You can’t say anything these days
At the start of October there was a flurry of news stories covering the fact that Amazon had put up original, unedited Tom & Jerry cartoons from the 1940s and 50s on their “instant video” service. This wasn’t what made the news, what did was the fact that Amazon included a message with the cartoons that said they depicted “…ethnic and racial prejudices that were once commonplace in American society” which were “…wrong then and are wrong today.”
Rather than edit out some of these scenes (as seems to have been done at various points in the past) Amazon decided to include them unedited but, in recognition of the fact that a) modern audiences might look on some of the imagery being used to get laughs and wince and b) some of the people watching these cartoons today might be a bit young to have built up an historical context in which to view these things, it seems a fair enough sort of “middle ground”, doesn’t it?
The Daily Express disagreed strongly, dedicating most of an entire page the subject (bear in mind that no-one said the cartoons were racist, merely that some of the depictions were based on prejudices that were fine and dandy in the 1940s and aren’t in 2014).
Well, I would have said it shows an attempt at striking a balance between censorship (either not showing the cartoons at all, or only showing the ones that don’t feature imagery that depicts a racial or ethnic stereotype) and appearing to not care about these issues by just showing them and saying nothing.
…which sort of skips over the point, that these cartoons were made during this “torrid time” where a lot of the attitudes that fueled the KKK and those thugs in the Deep South had a degree of mainstream acceptance that they don’t have today.
"I mean, okay, sure, there’s a character who’s called Mammy and there’s a clear history of the mammy caricature in American history, but that could just be coincidence.”
"It’s not even important that she’s black! It’s just a lark! These are just cartoons! You people! Get a sense of humour, eh?”
"Remember, just a lark."
"JUST A LARK!"
"Escapism, nothing more."
"It’s crazy to call these cartoons racist in any way, shape or form."
"I don’t see why Amazon would want to do something as fatuous as putting a disclaimer at the start of these films."
"You can’t even watch a harmless old cartoon these days…"
"…without those PC liberal do-gooders stamping all over you."
There should be some sort of rule that when you use a phrase like “political correctness police” a hooter goes off. Surely in 2014 we have the technology to make this happen.
"First, they came for the tank engines, and I did nothing because I was not a train. Then, they came for the fat controller, and I did nothing because I was not a fat controller."
(again though, no-one is talking about editing these cartoons, as has already been done over the years - this is the original, unedited cartoons with a paragraph of text stuck on as a disclaimer)
"Politically correct brigade" should also set off the hooter.
And of course, this outrage that a cartoon made in the 1940s could be said to have any unfortunate depictions of racial stereotypes that might need addressing in 2014 carried over into the letters page, first of the Daily Express…
See? YOU’RE THE RACISTS, PC POLICE!
Does Tom and Jerry qualify as a fable, now?
And it even got to that nirvana of reasoned debate, the Daily Mail letters page:
The “cold and mirthless world” where you can’t even have a laugh at a bit of a depiction of racial stereotypes from 80 years ago without some wooly, liberal, loony leftie PC police do-gooder coming along with their paragraph of text to stick on a screen. BROKEN BRITAIN.