Cartoons have always been the go-to television babysitter for parents who need a break from their kids asking “Why?” all the time and smearing poop on the walls. They’re designed to appeal to children, and for the most part, the little ones don’t pick up on some of the hidden meanings behind their classic animated heroes. Unfortunately, as America evolved from its time following the Civil War, attitudes were still pretty backward regarding other races, and that often found its way into children’s entertainment. As a result, today we’re bringing you our picks for the 5 Most Racist Cartoons in the history of animation.
Scrub Me Mama With A Boogie Beat
Wow, I’m not sure where to begin with this little spectacle. Every depiction of a black character comes complete with humongous lips, missing teeth, and a nap (during work hours). Most of the characters don’t wear shoes either. And they live in a place called (wait for it) Lazy Town. Really, Universal wasn’t even trying to hide it. The cartoon is close to seven minutes in run time, but you’ll likely see all that you need to to get the point in the first two.
Betty Boop: ‘Making Stars’
The especially offensive portion of this cartoon comes at the 3:46 mark of the video above. The setup: we’re at a vaudeville type act when a crying African-American child sitting on his mother’s lap starts throwing a fit, crying and shouting “Hidee-Ho” over and over again. (In both cases, the characters’ lips take up about half their faces.) Frustrated, the mother finally reaches down into her bag and pulls out a solution that has remained one of the most persistent stereotypes of African-American people. We’ll let you watch it for yourself to see if you agree on the offensive part. (Fill-in-the-blank hint: fried chicken and _____________.)
The Dick Tracy Show: Joe Jitsu
The Dick Tracy cartoon was one of the biggest offenders when it came to unfair depictions of Asian-Americans. It wasn’t that the character of Joe Jitsu was an idiot. To the contrary. Most villains simply couldn’t match him for wits and braun. Whenever a villain like the Mole (see video) thinks they have the jump on Joe, he simply uses his karate prowess to fling them around and mash their heads into the ground while repeating, “So solly (sorry)” over and over. He’s also about one fourth the size of the other characters and his face is drawn in typically offensive scrunch with a yellow complexion.
Bugs Bunny: ‘Southern Fried Rabbit’
What list of racist cartoons and cartoon characters would be complete without a trip to the Deep South for a visit with ol’ Bugs-in-Blackface. In an attempt to fool Yosemite Sam into not shooting him, Bugs dons the dark paint, theatrical voice, and mocking pleas of “Don’t beat me massuh, don’t beat me massuh!” The scene above is usually removed from television broadcasts these days, but on the Internet, it’s pretty easy to come by. Before moving on, though, let’s just note that the character of Yosemite Sam is pretty racist as well if you’re a white Southerner. Racism is something that whites fought to overcome in the Civil War and subsequently in the years and decades following. In 2008, we even helped to elect the nation’s first black President. At what point can we agree that not everyone down here talks like a fifth grade-educated buffoon?
Speedy Gonzales And Slow Poke Rodriguez
As a white kid growing up, Speedy and Slow Poke were two lovable characters that weren’t shown nearly enough for my liking. Particularly hilarious to me was the video above of Slow Poke carrying heat. Now that our culture has changed and I’ve grown up to understand how different the human experience is for everyone of different cultures and not just my own, I can definitely see how the over-the-top portrayals of these characters could be offensive. Still, I’d probably keep watching Speedy and Slow Poke anyway.
Now, we’re sure that we’ve left some pretty great examples out. If you have any that you think should have made the list, share in our comments section below!