Betty Boop is a Jewish Miscegenist! BAN HER!

Note from Richard: Okay, I am having massive trouble keeping this post intact due to its length. I’ll try reposting now, and if it fails I’ll have to get back to it later today. Sorry – MT doesn;t seem to like very long posts.

Update 2 – well, the whole post is here, but a lot of the comments are missing and I can’t get them to show up. If there is an MT guru who wants to try to fix this, please let me know. So sorry.
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Sit back, folks, turn your speakers on (there’s some classic jazz and blues coming), and maybe pour a shot of hard liquor for yourself. Dr Ivan (part time cartoonist) is gonna take you on a tour through the darker recesses of the American psyche (and some of the darker parts are the richest and tastiest), as illuminated by some of our best cartoonists and animators.

Now, as some of you know, in a recent guest-blog (“How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Hate The Left”) I expressed my concern about – and unmitigated contempt for – the current tendency of the American Left to dwell on shallow, fashionable identity politics, principally race and gender, at the expense of truly burning emergency issues like the pending oil crisis and the possible end of life on earth. And in particular, I have zero – let me repeat, zero, naught – “respect” for any presumptuous demands of exaggerated “sensitivity” about race or gender. Such histrionic displays of “sensitive” reactions to perceived racial or sexual slights often strike me as the 21st century version of Victorian women fainting whenever anyone said “leg” instead of “limb”, lest the wrong word lead to further wrongful thoughts (like, thoughts about how women actually have legs.) Today I perceive a similar pandemic of histrionic sensitivity (whose motives are vanity and desire for social prestige, rather than concern for any social ideal) pervading America – to some extent even among the so-called “Right.”

Does that seem inconsistent with the relative sexual license we have today, compared with Victorian times? It should not, because sex was never the issue for such Histrionic Sensitives, not then, not now. The issue was, and remains, their own vanity, their own desire for social prestige and respectability. The means for achieving those things change with the times, and so do the standards of what they find “offensive.”

And that’s what I want to take a good long look at now: How the standards for “offensiveness” have changed superficially, while the hypocritical habits of demonstrating “sensitivity” have not – and so, in the end, the REAL offenses just carry on in different guises. Those middle and upper class Victorian women who fainted at the mention of “leg”, turned a blind eye to their husbands’ dallying with prostitutes, and continued to scorn the plights of the working class. And at the end of this post I want you to think about some similar hypocrisies of today, perhaps especially among America’s so-called “Left.”


So now let’s talk about cartoons! Cartooning isn’t my main profession, but it’s been my avocation for a long time.
And before we get SERIOUS about cartoons, let’s establish the ground rule: Cartoons are CONTRARY to literalism.
(Well, good cartoons anyway.) Cartooning IS exaggeration, distortion of reality, caricature, surrealism. And so, a
“socially sensitive” cartoon, a cartoon which does not exaggerate flaws or peculiarities, is an oxymoron. And that is exactly why cartoons have been – inter alia – such an effective weapon against institutionalized lies and mass delusions, because, paradoxically, the surrealism of a good cartoon is a foil against which to contrast the unreality of received, conventional opinions and fashions. Today’s “South Park” is one of the best exemplars of that.

And YET, some of the best American cartoons ever created (“the best” in technical execution, inventiveness, and sheer imaginative genius) have been banned from American television for being “insensitive”.

Now let me show you some. You’ll enjoy them, unless you’re one of those cold Puritans whose imagination has become frozen in icy, abstract “sensitivity.” And the music is top notch too, so turn on your speakers, pour a drink, validate your license to think in new ways about race and gender, and sit back and enjoy:

1. Cab Calloway singing (and dancing) to his signature song, “Minnie the Moocher”, in a Betty Boop cartoon, early 1930s. This cartoon is now banned on American television. I have never seen the official reasons for its being banned, but I can conjecture that it’s because of the following:

a. Cab Calloway dances (brilliantly, in person) at the beginning, in a way which you don’t see much of these days. It looks like an “older” kind of African-American performance, ergo, “offensive.” But I’m not sure if that’s the reason for banning it, because it makes no sense. But then neither does the ban.

b. Betty Boop is depicted (as always) as a sex object. I suppose maybe that’s insensitive toward “women”, despite the fact that heterosexual males of all races will always think of women as sex objects to some extent.
The only cultures which have ever successfully repressed any open insignia of women as sex objects, have been those like the Taliban. On the OTHER hand (as you will see further on), today’s America is quite happy to represent women as “sex objects”, in ways which would have made Betty Boop contemplate suicide.

c. Or perhaps, the “offense” is the caricature of Betty Boop’s father speaking in a Yiddish accent, with bad grammar. Near the beginning, you’ll see Betty Boop’s father wearing a Jewish Yarmulke, and he rants at her in a Yiddish accent, “I don’t have it!” when he really means “I won’t have it.” By the way, Max Fleischer (the cartoonist who created Betty Boop) was Jewish. I never realised Betty Boop was a Jewish girl until I saw this cartoon!

