Minstrel Show

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Bob Clampett's Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs, a 1943 cartoon for Warner Brothers, is the Birth of a Nation of animation: It is both revered as a piece of filmmaking and damned for its racial stereotypes, though there are some all-or-nothing critics out there who try to wish its contradictions away. One group acts as though its blackface imagery erases its other qualities. The others point to Clampett's good intentions—he was an admirer of jazz and black culture, and didn't intend the film to be demeaning—as though they somehow mean the movie isn't demeaning, whether or not it was made with malice.

Most people don't take any stance at all. The short is one of the "Censored Eleven," a group of cartoons withdrawn from circulation since the '60s because of their racial content. Until this year, it was available only on bootleg videocassettes. Now, thanks to YouTube, you can see it for yourself, draw your own conclusions, and debate them in a Hit & Run comment thread.

(Warning: The clip begins with a test pattern and a high-pitched tone. You might want to turn down the volume on your computer before you click through.)

Bonus links: Writing in The Believer in 2004, Robert Christgau explores the recent wave of scholarship about the minstrel show. Writing in Reason in 2002, Damon Root looks at the links between minstrelsy and country music. And here's Bob Clampett's real masterpiece: Porky in Wackyland.

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  1. I had never heard of those cartoons. I guess the self-censorship by Warner worked. I wonder if there’s a name for the group of WWII cartoons that were extremely racist towards the Japanese (they all had buck teeth, thick glasses, etc.).

  2. I don’t know why the list didn’t include “Southern Fried Rabbit,” which has a censored scene.

    Southern Fried Rabbit

    Per your post AC, another controversial cartoon from the Warner Bros. Vault (obvious from the title alone) is “Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips.”

    Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips

  3. “Bugs Bunny Nips The Nips” is the most famous of the anti-Japanese shorts. Bugs is stranded on an island with Japanese troops, and proceeds to torment them mercilessly. The most notorious part is when he adopts the guise of an ice cream man and starts handing out ice cream covered hand grenades on a stick, accompanied by patter like this: “Here ya go bow legs, here ya go monkey face, here ya go slant eyes….”

    Basically, he was the Ann Coulter of his day. Many late period WW2 films arent’ much different (check out the great “Objective, Burma!” and its numerous references to “monkeys”).

    BBNtN actually had a legit release (on laserdisc), but was subsequently pulled form later volumes, and has not reappeared.

  4. Dude. Bugs Bunny = Ann Coulter? Suh, I challenge you to a dewl!

    I thought Coal Black was hilarious. Never seen it before. Great music too. I do remember all sorts of retroactively insensitive stuff in Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry making it past the censor well into the 70s. Being 7 or 8 it didn’t register. I remember in particular the maid in Tom and Jerry telling them to “Git out! O-W-T out!”

  5. YTMND: These cartoons were withdrawn from circulation entirely. There’s a much larger list of shorts that merely had a scene or gag deleted here and there.

    (Incidentally, the Censored 11 aren’t the only cartoons that have been withdrawn completely. But they were the first to go.)

  6. Per your post AC, another controversial cartoon from the Warner Bros. Vault (obvious from the title alone) is “Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips.”

    Ah, thanks. I knew there were several. Apparently, I was thinking of “Tokyo Jokio,” yet another cartoon with no official release.

  7. Here is another bit of war propoganda starring Popeye, entitled “You’re a Sap, Mr. Jap.”

  8. Yeeeooow.
    I thought I had a fairly high tolerance for ethnic and stereotype humor. After telling a joke my son said I was prejudiced. I agreed that I was, however I added that I am not a bigot. I hate everyone equally.

    Porky in Wackyland doesn’t seem objectionable to me, but Coal Black and the Sebben Dwarves is beyond the pale. (I just couldn’t resist.)

