Today we’ll talk about some banned and forgotten cartoons from the 20th century. These banned cartoons, when looked at from a modern point of view, come off as racist (like the anti-Japanese Popeye) , or at the very best, naive (like cigarette commercials peddled by Flintstones).
The 20th century is fascinating, especially the world wars. The level of propaganda during those times – World War 2 for example, is amazing – if the generation in today’s PC age really made comparisons between Fox News culture and what went on back in the 30s and 40s, I think their collective heads would spin.
Take animation. A good way to instill “proper values”, to “educate”, and create good citizens is to start from birth. Cereals and toys groom kids to be good little consumers, but television is the master at molding children to be what the state wants them to be. This is very important if you are fighting a world war, for example. Take this Donald Duck cartoon from 1943:
Rather brilliant, actually (and effective), even though the idea of Donald Duck shouting “Heil Hitler” multiple times is a bit unnerving. There is a bit at the very end where Donald Duck wakes up from a Nazi-laced nightmare, sees a shadow with a hand raised on the wall, which causes him to start into a Hitler salute, when he stops midway, looks at the source of the shadow, and realizes it’s the Statue of Liberty. Fascist Germany as the “shadow” of United States democracy? I’m sure the creators didn’t intend that, but still I wondered.
By the way, the Hitler Salute is a form of Roman Salute. So is the Bellamy Salute, which is what kids did pre-war when they recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
Here’s an interesting Disney piece of propaganda – telling the boys and girls how their German counterparts become indoctrinated into Nazism.
What about racism? Sure we got that:
Check out the ending – the Japanese guy drinks a gallon of gasoline and swallows firecrackers! Kinda makes Beavis and Butthead look pretty harmless, doesn’t it?
Let’s go back further in time. Here’s a Betty Boop cartoon from 1935 that’s just a string of racist caricatures from beginning to end:
Yeah, yeah, I know. It can’t get worse than that, although this Warner Brothers cartoon from 1943 tries:
The racism against blacks is so prevalent that you hardly notice the little jibe at the Japanese – a Murder Inc. car says they’ll rub out anyone for $1, midgets half price, Japs are free.
You can’t advertise cigarettes on TV, but in the 1960s you could. Not only that, but the Flintstones got into the act:
According to Wikipedia, Winston pulled their ads from the show because a plotline had Wilma get pregnant. You can sell cigarettes to kids, but they shouldn’t be thinking about sex.