At any rate, sit back and enjoy this CLASSIC cartoon, starring the immortal Cab Calloway at his best – oh and a cartoon version of Cab Calloway will sing the entire song after the four minute mark. :

http://youtube.com/watch?v=yRBj1S12LpE

….ah, you’ve seen it? Now let me point out something else. One of the youtube comments underneath that clip says, “the underlying theme seems to be about racial mixing”…..

…..and I have no idea where he got that idea from. WHERE is the “racial mixing?” Betty runs away from home with her friend, “Bimbo”, who is a dog of indeterminate race. I suppose you could say Betty Boop is a miscegenist, running away with a dog as her partner (if you say dogs belong to a different “race” than Jewish Humans), but there is no hint of sex or romance between Betty and the dog Bimbo. So what bothers me about that comment, is that the commenter has been so preconditioned to perceive “racial” issues where absolutely none exist. Bimbo….is….a….dog.

Furthermore, if you wonder what were Max Fleischer’s “motivations” in creating the Betty Boop series – most of which involve experiments in surrealist animation – I’d say (being another cartoonist) that he was just enjoying himself, using his talents, experimenting, without any thought about race or gender or anything other than making some interesting cartoons – visually, and in this case musically too. Race was not on Fleischer’s mind, but what WAS on his mind, was Cab Calloway’s brilliant music and dancing and how it could be used in surreal animation.

2. Here’s another one, “Tin Pan Alley Cats”, from 1943. This one stars Louis Armstrong (so, you know your gonna get some DIVINE jazz in this one!) And the animator was Bob Clampett, one of the Pantheon of American animators. Bob Clampett was (like the Fleischers and all the greatest cartoonists of that era) an experimenter and a surrealist. He was influenced considerably by Salvador Dali – but actually I think he was better than Dali. Also, in contrast to Dali, Bob Clampett was a political progressive. (Dali was literally a Fascist.) Bob Clampett was one of the first American cartoonists to use the voices of real-life Blacks in his cartoons (instead of using the voices of Whites impersonating Blacks.) Clampett was a great Jazz afficionado, and some of the Black “voices” that he used in his cartoons, were Black musicians he personally used to hang out with.

And yet, this cartoon is also banned on American TV for being “racially insenstive”, even though it stars Louis Armstrong, a (Black) American artistic genius if there ever was one. And in this case, I do know exactly why it’s banned: It’s because the Blacks in this cartoon are depicted with thick lips.

Well, guess what. Most Blacks DO have thicker lips than other races do. Go and look at some photos of Louis Armstrong. He had thick lips, thicker than most typical Whites do (like George Bush, whose lips are cruelly thin.)
This is a cartoon, and cartooning means caricature, exagerration. You simply cannot create any caricature of Louis Armstrong without giving him thick lips.

Oh and as for the Black voices (including Louis Armstrong’s) which you’ll hear in this one, speaking in an exaggerated dialect, all I have to say is: Ebonics. This cartoon was a CELEBRATION of what was truly creative and imaginative and ingenious in African-American arts at the time. And most importantly, I say, anyone who bans Louis Armstrong is a barbarian. Here you go:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=Y3K8F2EMhjY

3. And now here is one of the most controverted cartoons of the “Censored Eleven”, one of eleven Warner Brothers cartoons which have been banned for “racial insensitivity.” (The previous one, starring Louis Armstrong, is another one on that list.) I think this one was banned precisely BECAUSE it is one of the greatest American cartoons ever made. It’s just too good, too brilliant, for some people to tolerate. “Coal Black And De Sebben Dwarves” (1943) was also made by Bob Clampett, and some of us cartoonists consider it to be his most ingenious creation.

Now, mind you, the main theme, the leitmotif of this cartoon, is the role of Black soldiers in World War Two. Bob Clampett made it for two reasons, first as a propaganda piece to persuade (subliminally) other Americans to respect
Blacks who were serving in the war (because at that time, generally, Black soldiers were not treated as equals), and secondarily it was another one of his joyful celebrations of Jazz!

ALL of the voices in this cartoon are by Blacks – instead of by white actors as was the custom at that time. Thus, once again, Bob Clampett was a progressive, far ahead of his time. And in fact, all of the characters are drawn as caricatures of Black musicians who were friends of Bob Clampett (who cooperated with him on this cartoon, including lending their voices to it.)