    Does anyone remember a cartoon about a little African girl with a bone tied to the top of her head like a hair ribbon? The running joke involved a dog that kept trying to bite the bone to carry it off and bury it. At the age when I thought girls had cooties, that was the funniest cartoon ever, but I didn’t think anything about the racial overtones. Does anyone know the title?
    I wonder how it would strike my sensibilities now?

  9. “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”-Oscar Wilde, from the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray.

    I think Wilde teaches us how to think about this cartoon. He builds a wall of separation between aesthetics and ethics, analogous to Jefferson’s wall between church and state and serving as a similar bulwark against tyranny. The urge to censor entertainment usually arises from a failure to differentiate between those two dimensions of judgment, I believe.

  10. Porky in Wackyland doesn’t seem objectionable to me

    I didn’t mean to suggest that it was! Just a great cartoon by the same guy who made Coal Black.

    (Though there is a partial remake of Wackyland, also by Clampett, whose black caricatures landed it a spot in the Censored 11. It’s also a tribute to Fats Waller.)

  11. Not sure where best to comment on this, but why does Consumers Union think this site is a good place to urge people to contact our representatives in support of restrictions on media ownership? Have they read anything here? Or do they just want to position themselves alongside the Carpet Humper?

  12. I guess I don’t blame people for being offended by some of these cartoons, but I’m concerned about the precedent set by their suppression. What if future generations are offended by Apu, the east Indian grocer on The Simpsons? What if Mel Brooks’ films are deemed too homophobic for public viewing? That’s some good stuff that our descendants would miss out on.

  13. Apropos of brian423’s comment, Camille Paglia (aww – be quiet! She’s brilliant) writes often about the artist occupying a space beyond the mores of bourgeois society. His job is to present images and ideas to the masses that are shocking and thought-provoking. Paglia is, of course, a devotee of Oscar Wilde and devotes two (I believe) chapters to his work in Sexual Personae.

  14. I’m surprised Disney’s Song of the South isn’t on the list. It’ll be a cold day in the briar patch when that one gets released in the US again.

    Funny thing is, it’s still available overseas. My friend had an english copy he got in Korea and he let me borrow it. I sat down with anticipation, expecting great artistic triumph and…was very disappointed.

    Oh, the animation was great, but there are only three or four animated sequences in the movie. The rest is a live-action story about life on a Southern plantation, circa 1850. It is painfully bad, not only because of the stereotypes but because of the acting. It stars that snotty little boy who was a staple of 50’s era Disney films (forget his name) and he is especially insufferable in this film.

    If Disney just released the animated shorts from the movie they’d make a killing and believe me, no one would miss the rest.

  15. I collect old World War Two propaganda cartoons, and pre-war stuff as well. Naturally, as soon as I found out there existed censored cartoons I made a point of trying to add them to my colelction. This copy of “Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarves” is much cleaner than mine; too bad you can’t make copies of stuff you find on You Tube.

    Holly is right about Song of the South. The animated sequences are wonderful but the live-action part is just terrible. But I blame not bad acting, but a bad story. The writers did an absolutely horrible job of adapting whatever the original story was about–all we know is the little boy and his mama had to go to the ol’ plantation because Daddy was having some mysterious trouble in the city, and at the end Daddy returned to the plantation because this mystery trouble was solved.

    Also, slavery was lots of fun because all slaves ever did was sit around campfires in the piney woods and tell stories.

    I wish the companies would release all their old racist cartoons, rather than try to whitewash history, and if anybody complains then put out another disc with equally racist anti-white cartoons. For example: white guy dresses all sexy for a date, by putting on horrible plaid golf pants and a shirt made of alpaca; white couple tries to dance and ends up trashing the whole town; dorky white teenager makes an ass of himself trying to imitate the cool black kids at his school.

    Also, I’m amazed that a lot of old Tex Avery stuff is still available, rather than being suppressed because they are so sexist.

