, 2001

In a perfect world, cartoons employing racist stereotypes for cheap laughs would not have been produced. In a slightly less-than-perfect world, we would teach our children the critical thinking skills necessary to watch these cartoons and realize how misguided our society was when they were produced, and how far we have yet to go. In the real, extremely imperfect world, many of these cartoons just shouldn't be aired. I believe they should be preserved in their original form in order to illustrate how deeply bigotry and violence are rooted in our culture. By destroying them or denying their existence we would lose valuable insight into our past, and risk repeating it.
posted by gimli at 8:15 AM on June 4, 2001

Equally annoying to cartoon buffs and historians is when TPTB decide to remove the original titles from cartoons.

Yep...we live in an extremely imperfect world.
posted by webchick at 8:31 AM on June 4, 2001

If we as a society had the parenting skills to discuss why cartoons depicted the "slapstick" violence and subtle racial humor (tasteless, or not) was acceptable and normal for that generation. censorship shouldn't even be in the picture.

I do find it odd that the cartoon violence in pokemon is more acceptable then bugs bunny getting hit on the head with a rolling pin.
posted by Qambient at 8:34 AM on June 4, 2001

Maybe it's just me, but the cartoons I remember as being the most scarring were the ones with little kids being chased around by liquor bottles and cigarettes.

Or did I just dream that?

Hopefully I'm not the only one who remembers that!
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:22 AM on June 4, 2001

I spent a good portion of the weekend watching June Bugs (and I'm 30!) and I was surprised that the toons weren't as racist as I remember. Now I know why. It bothers me that Cartoon Network, which actually attempts to show some respect to the men (they're almost exclusively men) behind the cartoons--with the Bob Clampett Show, etc.--would then cut their work apart like that. At very least, I'd like to see a disclaimer at the beginning of each show: "Edited for Content," or whatever.
posted by jpoulos at 9:26 AM on June 4, 2001

Kafkaesque, I remember a very old Porky Pig cartoon in which he steals a nickel from the offering tray at church, buys a cigar from the local delinquent, then has horrible hallucinations after smoking it, with matches, pipes, and other smoking parphernalia coming to life and tormenting him. Spooky stuff! That one was also chock-full of racial stereotypes, if I recall correctly.
posted by gimli at 9:51 AM on June 4, 2001

If I were an African American parent, I sure would not want my kids watching a lot of those old cartoons - like the 'Queenie' from Tom and Jerry - the old black cook, who is every negative stereotype you can think of for black women. Why would I want my kids watching anything that reinforces a way of thinking that has no place in today's society? Why would you want your kids watching anything that reinforces strong racial division? Aren't there enough 'real life' examples of prejudice to draw from?

I think that people who get the most upset over 'censorship' are people who aren't affected by what was excised. Some of the old strips used to use the word Nigger - are you upset that was excised, too? Is that a word that ought to left in children's cartoons? Its a word so powerfully offensive that I most often see it referred to as the "N-word." If it is okay to censor that out, why not censor out other, equally offensive stereotypes and language?
posted by kristin at 9:58 AM on June 4, 2001

I was thinking of something when I was watching June Bugs yesterday... Bugs Bunny is playing the piano, and someone starts caughing. He waits, and plays again. The guy coughs again. So Bugs stand up, pulls a gun out of his jacket, and shot the guy.

I was actually surprised they aired this, given the 'ultra sensitive climate' that we lived in. I am pleased they did, though. Very funny stuff there.

and didn't bugs bunny used to do black face at one point? or how about to yosemite sam, "hey mr. A-Rab"... hehe...
posted by benjh at 10:01 AM on June 4, 2001

Why would you want your kids watching anything that reinforces strong racial division?

Absolutely not, but I feel that they should be upfront about what they're editing out. Bugs Bunny, et al, is as much a historical document of pop culture as it is entertainment for today's kids. As an adult, I find the old, racist versions to be valuable. I hear so much about how racism is gone from our culture (hence, affirmative action is unnecessary, etc) I think it's important to remember how recently bigotry--even in children's TV shows--was the status quo. You don't confront racism by pretending it never existed.
posted by jpoulos at 10:27 AM on June 4, 2001

Why would I want my kids watching anything that reinforces a way of thinking that has no place in today's society? Why would you want your kids watching anything that reinforces strong racial division?

