silversolitaire: (Eleven)
[personal profile] silversolitaire
So, when I was looking through my box of old letters, I found a reply from a TV station from 1997 or so where I complained about a cartoon. This actually both amused and intrigued me. I actually still remember said cartoon and why I complained about it. As a matter of fact, I've tried since then and the dawn of YouTube to dig it up again and verify my slightly dodgy memory. So, in this letter they happened to mention the title of the cartoon I complained about, so now I know it again! *squee* Of course, my first stop was YouTube and lo and behold, there it was. I watched it... and all the things that annoyed me were still there. I mean, of course they were, but I still find them annoying and inacceptable. So I'm content *g*.

Now, I realize how this sounds. Like one of those nutjobs who complain about some kiddy cartoon which might not be 100% PC but hey, it's a kid's show, so loosen up. But really, it was more than that. Allow me to elaborate. The cartoon in question was "Who Killed Cock Robin?" by Silly Symphony short by Walt Disney himself from 1935. From what I've learnt now it was even nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Cartoons and actually won a Special Recommendation at the Venice Film Festival in 1936. So it's not just some neglectible throw-away cartoon.

Now, in order to understand what I'm talking about, you probably need to watch the cartoon in question.


[link]

The plot is quickly told. Cock Robin serenades his lady, Jenny, a Mae West stand-in of the avian variety, and is prompty shot into the chest with an arrow and falls down dead. Jenny's scream startles the neighbors and they watch poor Robin in his throes of death. The cops arrive and all but 60 seconds later the trial commences, discussing the question "Who killed Cock Robin?". I don't know about you, but in my world the trial shouldn't serve to figure out the culprit in the first place, but never mind that.

The cartoon is only 8 minutes long but if this is too much for your attention span at the moment, just check out, say, 3:00. Here, we have the first witness, no wait, suspect (who btw was rather randomly picked and dragged out of some bar along with two other guys, eh birds, while the coppers beat rhythmically on their heads with their batons) who's being questioned by the D.A. If you don't see the racial stereotype right there, allow me to enlighten you: here we have a blackbird, black, got it? He talks in the typical drawl and simpleton language usually associated with the stereotype of the black man, wears the stereotypical outfit. He turns white when scared, his gestures and stance is submissive and servile. Then there's the jury-choir reciting his testimony, adding the "No, sir"... I think it's rather obvious and quite racist. That was one of my complaints.

The other reason for complaint I've already hinted at earlier. It's this blatant use of police violence against the suspects. I realize this is just a cartoon, but i still can't stand watching the blackbird professing his innocence with the cop replying sardonically "Tell it to the judge, tell it to the judge," before beating around on his head without him putting up any form of resistance (2:30). I find that, frankly, quite disgusting. This just isn't funny.

And then, of course, there's the real kicker. Direct your attention to 6:40. When no verdict can be reached, neither the coon, nor the thug, nor the loon can be pinpointed as the culprit, Jenny demands "Someone ought to be hung!" and the judge, completely smitted by her presence, casually decides to hang them all, barely capable of lifting his eyes out of Jenny's cleavage. The jury breaks out into ecstatic singing and dancing: "We're gonna hang them all, we're gonna hang them all! We don't know who is guilty, so we're gonna hang them all!" ... Need I say more? This sentence alone, in my opinion, makes the entire cartoon inacceptable. They admit to not being able to prove any of the suspects guilty, so they're just going to give the death penalty to all of them? And I thought Phoenix Wright had a fucked up legal system.

To round it all off, the ending graces us with yet another stereotype. This time it's cupid-bird who really comes across as a total pansy, being delightfully pink, speaking with a lisp while waving around with his limp wrists. He confesses the "crime", but of course he didn't actually shoot Robin dead, he made him fall in love (wasn't he already in love before?). Robin and Jenny kiss (although he kinda seems to miss her mouth and hit some area between her chin and stomach, ehem), the jury breaks out into yet another song and everyone's happy. Or something.

Now, my problem isn't the mere existence of this cartoon. I'm not saying "BURN IT ALL!!!!! Hide it away, never to be found!!!!!". No, not at all. I just think this doesn't belong into the Sunday morning cartoons and this is why I complained. This is not a children's cartoon by any standards anymore. It shouldn't be aired anymore without reflection and commentary. It's just not funny anymore and it shouldn't be treated as such. That's my opinion.

While I was researching this, I looked at some of the comments on IMDB and people praise it for its "radical vision of The System", call it a "legal system at high speed". Thing is, I don't really think it is! I really don't think it's poking fun at the legal system and its convuluted ways, I think, despite being funny, they're being perfectly serious. Or rather, they're not reflecting such topics at all. Because otherwise we'd never have gotten such results, because despite everything, Disney usually really tries to do better. This cartoon merely is a sympton of its time, 1935, tail end of the Prohibition, rise of organized crime, at the brink of another World War. It really seemed okay then to portray minorities like that, to show them being treated in such a fashion, trivialize police violence. It was no big deal then. And this is exactly why it's so outdated now and why we can't just continue using it like it was as good as the next Spongebob Squarepants episode. It just isn't.

Date: 2008-09-26 12:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] daasgrrl.livejournal.com
I just thought you might find this interesting if you haven't already seen it - apparently a lot of people find parts of Disney's past questionable:

http://www.cracked.com/article_15677_9-most-racist-disney-characters.html

Date: 2008-09-26 12:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] silversolitaire.livejournal.com
Haha yes I've seen that article and I agree! Although I must say, there's nothing wrong with some stereotyping as long as it's not ill-meant. As children we all stereotype and we imagine that Chinese people have to pull their eyes to make them slanted and we think French people always wear striped pullovers and carry a baguette under their arms and Germans run around in lederhosen all day. This is how we figure out the world. Cartoons simplify that world, so it's okay to a certain limit. It just gets iffy when racial features are portrayed as negative or menial.

As for the man Disney himself, I kinda draw the line between him and his public person who made the cartoons. I have no idea what a man he really was, I heard the rumors, seen the documentaries etc. I'm just saying that as a company, Disney *usually* tries to avoid blatant racism. At least in recent years. Like, I find Angelina Jolie's criticism totally ridiculous that Disney should finally have a black princess and it's shameful they don't yet. This sounds like they never have any ethnic princesses, but when you look at them all, there hardly aren't any Caucasians among them! I actually made a list once, but of course I didn't keep it, being the dork that I am.

Date: 2008-09-26 03:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] krss.livejournal.com
I also got annoyed by how the policebirds hit the suspects and by the "we'll hang them all". The whole cartoon is embarrassing for some reason.

Date: 2008-09-26 09:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] silversolitaire.livejournal.com
Yeah, it really is. I usually am not bothered by cartoons and shrug it off as, well, cartoons, but for some reason this one just pisses me off! >.<;

Date: 2008-09-26 04:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seal7.livejournal.com
What was their reply?

Date: 2008-09-26 06:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] silversolitaire.livejournal.com
Pretty much standard, but essentially that they were sorry and they agree that this shouldn't have been aired as part of a children's show and that they won't do it again. Then they went on to list all the efforts they take to protect children and to ensure that only suitable programs are being aired, actually taking a step BEYOND of what they are legally required to do! Ye-hes!

Date: 2008-09-27 11:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seal7.livejournal.com
Hmmmm, well that doesn't sound too bad, even if it's standard! :) I hope they really never showed that one again.

Date: 2008-09-26 07:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kribban.livejournal.com
Okay, you were definitely more socially aware than I was at that age. I think it's cool that you saved and found this letter.

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