  16. Speaking of Birth of a Nation:

    I was seeing a movie at my local (Tampa Bay area) downtown multiplex, and went out during the film to go to the bathroom. The hallways to each of the theatres are wallpapered in some faint, neutral color “Hurray for Hollywood” type scenes, with a sort of crawl (like at the bottom of cable news channels) along the top of the wall by the ceiling (I know this has some sort of official decorating capacity name, but I can’t recall what it is).

    The crawl consists of, in ten inch tall letters, the names of great movies – classics & modern, Oscar-winners, etc: from “Gone With the Wind” to “Taxi Driver” to “Mildred Pierce”. On my way to the bathroom, I noticed two teen ushers, one on a stepladder with the other handing him up construction paper and pieces of tape. I asked what was up, and they said (in the standard teen “I don’t know and I don’t care” manner) that someone had complained about something, and they were covering the offensive matter up.

    You guessed it, they were covering the words “Birth of a Nation” – I could tell by the portion of the text they hadn’t yet covered with construction paper. The next time I went to the movies, a few weeks later, the entirety of wallpaper in the 20-theatre halls was changed. Same motif, same great movie names on the crawl at the top of the wall, but now with new “approved” movies only.

  17. What if Mel Brooks’ films are deemed too homophobic for public viewing? That’s some good stuff that our descendants would miss out on.

    Ever see Blazing Saddles on the Family Channel? It is sad to the point of “Why Did Anyone Bother?”

  18. Despite the fact that all the characters act just like their white or animal brethren in all other WB cartoons, Coal Black must be totally racist because black people don’t have big lips.

    They also don’t have legs or arms or dark skin.

  19. GM,
    I don’t smirk or scoff at your mention of Paglia. She has an impressive intellect. But she doesn’t impress me quite as much as she used to. As Nick Gillespie and Tyler Cowen pointed out back in 1998, she was once a dependable voice of optimism about art and entertainment. Now she’s among the hordes of pessimists. Also, she has staked so much of her professional reputation on Freud’s theory of “family romance” that she refuses to give Judith Rich Harris, the Copernicus of child development, credit for her ground-breaking work. That is an intellectual Achilles’ heel.

  20. Jennifer et al

    Song of the South isn’t an historically accurate portrayal of life in late-nineteenth-century America, but it really is a fairly misunderstood film. I don’t have much time here, but a couple of points.

    Milieu: The film is set during Reconstruction, not in the antebellum South. There are a number of clues throughout the story (e.g. Uncle Remus leaving the plantation and going to the big city, since slaves couldn’t, um, leave plantations, unless they were freed or sold). When the film was released, the MPAA (or its 1946 equivalent) said that there needed to be a disclaimer before the film stating this explicitly, but it was not included.

    Daddy’s trouble in city = being a progressive (read pro-Union) journalist (This can be gleaned from a conversation at the very beginning of the film). Daddy returns to plantation because Johnny has been gored by a bull, not because his problems have been solved.

    What is significant about the film is that when it was released, Coal Black and other cartoons were the norm. SOTS is fundamentally about racial reconciliation; Uncle Remus is treated as an equal to the whites, and it is his return and storytelling (not the return of Johnny’s father) that give the boy the gumption to survive.

    SOTS had one of the largest black casts of any film to date, and when compared to other period pieces of the era (e.g. Gone With the Wind), one is amazed by how much stronger and how less stereotyped the SOTS characters are.

    Most of the stories by Joel Chandler Harris had been passed down by generations of slaves, some of them dating all the way back to Africa. Bre’r Fox, Bre’r Bear, etc generally represented white men and slavemasters, and the stories were a way of communicating what they were doing, among other things.

    Disney actually captured this fairly well (especially for a film aimed at children), drawing the appropriate parallels between Fox/Bearand the two mean white children (the only villains in the piece, btw).

    What the history of this film reflects, I believe, is how progressive Disney was, compared to the rest of America at that time. The Academy gave James Baskett a special Oscar for his portrayal of Uncle Remus (special because, presumably, he was black), and although he was the star of the film, he couldn’t attend its premiere because he was black.