Now, a few specific notes about this cartoon, before you watch it (and once again, the music is five-star rocket-fuel Jazz!):

a. Some have criticised it on the grounds that the only “attractive” character is “So White” (the Black version of “Snow White.” However, in 1943, the very idea of potraying a young Black woman as beautiful and desirable for ANY and ALL races, was almost unthinkable. Clampett broke new ground by portraying “So White” as a RESPECTABLY sexy, beautiful young Black woman. Her sexual appeal really transcends race. And yes she does show off a lot of leg – but that has nothing to do with her being Black, AND (as you’ll see later), she is portrayed with far more respect than many Black sex-symbols are today.

b. The ugly “witch” is very ugly indeed, depicted with the ugliest kind of Black caricatures. But just step back for a moment and think: That’s because she’s an evil witch. She’s supposed to be ugly. Also, this is a wartime movie, and the main REASON why she is “ugly” is because she does not support the war effort. She hordes rationed goods like tires and sugar and coffee – that’s how she is introduced. Thus, as the MAIN theme of this movie is “supporting the war effort”, the MAIN reason why the witch is “ugly” is because she is cheating, she’s not supporting the war effort – UNlike the good guys, “So White” and her Seven Dwarves (who are all soldiers.)

c. The same applies to “Prince Chawmin'” He’s an unattractive character, a fool, a clown. But a very special kind of clown: Because, you’ll see he wears a “Zoot Suit”, and in 1943, men (of ALL races) who wore such fancy clothes were civilians. ie, men who did not join the Army. Yes he’s a fool, he’s ridiculous and basically “impotent”, but not because he’s Black. No, he’s ridiculous and impotent because he stays at home as a civilian, while REAL men join the Army and go to war.

d. The Seven (Black) Dwarfs are short and physically unattractive. But, so are the WHITE “Seven Dwarfs” in the original Snow White story. But then you’ll see at the end, that while “Prince Chawmin'” fails to get the girl, the one who DOES get her is a Dwarf – because he’s in the Army! The final lines are, when the Prince asks the Dwarf, “What you got that make So White think you so hot?” The (soldier) dwarf replies, “DAT is a MILITARY SECRET!” And then he kisses her again, and US flags pop out of her pigtails. The message being: “Join the Army and support the war effort if you want to be a REAL man!” And once again, “race” has absolutely nothing to do with being a “REAL” man here.

e. And a marginal note: You’ll see one scene where “Murder Incorporated” says “We’ll kill anybody for one dollar, and we’ll kill JAPS for FREE!” Personally, I think that in year 1943, that was appropriate.

Here you go:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=vhOeN7bS_XQ

4. Ah, but now you might ask, “Didn’t Americans PROGRESS after 1943, and come to understand that most Blacks do NOT have big lips, and that it’s insensitive to depict them that way? Or to depict them as any caricatures at all?

The answer is No. And in fact, one of the greatest American cartoon series of the 1970s – written and directed by the Black American comedian, Dr Bill Cosby – had an entirely Black cast (the characters AND their voices), and part of the ingenious appeal of that series was, well, the way in which it caricatured poor Black American teenagers, in such an INTERESTING and attractive way.

Some of you American readers who are my age or older, will remember that cartoon series, “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.” But let’s explain it to the other readers. Bill Cosby (PhD) grew up poor in Philadelphia, but he was a champion athlete and a great scholar, and ultimately he got a PhD from Philadelphia’s Temple University (in Education, I think), and became one of America’s most successful comedians. But he “paid back” to his roots by, among other things, creating the “Fat Albert” cartoon series. (He didn’t animate it, but he wrote all the scripts.)
“Fat Albert” and his friends are all based on Bill Cosby’s boyhood companions in the ghetto of North Philadelphia (updated a bit for the 1970s.) And although they’re ALL “caricatures” of various Black Boys, they were all very attractive characters – and so, in every episode, Bill Cosby would arrange for the boys to learn some kind of life lesson (approriate for boys of ALL races of around age 8 to 12.) And then at the end they would sing a song, in R and B style – not the best music, but not bad either. In its time, it was considered to be one of the most “educational” and “socially progressive” TV shows of the 1970s.

And yet, you’ll see, they all have thick lips and are drawn as “caricatures” of what young Black males look like:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=cFDBW7Xgagg

5. Ah, but now HERE, let me show you a very common, very typical representation of Blacks, AND of “women”, which is NOT banned in America today!

Here is the Gansta-rapper, “Lil Kim”, portraying herself (Black and female) and women and Blacks generally, as foul-mouthed violent savages in this putatively more “enlightened” year of 2006. Jesus H Christ almighty, “Lil Kim’s”
language makes ME sound like a fucking choir boy:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=Z9glADY-B0c

Disgusting. Savage. And a viciously insulting “re-presentation” of African-Americans and of Women, and especially of African-American women. (Not to mention all of the Black Men in prison in that video.) And yet, THIS kind of shit, today, is MORE easily available on mainstream media than any of the banned cartoons which I have showed you. THIS kind of wretched, RACIST shit, somehow does not raise as many hackles for being “racially offensive” (or for offending “women”) as Betty Boop or So White do, today.