So that you could demonstrate to them that beliefs change over time? So you can sit down with your child, and explain that part of what they are seeing is wrong? So that we can teach our children to be critical thinkers, and to form their own judgements, and to guide what those judgements should be based on *our* values, rather than to protect them from everything we don't like, leaving them completely unprepared for the world outside?

So we don't end up creating a generation of PC puppets?
posted by jammer at 10:32 AM on June 4, 2001

And now, for your viewing pleasure, Fred and Barney Flintstone smoking Winston cigarettes.
posted by waxpancake at 10:41 AM on June 4, 2001

>And now, for your viewing pleasure, Fred and
>Barney Flintstone smoking Winston cigarettes.

Ah, yes...now we're talking, waxpancake!

more here...
posted by webchick at 10:53 AM on June 4, 2001

I am disturbed by the fact I live in a society in which every time someone wants to say something funny about society, they have to reinforce it with endless disclaimers that do more harm to the original intent of humor than when a drunk person screws up telling a joke and then has to explain the punchline. Thhose with a sense of humor, even if sometimes it's tasteless or inappropriate, are being systematically legally silenced or pushed into submission by people without a sense of humor. Why? The fear of being sued for practicing their inalienable rights. What has our society come to?

Some people look at the cartoons of the early 20th century and feel we should rise above our past by obliterating it. They're JUST cartoons after all. Where's the harm? Warner Brothers and other companies also like the fact they can recycle the old by cleaning them up a little bit, and then they can offer them to whole new generations, with a modern sensibility. It makes them more money. They actually get to resell the same old stuff in a new package, and people buy them because they're now acceptable. What I want to know is who are these people??

Instead of calling them garbagemen, we now call them sanitation engineers. This seems sensible? They're not all men, but how can they prefer not to be named after what gives their profession purpose? Instead of acknowleding what they do for what it is, we upgrade the name with a cleaner synonym, and sanitize their efforts. We say we're honoring them when we do this, but really we're just sweeping the less appealing parts of our society under the rug. Pretending the dirt isn't there.

It is for this sort of irrational behavior that Mr. Carlin stopped wearing suits in the sixties. He used to be as clean as George Burns or Jack Benny, but one day Carlin just snapped. He couldn't fit into society's mold of what a comedian should be any longer. He had to be true to himself, no matter what the cost. And his courage to look censorship and stupidity in the eye and laugh at it like a medieval fool ridiculing his own king to his face, that has benefitted society more than any "just say no" campaign or ratings board.

However, Frank Zappa was no more or less of a hero for sticking to his guns than Tipper Gore. During the senate censorship hearings they both participated in around the 1960s, Tipper was defending the right to bring her children up in an environment she felt was safe and nurturing. Frank was defending every man, and woman's inalienable right to free speech. Both are equally noble goals. The problem comes when one tries to say a parent's rights are greater than the constitution, or that inalienable rights of life, liberty and happiness are more important than an individual's right to protect their home from beliefs that differ from their own. You can't. When you think about it, they're synonymous.

Oftentimes when Bill Maher is arguing his point in his television show Politically Incorrect, I find myself cringing at the fact the guests there get involved with minutiae, and all he's trying to say is, "don't you think this a bit absurd for an allegedly intelligent society?" Can't we resolve these situations more maturely? Without censoring one another's words, shouting louder than the other, or erasing from history what got us here in the first place?

If I had children, I would want the opportunity to subject them to both the best and worst of our planet's history, cultures, accomplishments and failures. I wouldn't want to sanitize the world for them. Sanitizing the world does not properly prepare anyone for their future. One of the reasons why I chose long ago not to bring children into this world, is because in today's society, I simply wouldn't be allowed to give my children the truth.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:33 AM on June 4, 2001

Why would you want your kids watching anything that reinforces strong racial division?

This depends very much on viewing habits. If I am there to discuss these issues with my children, and if they are big enough to discuss such issues, I have no problem with them watching it.
posted by palnatoke at 12:08 PM on June 4, 2001

I heard about the cartoon editing on NPR last week and I was disappointed. The part that NPR focused on was all the racial stereotypes that they decided to "edit" out of the cartoons so that they wouldn't be "offensive".

I find it "offensive" that the networks think they can edit out history. It's unfortunate that our society was ever at a point where these type of stereoptypical depictions in pop culture were considered to be ok but to just edit them out of the cartoon does not negate the fact that they ever existed.