    Try to think of another film from the 1940s which had a primarily-black cast, a black hero, white villains. To the best of my knowledge, none exists, at least in mainstream Hollywood.

    It is easy to look backward sneeringly at how “off” Disney’s portrayal of “slavery” was, but aside from the fact that he wasn’t portraying slavery or slaves. He was making a children’s film which, compared to the rest of popular output at the time, elevated black people (albeit naively at times) and promoted hope for racial reconciliation.

    (The SOTS link is not mine, btw. It does contain a lot of good info.)

  21. Jennifer:

    You can download any video from YouTube by pasting the url of the video into the box on “a href=”http://javimoya.com/blog/youtube_en.php”>this page. Then you could burn it to any format you wished. Hope this helps.

  22. The film is set during Reconstruction, not in the antebellum South. There are a number of clues throughout the story (e.g. Uncle Remus leaving the plantation and going to the big city, since slaves couldn’t, um, leave plantations, unless they were freed or sold).

    I was not aware of that. On the other hand, I’ve read a few of Joel Chandler Harris’ stories set in slave days, and in more than one a slave ran away because Ole Massa was mean to him, which made Ole Massa feel guilty and go out of his way to convince the slave to come back home. (Alternate version: other slaves told the first slave “Why did you run away? Your massa is much nicer than mine is; you don’t know how good you got it!”)

    If all you knew about slavery was the few stories I read, you’d think that a runaway slave was viewed the same way we view an angry five-year-old who tells his parents “I am running away and you will never see me again and boy will you be sorry you were mean to me!”

  23. Linking ain’t easy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZaaRDCdSEIg

    Also, you’ll need to download the FLV player from that page as well. A bonus is if YouTube takes down the video you’d still have a copy of it.

  24. Jennifer:
    Also, I’m amazed that a lot of old Tex Avery stuff is still available, rather than being suppressed because they are so sexist.

    Please elaborate on the sexism. What I remember from Avery’s work is a sexy lady doing a song and dance while a wolf in a zoot suit watches lasciviously, his eyes and tongue protruding way out of his head (like Jim Carrey watching Cameron Diaz in The Mask). Are you calling that sexist, or do you refer to something else? I think it’s a poetically truthful statement about the visual excitability of the human male. If it’s true, it’s not sexist.

  25. Linking ain’t easy.

    This is the site

    Also, you’ll need to download the FLV player from that page as well. A bonus is if YouTube takes down the video you’d still have a copy of it.

    And the blog software considers me “malicious” when I was only trying to help.

  26. Thanks for the explication, Garrison. I haven’t seen Song of the South since I was little; your comments make me curious to watch it again with fresh eyes.

  27. Thanks for the clarification Jesse, that’s what I suspected.

    I’ll never forget my mom telling me that her favorite children’s record was Little Black Sambo, I believe she still has a copy of the old 78 on red vinyl (though we’ll probably have to go toa specialty audio store or look on eBay to find a 78 player). I still don’t get how a tiger could run itself into butter. I’m sure an enlightened lit crit academic could deconstruct it for me.

  28. if anybody complains then put out another disc with equally racist anti-white cartoons.

    I don’t know about cartoons, but 7th Heaven is available on DVD.

  29. If it’s true, it’s not sexist.

    Dude, Brian, “if it’s true?” It’s halter top season for Christ’s sakes, how can any guy dispute this? I have trouble even focusing on my driving in well-populated areas. Unless you were speaking axiomatically, in which case I humbly withdraw my comments.

  30. Thanks for the explication, Garrison. I haven’t seen Song of the South since I was little; your comments make me curious to watch it again with fresh eyes.

    Ditto here. When I watched it, I was expecting a light-hearted, mostly-animated 50’s Disney feature along the lines of Cinderella or Peter Pan (speaking of racist stereotypes). Disney isn’t the place you’d expect to see serious social commentary.