You wanna see Blacks and women dragged down and disrespected? Then just spread more of THIS kind of shit around – as it’s being spread around (to the tune of millions of dollars) today.

QED, if you’ve been following my gradual line of argument throughout this post. Popular American culture, today, in 2006, is arguably even MORE racist and MORE mysogynist than it has ever been. And histrionic demonstrations of “sensitivity” to very superficial matters like affirmative action or electing women to high government offices, just distracts attention from the REAL racism and sexism – just like the Victorian ladies who would swoon at the mention of “leg” while they and their husbands supported a system which forced many women into sexual slavery.

Here endeth the lesson. Now let’s end this on a fun note, as I introduce you to another piece of classic animation (I’ve been saving the best for last!), again starring Cab Calloway. He will begin singing at the 4:10 minute mark, and it’s worth watching several times to take a close look at the background drawing which accord with the lyrics of “St James Infirmary.” HERE is American culture at its best – and I hope you’ll join me in drinking to it! ๐Ÿ™‚ Here you go (remember, fast forward this one to the 4:10 mark) and I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of the Dark (and tasty!) side of the American spirit:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=D4Hr4Aekt-s

Oh and one more thing. Aren’t you all tired of seeing YELLOW people caricatured like THIS?

http://jeffpinard.com/Homer Simpson.png

And WHITE men caricatured like THIS?

http://www.frankdecaro.com/recipes/photos/batman-and-robin/Batman Kiss.jpg

Now aren’t you glad you had a few drinks while you read this? Have a few more….. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Discussion: 32 Comments

And I still maintain your understanding of the American “left” as it’s expressed in politics is shallow at best. For one thing, there isn’t one. The so-called “left” in America is for the most part a shade to the left of center, if that. If you are talking about the academic world, that’s a different subject, but since you keep bringing up the election in this context, it doesn’t seem to me that you are. In any case, I’d say that the role of the academic “left” on the political, er, just a shade to one side of center, is minimal.

Also, you overstate the role of “identity politics” in the non-existent American left (the one in politics, I mean), and I’m at a loss to explain why, unless it’s just because you like having a big pinata to bash. It’s a typical right wing meme, however, one they like to repeat because it’s misleading and scares the white folks in the ‘burbs. Except, not so much this time, from the election results.

Speaking of the environment, environmental protection was a big winner in these midterms. Richard Pombo went down, defeated by a former windmill farmer, John Tester, an organic farmer from Montana, defeated Conrad Burns, and Barbara Boxer is replacing James Inhoff on the Senate Environmental committee. Inhoff is the guy who doesn’t believe in global warming and thinks that those who do are terrorist sympathizers, or something.

I’d like to get through one of your posts without feeling compelled to write something of this sort, especially since I love cartoons, but I guess it’s not to be.

I’ll just finish by saying that if you think the “left” is fiddling while Rome burns, your constant bashing of same isn’t exactly productive either. That’s one of the ways the Rovians have succeeded over the years. Demean and diminish the opponent, act as though very real gains are meaningless, increase peoples’ cynicism and stand ready to offer simplistic solutions to complex problems.

I realize that’s not what you are doing, but it starts with the bashing.

November 17, 2006 @ 1:23 am | Comment

Lisa, it’s interesting to see how you responded to this thread within just a few minutes after I posted it, without enough time for you to have actually downloaded all of the exemplary clips so that you could understand the entire thread in context.

No, you just jumped ahead, jumped to conclusions, to bang your own knee-jerk drum about what YOU presume I’m writing about here.

You saw that it had something to do with “identity politics” – and it does – and that was enough for you to write a critical comment about it before you digested the whole thing to understand what my MAIN theme is in this thread.

And in that sense, you have demonstrated yourself to be EXACTLY the kind of superficial “leftist” whose assumptions I’m calling into question in this post.

This post is about stepping back and thinking more, thinking more subtly, about (in your words) “complex problems.” I put a lot of time and careful thinking into this thread, but you put almost none into reacting to it.

November 17, 2006 @ 2:05 am | Comment

Furthermore, Lisa, about “demeaning and diminishing the opponent”, guess what: As far as I’m concerned, the Democratic and Republican Parties are BOTH my opponents, and BOTH of those parties need a HELL of a lot of bashing right now.

Stalin was Hitler’s opponent (and I vastly prefer Stalin over Hitler, like I prefer the Democrats over the Republicans), but that doesn’t hold me back from bashing Stalin.

November 17, 2006 @ 2:14 am | Comment

Ivan, I can’t even get through your posts right now. I get stuck on your repetitive and ill-informed bashing. As I said, it’s a pity, because I’d much rather get to the cartoons. You undercut your own argument by gratuitous insults. It’s a big turn-off to me and prevents me from wanting to go further and read what you have to say. You could have written this entire post without referencing past contentious threads. But you brought it up, and if you think I’m going to give you a pass, sorry.

