Racism and Ethnicity in Cartoon TV Shows

The aim of this study is to test the potential impact on kids television shows that include racial and ethnic prejudice. This involves selecting some common examples of cartoon programs with human characters and systematically keeping track of ethnicity and racism in the cartoons. The analyst will have to identify the importance of those characters in the story and establish the attitude and behaviors of the characters based on the race or ethnic group they are required to represent. The impact of those character and character representation to young audience will be established. Finally, the essay will present a conclusion based on the impact of the cartoon characters to children and how they are likely to relate between themselves in the future.

Tom and Jerry is one of the cartoon programs that depict some of racial and ethnic prejudice in the modern American society. Recently, the Apple owned iTunes and Amazon Prime-Instant video streaming services provided a racial disclaimer to the content of the videos. The middle aged woman character in the ‘Mammy Two Shoes’ plays the role of a housemaid caught between the acts of feuding cat-mouse story. This illustration is presented in the link provided in You Tube by Feagins Geraldo (2014). According to Lilian Randolph, despite having humor as the theme of the story, the caricatures also have the effect of revealing dispelling racial and ethnic differences (Kelly, 2006).. Rastamouse is the other popularly known TV show with some notable elements of racism. This TV series is about a crime bursting Rastafarian mice that plays on the BBC and received the highest level of objections in 2011. The show received over two hundred complaints due to the manner in which it stereotyped the black people and on the usage of patters language in the Jamaican mouse character.

In Tom and Jerry cartoons, Mammy is the only human character in the story. The effect of removing Mammy from the story would have the same effect as assuming she never existed from the beginning. However, the effect of maintaining racial and ethnic stereotypes is to reflect a part of history that the society was exposed to and which cannot be ignored.  Therefore, her role in the play helps in creating a true picture of American society where African-Americans were employed as domestic servants in most households. Supposing the role of Mommy was played by a character of different race, the intended meaning would have been totally different. And therefore, the legendary animators of the cartoons William Hanna and Joseph Bardera would not have encouraged the changes in characters and roles.

The initial series of Tom and Jerry comprised of an unprecedented rivalry between the Cat (Tom) and Mouse (Jerry) with the mouse seemingly appearing to get the best of the rivalry. For nearly four decades since the original series, the shorts have created a series of controversy with many parents protesting against the content as inappropriate for children. Among these controversial themes are cannibalism, glamorization of smoking, negative portrayal of women and racial stereotypes.  For instance, complete series on the Amazon Prime volume two included Mammy Two Shoes; The Guardian newspaper described the character stereotypically as the ‘black maid’. In 2013, the two episodes were censored on broadcast TV and cut from the second installments of Warner Brothers as they featured Tom and Jerry being blackened up (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Warner Bros and Warner Home Video, 2013). The Daily Mail editor described them as the Casanova Cats because Jerry’s face was alleged darkened by cigar smoke and Tom used the blackface to trick Mommy Two Shoes.  In addition, it was not the first time that Tom and Jerry cartoons were released with an on-screen warning. In 2005, Warner Bros released a Digital Video Disk box set of Tom and Jerry – Vol. 2 with each disc having a disclaimer that the cartoons might depict some gender and racial stereotypes.

In Rastamouse, parents complained that the use of the same language by their children can result to accusation against racism. English-speaking parents were worried that their children had adopted the Rasta language and had begun communicating in it. However, the greatest worry is what would happen if the kid encounters a Caribbean or Black child and used that same language in communication (De and Webster, 2012). Definitely, the kids would be accused of propagating racism. The objective of this program was focused towards teaching toddlers foreign language. However what sparked much of the criticism in controversial Rasta mouse was the perception that it was teaching ‘bad English’ due to its scripted dialect on creole continuum the Jamaican patois and English.

Rastamouse cartoon pigeon-holed Jamaican black people through the use of the patois language in the Jamaican mouse characters as viewed from the link provided by Adam the Beats (2012). Therefore, the concern of parents was that their children should be given an opportunity to learn proper English while looking up to such character would not be helpful but rather divert them from heading in the right path. Therefore, the implied relationship between the language and the color of the skin is an abhorrent act of racist even if it was clearly and consciously not intended. The main reason why racism innocence could not be acceptable was due to the fact that Jamaican Patois was voiced by a person with original British accent (Webster, 2012). Making a caricature involves people of foreign cultures, where one should ensure that the voices are spoken by people with an original dialect.