Thursday, 15 August 2013

Racism and Tom & Jerry: It's humans who are racist stupid!

Who would have thought that a popular cartoon show like Tom and Jerry would one day be accused of portraying racism? Generations of children have fell off the chair laughing to the crazy cat and mouse games. So popular is the cartoon that it has a loyal fan following even among the grownups. However, the Warner Brothers’ recent decision to drop two episodes that it deemed ‘inappropriate’ from its ‘Tom & Jerry Golden Collection Volume Two’ because both Tom and Jerry get ‘blacked up’ in the episodes, has stirred the debate on whether are we getting too weak kneed about out past.
 Tom and Jerry is not the first popular cartoon series to be accused of being racist. Tintin in Congo, from The Adventures of Tintin series, and the comic book series Archie has been accused of being racist. Enid Blyton, the famous author of the Famous Five and Secret Seven series, has been accused of being a racist and many instances from her works have been cited as examples. While critics may have a point, they overlook the fact that most of these works were produced at a time when racism was not an ‘offense’. Racism, in its myriad forms, is present even today. The constant reminders by cosmetic companies through their advertisements that to be successful one has to be fair are an everyday reality. Recently, Oprah Winfrey, the celebrity talk show host, claimed that she was racially profiled at a boutique in Zurich where the sales woman refused to show her an expensive handbag. Blackfacing, the act of darkening one’s face to stereotypically portray a black person — Robert Downey Jr’s Kirk Lazarus in Tropic Thunder — is popular among actors, stage show hosts and comedians.
Robert Downey Jr as Kirk Lazarus in Tropical Thunder
 Racism is a truth and there was a time in history when it was not an offense. Informed opinion and equal rights have shown upon us how wrong and ashamed we have to be of certain aspects of our past. Rather than shying away from past mistakes, we should ensure that this will not be repeated in the future. As 20th century philosopher George Santayana said in Reason in Common Sense: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’. Meanwhile, the next time you see the slapstick frying pan violence in Tom and Jerry don’t think about violence against animals, just enjoy the humour and the wonderful orchestra playing in the background.