As for my making a comment shortly after you posted it, that’s entirely a coincidence. I get up in the morning, drink my coffee and surf blogs. Believe me, I was not waiting with baited breath for this.

November 17, 2006 @ 2:41 am | Comment

Okay, I’m still too hungover to get to the politics of this post, but – SHUT UP!! I was just looking at those same Betty Boop clips yesterday!! (And wanting a dime bag of whatever Fleischer was on…)

That jazz, the walrus man, the dancing skeletons, even Baba Yaga (I think) at the end, God! Just fantastic.

Btw, there’s a great opening sequence in “The Triplets of Belleville” (a French-Montreal production, I think) that directly references Fleischer and his sublime surrealness and wit. Check it out:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDsIUmJoD68

November 17, 2006 @ 3:09 am | Comment

Nausicaa,

You’re hungover? Then this is all a perfect remedy!

I’m impressed that you recognised a version of Baba Yaga (a Russian witch-banshee) at the end.

And thanks for referring me (us) to that other clip.

As far as “the politics of this post” go, one of my major leitmotifs in this thread is: “Politics should never control imagination.” And a corollary of that is: “Political sensitivity kills creativity.”

And, as one of my (Black) American friends (actually a law professor) said to me, some years ago: “When the Revolution REALLY arrives, we’re gonna make fun of EVERYbody!”

November 17, 2006 @ 3:55 am | Comment

How did I know this was written by Ivan, just by looking at the title? ๐Ÿ˜€

Amusing as always.

November 17, 2006 @ 4:22 am | Comment

Raj,

Oi-ven is VEEEH-wee noice to me! Boop-boop-ah-doop!

Sincerely yours,
Betty Boop

November 17, 2006 @ 4:49 am | Comment

As far as “the politics of this post” go, one of my major leitmotifs in this thread is: “Politics should never control imagination.” And a corollary of that is: “Political sensitivity kills creativity.”

Right. And I totally agree with those points. But I think you’re saying something more specific than that. I think you’re saying – and this goes along with your recent posts – that IDENTITY politics (which seems to be your bete noire…maybe it’s the old Marxist in you speaking) has not only fractured the left by shifting the focus away from class politics but has also – with its overactive sense of political correctness and its poststructuralist tendancy towards cultural particularism – robbed people of their ability to think critically about actual racism and sexism.

November 17, 2006 @ 7:23 am | Comment

Lisa,

….long groan and then more self-censorship after your browbeating.

Our right-wing readers are probably just loving your above comments. (And now more self-censorship.)

November 17, 2006 @ 7:28 am | Comment

Um, that was me. Not Other Lisa. Sorry, just trying to understand your viewpoint, not tring to browbeat you.

November 17, 2006 @ 7:33 am | Comment

Nausicaa:

YES!

You have understood me 100 percent correctly!

You have understood, and restated, EXACTLY what I was expressing in this post!

Anyone who is not quite sure what I meant in this post: Read Nausicaa’s last comment. She has understood me perfectly.

November 17, 2006 @ 7:34 am | Comment

PS, Nausicaa, no I wasn’t responding to you about “browbeating”, I was responding to Lisa’s browbeating.

Nausicaa, you have understood this post 100 percent.

November 17, 2006 @ 7:36 am | Comment

Ivan, to hell with the politics!!! Those cartoons are truly works of art. Many of the old time (I’m probably older than you) cartoons were truly brilliant. Bullwinkle, Dudley Doright, Underdog. True genius.

Bill Cosby is one of America’s most underrated comics. From his first albums (actual recordings on vinyl!!) to his part on the TV series I Spy.

I don’t care what everybody else says about you – sometimes you are almost OK. ๐Ÿ™‚

November 17, 2006 @ 7:47 am | Comment

Sorry. I’m slow to get mad, but I tend to stay mad. I’ll take it elsewhere for a while.

November 17, 2006 @ 1:05 pm | Comment

I loved most of these cartoons, and agree with most of your arguments about the creativity-killing nature of political correctness. Like Lisa, however, I find the attacks on the “left,” as if it were some sort of monlithical entity tied up with a bow, to be going too far. That’s all I want to say about your attack on the left – it’s too broad and sweeping. There’s way more nuance there, and we have to be careful with out generalizations.

