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May 14 2010

Movie Friday: Hurray for Cartoons!

I love cartoons. I always have. Even now that I am more grown up, I still get a thrill from watching shows like South Park, Clone High, The Simpsons, and others. Animation is a way of portraying the world without being fettered by reality.

Then again, sometimes cartoons are so racist you wish they would stick a bit closer to reality. This week’s Movie Friday is about the history of race portrayal in cartoons. In light of my previous post about the Tintin book, I thought it would be worthwhile to examine our history in North America. This post is a two-fer, but overlap a bit.

Cracked.com madeĀ  a great deal of hay about the contents of this specific video, and the article is worth checking out.

The second video has had embedding disabled, so you’ll just have to follow this link if you want to watch it. It’s more of the same though. Racial differences are exaggerated and lampooned for sport. It is tempting to castigate the creators of these cartoons for their racism, but I see it as being simply a reflection of the ethos of the day. There are lots of examples of racist attitudes prevailing in today’s television. As one example, there are no non-white characters on Friends, Seinfeld, or How I Met Your Mother, despite the fact that they all take place in New York City with a huge non-white population. We haven’t rid ourselves of racism; it’s simply been transformed into something less obvious.

Writer/director Spike Lee, with whom I do not always agree, created an excellent film about this phenomenon called Bamboozled. While he, of course, focused on black people in the United States, the lessons can be extracted to portrayals of any ethnic minority groups. I can’t recommend enough that everyone watch this movie. It is an eye-opening and perspective-changing view of race in media, and the phenomenon of subverted systemic racism in North America. Seriously, watch this movie.

So the next time you’re watching your favourite show, spend a segment looking at race portrayal with a critical eye and see if you can’t detect some race bias. It’s often subtle, but it’s definitely there.

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