I think they should have left the material in the cartoons. It would be a good way to introduce a big part of our Nation's history to our children. Leave it up to the parents to explain to their children why these stereotypes existed and where we are today.

Just my two cents.
posted by summer1971 at 12:54 PM on June 4, 2001

The mention of the "N-word" by kristin reminded me of something that I've thought for a while, but never could verify with anyone else (never asked).

Is it just me, or did "nigger" turn from offensive into a swear word in the middle of the OJ Simpson trial? I know it was offensive before then, but I don't recall the phrase "N-word" being uttered before then.

Of course, I could be wrong. It was years ago, after all.
posted by CrayDrygu at 1:07 PM on June 4, 2001

Zach, we are all subjected to censorship... we all have been for some time now. In fact, there's less censorship now than there has ever been. So, why do you feel like you couldn't give your children the truth? Do you feel that censorship has caused you have little or no grasp on the truth?
posted by fusinski at 1:40 PM on June 4, 2001

That's how I saw it, CrayDrygu. I think it was F. Lee Bailey who first said "The N-Word", in an effort to make Mark Fuhrman's racist comments that much more offensive. Funny, language, ain't it?
posted by jpoulos at 1:42 PM on June 4, 2001

I posted this on my site yesterday, but there was a pretty good article in the Sunday NY Times Week in Review section about this very topic.
posted by amyscoop at 2:20 PM on June 4, 2001

I'm confused more by things like this:
"Ali Baba Bunny" (Jones; 1957): Syndication: Sometimes, Hassan chopping Daffy's hat (and hair) down the middle was gone.
"Gee Whiz-z-z-z!" (Jones; 1956): ABC: The scene with Wile E. firing a bullet at the Road Runner only to have the Road Runner zip away at such a speed that the bullet is dumbfounded and detonates in the hand of a puzzled Wile E., was deleted from this cartoon. Partially excised was Wile E.'s use of a spring attached to a dynamite stick; viewers saw him accidentally recoil into the wall, but there was a fake fade-out before the dynamite also recoils and explodes!
"The Grey-Hounded Hare" (McKimson; 1949): ABC: The part where the dog fetches the stick of lit dynamite thrown by Bugs and sustains the explosion while the dynamite is in his mouth, was removed in such a way that the dog seems to have acquired the consequent cuts, bruises, and powder stains simply by falling from his chase of a balloon bunny in Bugs' prior act of heckling, and there is hence no explanation for the charred remnants of red dynamite stick in his mouth.
(plus many more)
posted by plinth at 2:30 PM on June 4, 2001

I would prefer if they just didn't show the offending toons as opposed to editing them. The thing is, the recent brush-up was over showing these toons on the Cartoon Network, which at its core is a kid's channel. It would be a whole other ball of wax if these toons were going to be shown on somehting like The History Channel or Discovery. If they release them on video tape there should be a notice on the tape, edited or not.
posted by owillis at 2:33 PM on June 4, 2001

The part which makes me sad is that cartoons on ToonHeads (which tries to be a semi-serious attempt at cartoon history--it does shows devoted to the work of specific animators, or multiple takes on the same theme, with interesting information between the toons) are edited. And ToonHeads airs relatively late (10 or 11 PM), presumably when the kiddies are asleep.
posted by darukaru at 2:53 PM on June 4, 2001

Yikes, I remember that, in Ali Baba Bunny! Why cut that out? It's not like kids are running around with swords.

"Hassan Chop!"
posted by Cavatica at 2:57 PM on June 4, 2001

Incidentally, I just took a short Royal Caribbean cruise trip, and they are obsessed with having lots of Things For The Kiddies To Do So They Get Out Of The Parents' Hair. One of the those things happens to be a dedicated TV channel featuring nothing, and I mean nothing, but the old WB Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes cartoons. I saw piles of them, including the "Hassan Chop!" episode, and they weren't cut at all. Violence galore! It was delicious.
posted by Skot at 3:06 PM on June 4, 2001

(Can't resist adding my fave, and I can't remember the title, but it's the one where Elmer Fudd blows Daffy's head off about sixteen different times because of various '_____ Seasons' posited by Bugs. Oh, man.)
posted by Skot at 3:16 PM on June 4, 2001

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