I’m a huge South Park fan. Nothing should be sacred, except my blog and the music of Wagner, and I love seeing our sacred cows get crapped on by Matt and Trey. Even so, I have to admit I felt some discomfort with the Tin Pan Alley cartoon, not because it depicted blacks with thick lips, but with thick lips that were intentionally made to appear grotesque – they were the focus of the cartoon. Now, many Jews have long noses, but to portray large groups of them in a cartoon, all with huge, carrot-like noses, wouldn’t sit well with me either. It’s simply poor taste. No, I didnt say it should be banned, just that it’s in poor taste. I thought the Cosby carton did a far better job of showing how many blacks actually look without making them look grotesque. Would I censor or ban the Tin Pan Alley cartoon? Never in a million years. But i can say I see it as exploiting a race’s physical characteristics for a cheap laugh (the cartoon would have been just a wonderful without the thick lips). Just like the WWII posters of “Japs” in the US showed them all as tiny little monsters with big buck teeth. I don’t mind such representations in art and despise any movement to ban such art based on political correctness BS. But just as I believe in the right to display such art, I also stand by my right to express my opinion about it, and again, I found the above-cited cartoon in questionable taste. The danger is when the politically correct elite decides they should make the decision for us, to “protect” us against harmful, insensitive and “racist” material. And there we are in full agreement – the politically correct crowd is hypocritical and a far greater menace than anything they may think they’re “protecting” us from

No matter who’s right or wrong in this debate (and that’s not measurable), I appreciate the incredible work you put into this and always marvel at your labrynthine knolwedge of what many would refer to as trivia. Do you secretly work for youtube, indexing every clip that’s posted there? I’m impressed.

November 17, 2006 @ 1:51 pm | Comment

No way to make this rant coherent, so I’ll try not to try.

First off, thanks for the cartoons. I cannot describe the strange sense of deja vu they gave me, especially the first one. These are the weird old not very funny cartoons they showed on Channel 4 to fill some of the dead TV time between 4 and 4:30 after the kids got out of school, probably because this stuff was really cheap at the time. Man, how much they’ve improved since I was 9 years old! Genuinely great stuff. (I don’t want to think about the Flash Gordon serials that filled the other part of that time.)

In fact, I’m pretty sure the Minnie the Moocher one is something I saw back then — just from a sort of visceral reaction to it, though I have no specific memory of it at all. First rate work, anyway. To censor this is somewhere between problematic and wrong.

Now then.

Bugger your poltical correctness and identity politics. Richard is dubious about the racial stereotypes; I’m not. They are repulsive racial stereotypes. Marvelously inventive cartooning, great music, and nasty stereotypes. Oppressive racial stereotypes, but it seems Leftists aren’t supposed to care about that if they have a chance to praise good art and exercise their superior perceptions even if it means imitating right-wing blogger talking points.

“We kill Japs for free” was perfectly appropriate for the time, you say? Yeah, it really was. I mean, “we” had rounded up most of the Japs into concentration camps, but there were places right here in the USA where they still ran around loose, so it was really important to make the point KILL JAPS KILL JAPS KILL MORE JAPS in the immortal words of Admiral Halsey. What kind of fucking fake leftism is it that winks at this?

I suppose, in fact I gather from various evidence, that you did not grow up surrounded by the American racism of the 40s and 50s. Congratulations. Contrariwise, maybe you can make the argument that your milieu was even worse. It was, however, at the very least, different. Perhaps the abstract analyses of Amerikkka that you’ve seen in books have not been adequate for an understanding of what was going on at a different time and place, namely here.

Identity politics sucks. Censorship sucks. Racism sucks. Demeaning the powerless sucks, and advocating racist murder sucks. Some people’s leftism apparently can’t hold all of these in mind at the same time. To Hell with that.

November 17, 2006 @ 5:01 pm | Comment

test

November 17, 2006 @ 10:05 pm | Comment

Everyone, this thread has been on and off all day. I’m trying to get it fixed. If you have trouble commenting, refresh the screen a few times – it just worked for me. But no promises.

November 17, 2006 @ 10:06 pm | Comment

I?ve been sitting on the fence, holding off making any comments on this sequence of post-election threads. I know that I?m going to upset a few people if I open my mouth. But after reflecting on it over and over again, I think that it?s about time for someone to play the devil?s advocate, otherwise this discussion is not going to move any further ahead. Who else is more qualified to do a job like that than a dumb Aussie?

Lisa, I?m sorry to say that you?ve totally missed the point that Ivan has been trying to make, right from the very beginning. You have invested too much emotion in this election, to an extent that you fail to see how insignificant the election result is when it comes to actually addressing some of the fundamental problems in the US today. Ivan, as I believe, is just being honest about something that you don?t want to admit. Let?s face it: the Democrats are as guilty as the Republicans when it comes to selling your country to big corporations. This is the root of all evils. The fact that those who manage to rise to the top of the Democratic Party ladder are predominantly from privileged background with corporate backings really says it all for me. Your persistent effort to avoid this discussion and to divert attention to race and gender issues is the reason why Ivan keeps coming back with the same argument. So if you want him to shut it, perhaps the best way to do it is to knowledge that he?s got a point.