  31. Dobbs,
    I was speaking axiomatically. I write a blog called Reflections on Playboy.

  32. One of the things I took from Song of the South was the poverty of the sharecroppers compared with the rich white folks, and the need for a revolution.

    James Baskett deserved his special Oscar, and really should have been up for a regular one. He also did the voice of Brer Fox and subbed for Brer Rabbit, too. He would have been up for Ronald Colman, unless they stuck him in supporting where he would have been up against Edmund Gwenn. He died in September of the year he got the Oscar.

  33. Ah, I thought I might have misread it. Especially in light of your evident qualification on the subject! I’ll have to check that blog out (after work, of course). Given the retro theme of this post, I’ll venture to guess you’re not a fan of the silicone era of Playboy. At least that’s where I stand. Wow, I’m really driving this thread into the gutter, shame on me.

  34. Yeah, Clampett and Avery always showed their white characters as completely normal and un-caricatured human beings without flaws. Duh!

    The dice jokes and Stepin Fetchit gags are noxious cliches, but there’s little else in “Coal Black” that African-American filmmakers of the time wouldn’t have used. (They probably did use dice jokes, though that doesn’t make them any funnier.) I prefer to scorn the real bad stuff, like the Amos & Andy movie where the signs for their cab company are so wretchedly illiterate (with backwards letters and phonetic misspellings) that it seemed like they’d hired the lettering out to the Little Rascals. Save the anger for the mean-spirited stereotype of the superstitious kid in “Angel Puss,” terrified of ghosts but unable to turn away from the rattle of dice. About the only character in “Coal Black” who really comes off poorly is the Prince — even the scenery-biting Queen is just doing her job as a villain. Okay, and one of the dwarfs is a Stepin Fetchit lookalike — they didn’t ask my advice, as I hadn’t been born yet.

    (And let’s not condemn Bobby Driscoll for having been caught in an overlong and slow-moving picture. He’s one of the few kid actors of his day who seemed human, and the special Oscar he got for his starring role in The Window was well earned. Compare with the cloyingly arch portrayal of children in most other pictures of the time, and his work is a marvel of naturalism.)

  35. How about the old warner brothers cartoon with the Indian who got rich off of oil and has the big house with the butler. The whole cartoon is the savage indian doing crazy stuff that inevietably leads to an axe or an arrow hitting the butler and the butler with as much dignity as possible and an English accent saying “your arrow sir.” Finally at the end of it, he takes an arrow and spanks the Indian with it in a act of homosexual S&M. It is a classic I tell you.

  36. There isn’t any contradiction between Disney making a movie with a progressive, anti-racist theme, and including racist imagery and references in that movie. Everybody is limited by the understandings and “vocabulary” available to them. It’s the old story of authorial intent vs. text-as-artifact.

    The existence of the racist imagery does not negate the progressive politics; nor do the progressive politics make the racist imagery any less racist. So the movie can certainly be appreciated for all that Garrison describes by adults able to view it as coming from a certain time and place, but a kid or even an unsophistacated adult viewer is likely to miss all of that. In such a situation, it really is going to function to reinforce those old racial stereotypes and narratives.

    If Warner Brothers were to put out the “Censored Eleven” as a set, it would be a very different contribution to the culture than if they were to just include some of them in with other cartoons in the anthologies that people buy for their kids.

  37. Jennifer said:

    “I wish the companies would release all their old racist cartoons, rather than try to whitewash history, and if anybody complains then put out another disc with equally racist anti-white cartoons.”

    Why would an existing company (like Warner Brothers or Disney) want to release something that could only hurt their brands? Most large companies like to steer away from controversy, as it can have a bad effect on their bottom line. If I was a WB shareholder, I would have a fit if they released that cartoon today- it could only hurt them financially.

    brian423 makes the point: “What if future generations are offended by Apu, the east Indian grocer on The Simpsons? What if Mel Brooks’ films are deemed too homophobic for public viewing? That’s some good stuff that our descendants would miss out on.”

