Friday, January 15, 2010

Racism & the "Censored 11"

Even though I'm working at a TV production company, I actually don't watch many current shows. The most recent thing I've seen is "United States of Tara," a program on Showtime that I must say is quite innovative not just b/c of the main character but b/c of the civilized treatment it gives to homosexuality as seen in Tara's son, Marshall. I can't wait to see where it goes. A few others I'm looking forward to are "Breaking Bad" and the next season of "The Boondocks."

There are a lot of earlier shows that I like but one of the things I've watched since I was little was cartoons. Particularly Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, etc. from the pre-1948 era. My husband's also a cartoon watcher; we've actually gotten EVERY SINGLE Golden Collection DVD & will probably get the next Bugs Bunny & Daffy Duck sets in April.

If you've got a smart remark about my watching cartoons, kiss my ass!!!

If you watch "Family Guy," "The Simpsons," or "South Park" you definitely have NO credibility here. The Looney Tunes shorts were originally for grown ups, NOT kids.

Since these cartoons were made back in the '30s & '40s when racism was a-okay, there are a number of shorts where characters were in blackface or that featured black characters who were caricatures/stereotypes. This should give you a context about the Censored 11.

What is the "censored 11?" Read this.

Allegedly, Warner Bros lives in fear that there will be some massive backlash if they ever released these censored 11 cartoons. People believe that society has gotten WAY to PC for these shorts & others to ever see the light of day.

This is something I have a SEVERE problem with. I think the shorts should be released if:

* They are in a package labeled for "adults" or "adult collectors"; basically making clear that stupid parents don't get to whine & moan if their kids see them

Now despite the best efforts of the Man, you can find these shorts online for downloading if you know where to look. I have personally seen the "Censored 11" cartoons; they are VERY offensive & completely non-PC.

BUT....if you wanted to teach someone about the conditions black people faced in that time, it's a very stark and hard-hitting way to do it. I think it's far more effective than saying "We were segregated." It's just like a classroom experiment where the blue eyed kids are treated as 2nd class citizens by the brown eyed kids.

Despite the offensiveness of these cartoons, there's two very good reasons why they should be released:

1. Historical: Censoring these shorts & trying to bury them is like denying racism existed. How do you expect to avoid the mistakes of the past by pretending they didn't happen? Not to mention the effectiveness of these shorts as a classroom teaching tool. Those & the Spike Lee movie "Bamboozled" could be the foundation of a wonderful course on how black people are portrayed & the pervading racism of those times and today. I think things are better but racism still exists. Many of us weren't alive to see those shorts or portrayals & denying they happened doesn't allow society to progress.

2. Giving a Pass: To me, censoring this stuff is like giving a pass to the old white guys who created it (maybe women had a role but considering the lack of women bosses at the time & utter sexism of the day, I assume men are to blame). Hiding it is the same as saying "It's okay that you created it. We aren't going to call you out for it." You know what, though? Regardless of the times, you should have to face the fact that you had a hand in promoting racism. I'd hope some of these people would own this fact & regret it today. How would you feel about creating that stuff if you had black friends or family members to answer to? I'm sure the media would LOVE to shirk its role in keeping black people down but if you're committed to equal rights for all, should you join in? I don't think so. I wouldn't let someone get away w/racism in my presence so why would I encourage someone to deny their actions by censoring something despicable that they did?

My mom, who was alive to see this stuff, also says that it's not the cartoons that's the problem. It's the parents & their attitudes about race. I'm fortunate that I never lived in White Land & had parents with close friends who weren't white. People being different was never considered a bad thing at my house since there was never that initial shock; there wasn't an "us vs. them" since we never really knew a world w/out people of color. My own mother is the one who told us never to use the "n-word" & taught us not to be bigots, unlike some of the kids attending the private school we were at. To give you an idea, the man who was principal at the time openly said he wouldn't let black children attend. Oh, and this was a religious school. I was 100% happier in public school.

I was shocked when I went to college in Atlanta & how much of an issue race IS down there. I couldn't conceivably deal w/a racist (and I mean someone who is an ACTUAL racist, NOT a person who is branded that by someone for not letting the person of color break rules or walk all over him/her). I HATE that stuff & won't give blanket $ to my undergrad b/c of their attitude about it. If I wanted to support racists, I'd give my money to the Ku Klux Klan. Don't hold your breath for that contribution.

For all this talk, my main point is that I'm anti-censorship & personal mores should have nothing to do with what the public can see. This goes regardless of how heated the topic is.

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