So yesterday, as I was babysitting for the CUTEST kids ever, we were watching old Looney Tunes cartoons that had been given to the kids by their grandma. Since this was to me a better choice than revisionist crap such as Elmo’s World or (horror of horrors)–Blues’ Clues post-Steve (!!!), I was happy that the Ethan Bean had chosen this. AND I was really amazed that a three-year-old and two almost-two-year-olds were so mesmerized by these “old-school” cartoons.
Things got “interesting”, however, and my anti-racist antennae (sp?!) went up, when we came upon a short titled, “Frigid Hare“. Besides, “oh, look at the cute little penguin who cries ice cubes!” (the girls were like, “baby!” Apparently any small, cute creature, themselves included, is a “baby!”) the one thing that really stuck out to me was the way they portrayed the native Alaskan man that was Bugs’ foe. With new eyes, I noticed his oversized lips, his bug-eyed gaze, and worst of all, his unintelligible grunting.
What ever gave us the idea that we had the right to portray human beings, made in God’s image, in such a caricatured and offensive way? Oh yeah, I remember now. It was that fabulous race “science” in the nineteenth century . . .
There’s a great deal of debate online about the censorship and editing that has gone on to remove these scenes (and in some cases, entire cartoons) from the public record, and I tend to agree that they should not be eliminated completely, with the notion that those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it. But I’m more troubled by what depths of depravity we are capable of, and by the message I was getting every Saturday morning of my childhood without even realizing it.