    I think the Simpsons are funny as hell, and Mel Brooks used to be- but humor’s shelf life is usually pretty short. I don’t think that our descendents are likely to find “The Simpsons” very funny at all- it’s humor depends a lot on current events/society, and would likely fall flat in the future. How often do you see “Our American Cousin” performed today?

  38. I’m thinking that “Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips” must have been at least one of the inspirations for the great Cartman vs. Osama sequence in South Park’s “Osama Has Poopy Pants.” Now I have to see it.

    South Park regularly shows — on widely-available basic-cable TV — things that are much more offensive than this from “Coal Black”:

    We kill anyone for $1
    Midgets — half-price
    Japs — free

    South Park frequently makes pretty crass fun of Jews and Asians, and named its main black character (besides the now-departed Chef) “Token” (though his family is among the town’s Well-to-Do elite).

    So I wonder: what’s the problem? It’s time to free the Censored 11.

    Finally, I enjoyed the visual joke in “Coal Black,” when the Wicked Queen was described as having “EVERYTHING,” including (from the image) hoarded spare tires, sugar, and coffee. THAT’s what luxury is in real time of war. Perhaps “Coal Black” needs to be censored today, not so much for its racial slurs, which can be easily shrugged off and understood as artifacts of their time, but because it begs comparison between a real wartime situation, which we experienced in the 1940s, and the surrealistic, non-war war, in which we find ourselves mired today.

  39. I understand the objection to the racist cartoons but the war propaganda ones, who cares? We were at war. People hated the Japanese and with good reason. The country was locked in a life and death struggle with an entire nation that was fanatically committed to a militaristic death cult. We ended up fire bombing and eventually nuking their cities. And some Buggs Bunny cartoon is somehow shocking or even offensive? I think not.

  40. I recently caught some old Amos & Andy episodes on late night cable. The comic set pieces held up and struck me as not being particularly racist. They were similar to the bits of the 3 Stooges and Laurel and Hardy. What also struck me was that Andy was a business owner and Kingfish was a man of standing in the community. I’m not saying the show wasn’t “racist”, but it wasn’t nearly as racist as it’s reputation led me to belive it would be.

  41. He builds a wall of separation between aesthetics and ethics, analogous to Jefferson’s wall between church and state and serving as a similar bulwark against tyranny.

    Who knew George Jefferson was so political!?

  42. “What if future generations are offended by Apu, the east Indian grocer on The Simpsons? What if Mel Brooks’ films are deemed too homophobic for public viewing? That’s some good stuff that our descendants would miss out on.”

    Yeah, that’d be like people today banishing Huckleberry Finn from High School reading lists and libraries.

  43. If it’s true, it’s not sexist.

    Agreed! Like I said, womens be thinkin’ too much.

  44. Finally at the end of it, he takes an arrow and spanks the Indian with it in a act of homosexual S&M. It is a classic I tell you.

    Your projecting are making me giddy!

  45. I wonder if 50 years hence people will view today’s rap and hip-hop videos in the same light.
    The difference, of course, being that hip-hop stereotypes are self-actualized and indeed celebrated by the participants.

  46. Jesse, if you really want to see Song of the South, you can get a bootleg DVD for about ten bucks at a number of websites. Un-remastered VHS quality, as they’re presumably made by copying a European/Asian videotape to DVD. Considering that Bob Iger recently announced that Disney wouldn’t be releasing it in America (http://jimhillmedia.com/blogs/wade_sampson/archive/2006/04/25/2073.aspx)

    The Disney “From the Vault” series is one to watch. It’s a limited-edition box-set thing that comes out once a year (Then again, when does Disney put out something worth owning that isn’t limited edition?) and contains some of the cartoons that they’ve kept tucked away for the last few decades, with the potentially-offensive material introduced by Leonard Maltin.

    A lot of the “banned” material is a bit silly (e.g. an old black and white Mickey Mouse which is “offensive” because there are a couple of frames where Mickey is in a dark room and all that you can see is his face saying, “Mammy”– the sort of thing that few would notice if one didn’t point it out), but there are some really excellent pieces of history in them too.

