Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Why Do MGM Cartoons Hate Black People?

Okay, that title was a joke, but the subject of this post has been on my mind for years.

The MGM cartoons use black-ethnic jokes far more than any other studio did during the Golden Age. When a black caricature showed up in a Warner, Lantz, Disney, or Famous cartoon, at least from the late 30s onward, it usually doubled as a celebrity caricature (Eddie Anderson, Cab Calloway, "Stepin' Fetchit", etc.). They also only seemed to show up in those studios' films if it was an all black-cast or a literature parody (Robinson Crusoe, Uncle Tom's Cabin).

The MGM black caricatures were always just there, with those magical pigtails that come out of nowhere. They say, "Laugh at me because I look like a stupid negro!" I have a feeling somebody in the MGM story department loved those kinds of sight gags, because Avery rarely used them in his cartoons at Warners. The Tom & Jerry series probably holds the record for most black gags in classical animation history (which is why they are the most heavily censored).

Holy shit, these framegrabs make me cringe. These sight gags really detract from those cartoons when screening them with an audience, which is a shame, because a lot of them are usually hilarious otherwise. Cartoons like Coal Black or Goldilocks and the Jivin' Bears really don't bother me because the energy behind them and the celebration of black culture makes up for the racial imagery, though I was accused of being racist for admitting to love those cartoons when classmates managed to see them on YouTube.

So does anyone have any idea who at MGM encouraged the black jokes to be inserted so heavily into the cartoons? I'm sure nobody knows, but I thought it'd make good fodder for conversation.

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