Nausicaa, there is no ?politics? in this post or any other posts, only points of view. I take it as my mission to reject any notion of viewing the world in terms of ?politics?. And hence I?m no socialist, Marxist or communist – just a plain old supporter of civil liberties and labour union movements. ?Politics? will not advance humanities; discussions, debates and exchange of opinion, however, will.

Because of that, Ivan, I?m very disappointed. After all that, you?re now telling us that the real problem with the Left is that they allow “identity politics” to overshadow “class politics”. But I thought all along you are rebuking the Left for allowing class politics to proliferate and mutate into identity politics. (Isn?t this the problem that?s facing China now?) In doing so, the Left takes the focus of statesmanship away from its main concern, which should be for upholding the right of humanities: to fairness, to equal opportunities, and to the improvement of quality of life through freedom of information, freedom of association and freedom of speech. This, by and large, should be what a civil liberal society is all about.

Enough for now and I will rest my case. (Waiting in anxiety for eggs and tomatoes from all directions.)

November 17, 2006 @ 10:11 pm | Comment

Fat Cat,

No eggs from me. I was not responding to the substance of this post. I was responding to an argument that had gone on for several threads, that I was still angry about. For that I apologize. I should have stayed off of this thread if I didn’t want to address the topics it raised directly.

I will object to your characterization of my arguments however. I have not only raised race and gender issues, and I only raised those in response to those who claimed they aren’t important (go back and look if you’d like, though I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s about three threads worth of very contentious comments). It’s funny that I’m even making these arguments, because in my circle of friends, I’m probably the person least interested in them (the environment is more my thing, which is reflected by the bulk of the posts I’ve put up here). I tend to think that class overrides race & gender, but it’s a complicated relationship that defies efforts to boil it down to a simple either/or proposition. It kills me that I’m being accused of not caring about this, because if there’s one thread in a lot of my writing, it’s about the widening gap between rich and poor, the hidden nature of class and the very real ruling class that sets the agenda for its own benefit. I’ve been harping on this since a political science class I had in high school, where we had a book that used the phrase, “overlapping oligarchies.”

What I was objecting to in this particular situation, aside from the personal insults, was what I felt was a simplistic and wrong-headed characterization of “the Left” – whatever that is. If it’s the Academic “left,” then, as I said, I can’t speak to it. I’m not a part of that world.

If it’s the political “left,” then I maintain that there’s no such thing currently in American politics.

If we are talking about the midterm election results, which was how this whole thing started – first, yes, I am overinvested in it. What can I say? It’s nice going through a day and feeling like maybe, just maybe, we have a shot at avoiding disaster, that I can think in terms other than finding a safe refuge and crawling into it. I’ve said throughout this kerfluffle that there’s still a very long road ahead, and that I don’t know if the current system can fixed. But you have to start somewhere. Like, when you’re in a hole, first stop digging.

I’ve mentioned this before, and now I’ll ask the question directly: who here has really particpated in the American political system, I mean, beyond voting? I have, and though I’m far from the grizzled veteran, I have enough experience to understand quite well what the problems are and the distorting role that money has played on the political process. The campaign I spent the most time on (I was a paid staffer) was explicitly addressing these issues. I won’t say that it was a disillusioning process, because I went into it with very few illusions. But it was certainly educational.

My attitude now is that it’s an incremental process, and from my view, we’ve made some progress in real grassroots involvement that was really apparent during this election cycle. A lot of other things were apparent too, but I want to look for the positives for a change.

I also think that there are more candidates, and now elected officials, who are explicitly addressing class issues (and the environment) than there have been in many years. It’s still not a lot but for a long time these issues didn’t seem to have any kind of seat at the table. If you look at Clinton, the rhetoric was all about “the middle class that works hard and follows the rules.” That’s still most of what you’ll hear, but there are other voices out there. I’ve already named a few of them, so I’ll STFU about that for now.

On my way into the office, I heard a report that in California, only 10% of top decision making offices in large companies are held by women. Okay, we are talking about a group of wealthy people here, not the problems of the working class and the poor, but we are also talking about who gets to make the decisions, and who doesn’t.

What I object to is being told that these things aren’t true and don’t matter, and in an insulting manner to boot. If I’m “browbeating,” well, sorry. Except I’m not. I’ve been trying to respond in a measured way. The only thing I’ll apologize for is, again, bringing this whole thing to this particular thread. I shouldn’t have done that. Because I like cartoons.

Okay, I’m done.

November 18, 2006 @ 3:02 am | Comment

@Fat Cat: Unfortunately, class politics still exists because structural classism still exists. And identity politics still exists because racism and sexism and homophobia still exist. Make of that what you will.

November 18, 2006 @ 3:42 am | Comment

See, I should have said it the way Nausicaa said it. Much shorter!

November 18, 2006 @ 4:00 am | Comment

Great post. Great cartoons. Thanks, Ivan. Time for your own blog, perhaps…?