    One of their releases in 2004 was a two-disc set called “On the Front Lines”, which contains everything that they produced between 12/8/1941 and 8/15/1945.

    Some of the cartoons are disturbing (e.g. one where Donald Duck looks remarkably like a character from The Deer Hunter with a revolver against his temple), and some are brilliant (One that everyone here would probably appreciate is “Reason and Emotion”).

    The most remarkable piece is a feature film (Victory Through Air Power) that was put in the vault in 1944. On the disc, Leonard Maltin says that Churchill showed the film to Roosevelt and that it changed FDR’s ideas in re: strategy in the European theater and deployed long-range bombers (which is arguably what won us the war).

  47. I had the opportunity to see several of the censored 11 along with some other classic animation deemed “racist” at a Moore College film festival. Most were pretty bad in my eyes, jiggling dice to distract the black characters, watermelon references, and stereotypical language. The most entertaining film of them all had to be the claymation film “Jasper and the Watermelons”. It featured every possible stereotype along with a watermelon based nightmare. It seems funny now because it is so anti PC, but it?s disturbing that this was mainly how people like my grandparents and parents were exposed to black folks in movies at the time.

  48. Maybe it’s me, but I didn’t see anything racist.

    – Josh

    P.S.

  49. The difference, of course, being that hip-hop stereotypes are self-actualized and indeed celebrated by the participants.

    Like Redd Foxx did back in the day.

  50. Does anyone know the origin of the “Blacks – Craps/Dice” stereotype?
    I’m white, and I’ve known how to shoot Craps since I was five. Frank Sinatra had a hit centered around Craps in 1963 (“Luck Be A Lady Tonight”). My grandfather allegedly won enough shooting craps to pay for my grandmother’s engagement ring (circa 1945).
    Any thougts on why this become a standard stereotype?

  51. We get upset about racist cartoons but completely ignore the fact that our drug laws were basically born of that exact same racism and are still around and stronger than ever.

  52. Tom,
    LOL

    Dobbs,
    No need to wait till after work. My blog is work-safe: all words, no pictures (sorry). My feelings on cosmetic surgery are complex; please see this post of mine.

  53. I’ll never forget my mom telling me that her favorite children’s record was Little Black Sambo

    The Sambo’s pancake-house chain lasted well into the ’70s; I remember eating there the first time the family went to Carlsbad Caverns. It was actually pretty logical for a character-based restaurant tie-in: tiger into butter, butter onto pancakes.

    My wife and I are working our way through the Thin Man box set. She gave up on the bonus cartoons after we watched “The Early Bird And The Worm”, which on top of being unbelievably tedious throws in a couple of lazy, shuffling black crows doing a blackface-comedy bit. (“Aw, who wants a worm anyway?” they declare, after they chase the pesky lepidopteran around in slow motion for the second half of the short.)

  54. My friend Gerald Pulice had a sound print of Coal Black which I got to see among other suppressed cartoons about 25 years ago at a July 4 party. It’s good for a few laughs, but Fleischer’s Snow White (which is not suppressed but tends to be neglected) is an experience.

  55. Garrison,

    SOTS wasn’t a completely anomaly, I think. While looking up a few titles I came across this list. While much of the list is depressing, the kind of progresive (but somewhat condescending) tone you point to is present in several of the features, certainly in Vidor’s Hallelujah! and The Green Pastures. And the more famous Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Emperor Jones, and the first Imitation of Life.

    And while he was not mainstream, it is always useful to remember that by the time SOTS came out, Oscar Micheaux had been making films for twenty years.

    Anon

  56. Please elaborate on the sexism. What I remember from Avery’s work is a sexy lady doing a song and dance while a wolf in a zoot suit watches lasciviously, his eyes and tongue protruding way out of his head (like Jim Carrey watching Cameron Diaz in The Mask). Are you calling that sexist, or do you refer to something else?

