Cartoon Censorship Blamed on 'Politically Correct White Mentality'
By Marc MoranoCNSNews.com
Senior Staff Writer
September 27, 2002
(CNSNews.com) - Classic cartoons originally produced between the 1930s and 1950s and a television staple for the baby boomer generation, are being edited for offensive material today "because of a politically correct white mentality," according to a cartoon historian. The sanitized cartoons feature Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry and a host of Warner Brothers Merrie Melodies characters.
According to cartoon expert Jon Cooke's Censored Cartoons website, many classic cartoons deemed offensive are being chopped up, re-dubbed and completely shelved because "Ted Turner refused to allow any of them to be transmitted on television or released on home videotape."
Turner Entertainment owns the Cartoon Network, the networks TNT and TBS, and entire libraries of classic cartoons, including the complete Bugs Bunny collection. In 2001, AOL Time Warner merged Turner Entertainment with the WB broadcast network.
The decision to sanitize the cartoons is not sitting well with some.
"It's the politically correct white mentality that is really afraid of anything that could be offensive that is just quickly judged a stereotype and offending," Jerry Beck, a cartoon historian, told CNSNews.com.
Beck, co-author with Henry Holt of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: A Complete Guide to Warner Bros. Cartoons, said the recent Cartoon Network cuts have been especially "ridiculous."
"People can explain to their kids that's the way the world used to be, but we can't do that anymore. It's whitewashed, it's definitely whitewashed now," Beck said.
Beck sees the cartoon edits as achieving the opposite of their intention. "As much as the world wants us to embrace diversity and celebrate our cultures, they also want us to remove those things from all these films. They want us to take out things that make us different so that we are all homogenized and of one," Beck said.
Some of the cartoons were initially edited in the late 1960s, following the civil rights movement, when they were packaged for television reruns, but some of the more sweeping edits have occurred in the last 3 years under Turner Entertainment's Cartoon Network, according to Beck.
The Censored Cartoons web site details how animator Tex Avery's cartoon titled "Little Tinker" from 1948 originally featured a skunk disguised as Frank Sinatra singing to a crowd of bunnies who are popping out of the ground shouting "Frankie!" In 2001, the Cartoon Network cut out a scene where "a black female bunny" said, "Love dat man!" (sic) Broadcasts prior to 2001 had left in this split second clip.
A 1938 cartoon titled "Jungle Jitters," described as featuring "a dopey traveling salesman [who] knocks on the door of a hut belonging to a group of cannibal African natives, who would love to have him for dinner" has been completely banned from television.
A 1941 Bugs Bunny cartoon titled "All This and Rabbit Stew" has joined the banned list as well. The "Censored Looney Tunes" web site describes the cartoon as "Bugs is being hunted by a slow-witted black hunter with a weakness for gambling."
"Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips" is another banned television cartoon. The wartime propaganda short, made in 1944, is described in an essay on the cultural watchdog website FictionFunHouse.com, as Bugs "defeats myopic, buck-toothed Japanese soldiers by dispensing grenade-filled ice cream bars accompanied by racist quips." Another cartoon featuring Bugs in black face imitating the Al Jolson caricature has also been banned from television.
Some of the film edits are minute. A 1952 Hanna-Barbera Tom and Jerry cartoon titled "Little Runaway" is now airing on the Cartoon Network minus a fraction of a scene which features a trash can cover hitting Tom's facing causing him to momentarily appear to be Chinese.
Cartoon Network edited out a brief scene from another Tom and Jerry short where Tom emerges from the laundry looking like an Indian chief.
TBS and TNT networks, both affiliates of Turner Entertainment, deleted a scene from another Tom and Jerry short where an exploding oven leaves Jerry with a momentary black face.
'Politically Correct Thing'
By the year 2000, according to Beck, "The politically correct thing had gone all the way to native Americans so all cartoons that had Indian gags are cut out. There is an Eskimo in one of Bugs Bunny's so they cut that out, there is an Aborigine character that they cut out."
Beck also cautions that fans of Popeye should not expect to see too much of the pipe smoking sailor man on television reruns. "They don't like Popeye anymore for a lot of reasons ... he smokes, he gets into fights, he beats everybody up ... he's not Sponge Bob," Beck said, referring to the inoffensive contemporary children's cartoon Sponge Bob Square Pants.
Beck also said any behavior considered sexually aggressive in old cartoons has also been deleted. In an Avery's Red Riding Hood parody cartoon, a wolf character's "eyeballs pop out of his head when he sees the sexy Red Riding Hood. Well, that's sexist right now, you can't show that anymore," Beck lamented.
A Cartoon Network spokesperson, speaking on background, told CNSNews.com that the network did not have a specific policy regarding the editing of offensive material from cartoons. "We have a standards and practices group and we try
to do things that are non-offensive," the spokesperson said.
Gabriel Shanks, a movie reviewer and film expert who wrote a review called "Th-Th-That's All, Folks: It's History for Some Classic Looney Toons," believes the editing of classic cartoons is not censorship.
"Is this censorship? My feeling: not on your life ... these cartoons are the property of a private company," Shanks wrote.
Shanks believes the objectionable cartoons should be made available only to adults.
"I can see no legitimate reason for these cartoons to be shown to children today," Shanks said. "As funny as they may be, the racial attitudes in some of those cartoons are pretty frightening in these more enlightened times," Shanks wrote.
Beck agrees that "kids probably shouldn't be raised on [classic cartoons]" because "we have moved on, those cartoons are from another era." But he believes the particularly objectionable cartoons should be made available to adults on late night television or [video.]
Beck noted that even though he was a baby boomer raised on 1960s reruns of 3 Stooges comedies, violent Bugs Bunny cartoons and such Popeye propaganda cartoons from World War Two as "You're a Sap Mr. Jap," the programs did not adversely effect him.
"It didn't shape my world view, in fact it informed me about how the world lived. As I grew older, I began to appreciate these things even more as time capsules," Beck explained.
Speedy Gonzales was nearly taken off the Cartoon Network last year because the hard drinking rodent was deemed an offensive stereotype to Hispanics. However, a coalition of Hispanic groups led by the League of Latin American Citizens successfully fought to have Speedy return to the airwaves, under the slogan "Viva Speedy."
'Okay to Make Fun of White Guys'
"If we are going to start censoring jokes because people are offended, like the whole Mr. Magoo controversy where blind people were offended, name me a cartoon character that doesn't offend someone," Beck said.
"Bugs Bunny will be attacked because he is from Brooklyn. The Brooklyn people don't like him making fun of their accent," he said. "The NRA will be against Elmer Fudd because he is a bad hunter," he added.
Beck noted that Fudd's depiction, as a redneck hunter with a speech impediment has not been censored, despite being possibly offensive to some. "Unfortunately, at the moment, it's okay to make fun of white guys. You can do anything you want to white guys," he said.
"The future can be told in cartoons. It's going to look like Sponge Bob Square Pants. Let's make it about something that can't be offensive," Beck predicted.
"You got to say 'shut up!' to the people who are doing this. If you don't get it, go away, turn the channel, put on another [video]," Beck said.