November 18, 2006 @ 7:17 am | Comment

Lisa and Nausicaa,

I’m not denying that class and identity politics exist. What I’m saying is that engaging in this kind of “politics” and “struggle”, making them a part of the political agenda, are not going to rid the world of inequality, discrimination and prejudice. We need to go back and visit some fundamental issues about our democratic processes and encourage debates in those areas. I mentioned this in a previous thread that Ivan posted. But of course it all got washed away by a storm of rage over egoistic issues. In where I am, our state government has now initiated some debates on public fundings of election campaigns. This will provoke discussions about necessary reforms to limit corporate sponsorship in political campaigns. We are not sure how this is going to work. But at least the issues are discussed and the public is made aware of it. This is the sort of things that I’m talking about.

November 18, 2006 @ 10:13 am | Comment

I love Max Fleischer’s Betty Boop cartoons, but I have to wince at some of the stereotypes.

I really enjoy 20s and early 30s music, and if you listen to this genre, you have to get used to terms like “darkies” and “coloreds”, and understand that they are not typically used (in this music) with racist intent. Many of the singers and song writers using these terms were friends and colleagues of black artists – who often used these terms themselves.

But as Richard noted, there is a difference between things like songs mentioning “darkies crooning at dusk” and “missing my big fat mammy”, and charicatures that make someone a grotesque.

And they are not confined to blacks. In a brief scene in one Betty Boop cartoon, Betty asks a mouse at her party if he will sing for them. The mouse is named “Percival” and is stereotypically queer, complete with limp wrist, dandified clothing, exaggerated theatrical gestures and lilting accent. I am not so bothered by that, but what makes me uncomfortable is that as soon as “Percy” speaks for the first time (“Count me out, Dearie”), a giant, angry fist appears and slugs him out of the frame (“I’ll count you out!”), and he is never seen again. Hmm.

Although you can gain an occasional glimpse into the darker side of American society, I still love those amazing Max Fleischer cartoons. They were truly cutting edge, not only for their surrealistic use of the new animated medium itself, but also for featuring some of the best black musicians of the time … and of course, having as their star a sexy flapper chick – one of those daring young women who were flouting society’s stuffy prevailing standards of womanliness with their daring clothing, smoking, boyish bobbed hair, increased sexual freedom, outrageous dancing (The Black Bottom! The Charleston!) and their association with black culture.

By the way, as sick to death as I am of seeing adult Chinese wearing clothes emblazoned with the overly-commercialized corporate images of Snoopy and Mickey Mouse (Charles Schultz/Metropolitan Life – Ugh! Disney/GOP – Ugh!), I never tire of seeing Chinese sporting graphics of rebellious flapper-chick Betty Boop in her (pre-Hayes code) mini skirt and spit curls. I’m sorry, but corporate mascot Snoopy just isn’t cool (except maybe to a six year old).

Betty Boop, on the other hand, is essential cool.

November 18, 2006 @ 11:40 am | Comment

Slim, what would we do without you?

November 18, 2006 @ 11:44 am | Comment

Aside – I forgot to ask, are these cartoons really “banned” in some official sense?

Or is this a matter of distribution houses “self-censoring” by refusing to air material for which they own the copyrights?

November 18, 2006 @ 12:09 pm | Comment

peter, thanks for the compliment, but I don’t think I’d have enough sanity to cope with all of the hate mail that I’d inevitably receive.

November 18, 2006 @ 4:10 pm | Comment

Tin Pin Alley Cats is a wonderful cartoon which has even been acknowledged by the US Government as “culturally important”. The scene where Fats Waller is blown by the trumpet into Wackyland is made from reused animation from the 1938 classic “Porky in Wackyland”, which has been archived in the US Library of Congress as an example of important American culture.
There are some Disney cartoons featuring Donald Duck in Naziland (Der Fuhrer’s Face) which are also banned today, though I can’t think why. Perhaps they are unfair representations of 1940s White Supremacists?

November 18, 2006 @ 5:21 pm | Comment

Tin Pin Alley Cats is a wonderful cartoon which has even been acknowledged by the US Government as “culturally important”. The scene where Fats Waller is blown by the trumpet into Wackyland is made from reused animation from the 1938 classic “Porky in Wackyland”, which has been archived in the US Library of Congress as an example of important American culture.
There are some Disney cartoons featuring Donald Duck in Naziland (Der Fuhrer’s Face) which are also banned today, though I can’t think why. Perhaps they are unfair representations of 1940s White Supremacists?

November 18, 2006 @ 5:22 pm | Comment

Shanghai Slim wrote:

“The mouse is named “Percival” and is stereotypically queer, complete with limp wrist, dandified clothing, exaggerated theatrical gestures and lilting accent.”

But what does that have to do with being gay? It sounds more like George Bush to me. Go and see:

http://www.bettybowers.com/isbushgay.html

November 18, 2006 @ 6:50 pm | Comment

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