    Just to clarify (and I realize my first statement was easy to misinterpret): I have no objection to old Tex Avery cartoons, or old racist cartoons either. But I have heard people complain that Tex Avery cartoons (and all others as well, from that period) were sexist because all women were either sexpots, airhead housewives, or ugly spinsters who were desperate for a man.

    But so what? Besides, if you really want to look at a Tex Avery cartoon to find proof that one of the sexes is being oppressed by it, which is more offensive: being portrayed as a super-sexy babe, or being portrayed as an idiot whose brain resides in his genitalia every time a super-sexy babe appears?

    Does anyone know the origin of the “Blacks – Craps/Dice” stereotype?

    I don’t know, but I’d speculate it’s because of the stereotype of blacks as lazy and stupid, combined with the anti-gambling idea that trying to get rich through gambling rather than honest work is also lazy and stupid.

  57. In a similar vein, take a look at the SNL TV Funhouse spoof of Disney’s secret vault: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHg1b9BlyRc.

  58. Disney isn’t the place you’d expect to see serious social commentary.

    Not today. But it used to be. The Davy Crockett series got into several issues, as did The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. Johnny Tremain was the Revolutionary War story of the day. Ol’ Yeller is one of the best boy-becoming-a-man films ever.

    Now we have them rewriting The Little Mermaid so it will have a happy ending and Beauty and the Beast so it’s anti-hunting. <Hurl>

  59. Larry

    Disney still takes on significant social issues! Just look at Mulan, a brilliant examination of how Yentl was a racist movie because it was about a Jewish girl dressing as a boy, instead of a Chinese girl dressing as a boy.

    Or what about Freaky Friday and The Parent Trap (read: Scathing commentary on the complete lack of creativity in Hollywood)?

    Or Peter Pan II? Clearly, they’re showing how J.M. Barrie screwed up when he didn’t write a sequel. So what if the original story was “classic” or had what some folks call an actual “ending”. He could so have milked the Peter Pan story for more!

  60. Barrie didn’t write a sequel, but he did write versions of Peter Pan, including arguably a prequel.

  61. If there’s one thing more offensive than a nigger joke, it’s a nigger buildup without the punchline.. and that’s what this cartoon appears to be.

    I don’t understand, if Disney is so mortified by Song of the South, why don’t they sell it off already? Negatives, songs, characters, everything. Sell it to someone who wants to conserve it and doesn’t care about activists beating down their door.

  62. My opinion about Disney is that anyone who provides a happy ending to “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” should be hung upside down inside a bell and rung for hours on end…

    And afterwards learn the meaning of “tragedy”

  63. Here’s another of the censored eleven cartoons at youtubes, entitled [i]Tin Pan Alley Cats[/i], created by Bob Clampett. Fats Waller is drawn as a black cat with red lips, as are the rest of the musicians, and that’s all remotely objectionable about it. It turns into surrealism like his earlier [i]Porky in Wackyland[/i] (the one where Porky Pig goes to Africa in search of the last Dodo), and Tex Avery’s later [i]The Cat Who Hated People[/i] (the one where a tormented cat takes a rocket to the Moon to escape people, only to find out that the moon is a cartoonist’s nightmare). I liked this one despite the caricatures. It’s fiendishly creative, and the music is great.

    http://tinyurl.com/znl83

  64. Oops, Jesse already linked to that one.

  65. Isn’t “The Birth of a Nation” the one where they glorify the Ku Klux Klan and approve of lynching?

    Then, why should it be treated better than “Triumph of the Will”? I understand that that one is a masterpiece, too. And made by a woman, to boot.

    Isn’t it about time for a Leni Reifenstahl retrospective?

    P.S.: How would we react to a series of cartoons depicting greedy Jews who get their comeuppance by Bugs Bunny? Or to a dramatization of the “Prioress Tale” of Tales of Caterbury?

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