“Eh… What’s up, doc?” *chewing a carrot* Who doesn’t love Bugs Bunny? Everyone does! Bugs has been dubbed the most influential cartoon character ever created by many critics.
But hidden under that amicable, good-natured rabbit, there’s a darker shade of humor, literally. The Bugs Bunny show has courted with racism right from the start. The Japs, Eskimos and native blacks have all come under his fire. An interesting recent piece of news states that Cartoon Network, who have the broadcasting rights for the entire Bugs Bunny series decided against playing a dozen racially charged animated short films revolving around Bugs. Some of these films were made as early as the ‘40s and ‘50s.
2. Tom and Jerry
Every kid’s watched Tom and Jerry, and loves their misadventures. It is difficult to find the racially slurring Tom and Jerry films today, after all the fight against racism. During WWII, many cartoons jumped on the ‘insult the enemies’ bandwagon and produced a lot of racist cartoons and comics. Tom and Jerry was no different. As early as 1942, a film featured Tom as a caricature of a Chinese. Ever seen Jerry fall into the ink bottle or shoe polish? And Tom uses him to clean shoes? If you didn’t figure that one out, it’s a direct shot at the Blacks.
3. Popeye the Sailor Man
Stuck in an impossible situation? Popeye just pops in some spinach, gets super-human powers and punches his way through the stickiest of situations. Did you know that one of his more stickier targets were the Japs during WWII? Case in point, the banned Popeye episode called “You’re a Sap, Mr. Jap”. Like all truly patriotic cartoon characters, Popeye was a product of his time too.
Many other episodes which border on racial stereotypes being clobbered by Popeye, a true American, still float around. Like the one where he goes to Africa looking for his friends, and has a bevy of native women ‘taking care of his every need’.
4. Donald Duck
And the Disney era begins. Donald duck was one of the first characters from the Disney house to embrace racism. In a certain animated shot, Donald had a dream where he’s Der Fuhrer leading the Nazi army. A whole bunch of war time propaganda clips featuring Donald Duck were made during the Second World War. They follow Donald’s adventures through his army life.
He starts his basic training and goes on a mission to sabotage a Japanese air base. On an unrelated note, many schools around the world and some countries like Finland banned children from watching Donald Duck because he didn’t wear pants!
5. Ren and Stimpy
Breaking the WWII cycle, our next character is Ren, the psychotic asthma-hound Chihuahua. Ren regularly ‘loses his mind’ and becomes violently psychotic.
Many episodes feature elaborately made violent scenes that can drive anyone who watches them mad. Stimpy, the dim witted cat, is often beaten up brutally by Ren. Some of these sequences are very intense. Ren also makes a lot of offensive sexual references. John Kricfalusi, the creator of this show says he’s stumped every time someone asks him to make Ren meaner. The main reason it is considered controversial is because it puts the human craving for violence on the spotlight.
6. Eric Cartman
Moving on to modern times, the first show that comes to your mind is South Park. And who can a be better representative for the controversial show than Cartman?
Cartman was modeled as a caricature of the modern spoilt American kid. To start with, he is fat. He is manipulative and ill-tempered. He is the main antagonist of this show. Cartman has earned a name for being regularly politically incorrect. He is excessively profane too. Imagine the shock among the parents whose children voted Cartman as their favorite character on TV in the UK. A kicker is that the ones who voted were mostly 9 and 10 year olds!
7. The Simpsons
While difficult to isolate, all the members of the Simpsons’ family have had their fair share of the cake. This show is a continuous source of political controversies.
Most parents think Bart Simpson is a bad role model for their kids. Once, President Bush even went as far as to say,”The nation needs to be closer to the Waltons than the Simpsons.” Not to be left behind, Groening, the maker of The Simpsons replied “Hey, the Simpsons are just like the Waltons. Both families are praying for the end of the Depression.” This response was printed in almost every paper the next day, hugely embarrassing the President. The Simpsons are openly anti-catholic, earning themselves a lot of ire.
This is probably not a name many of us would’ve come across. He is one of the four main characters in the internet show called ‘Happy Tree Friends’. The shock factor in the show is enough to knock the wind off most people.
The cute outward appearance of the character is combined with vivid, anatomically accurate depictions of violent sequences. In one episode, Cuddles has his eye crushed, pulled out, stomped on and poked.
Tintin is the affable Belgian reporter who goes around the world on adventures and often returns with interesting stories. Made in the early 1930s and 1940s, much of the criticism of Tintin and the comic series have come up only during the recent times. In the series called,’Tintin Goes to Congo’, he openly puts down the natives, and the forest animals suffer a cruel treatment.
Herge, the maker of the series, later apologized that he was affected by the colonialist surroundings he was in.