Tom and Jerry, animal kings of slapstick comedy in the twentieth century, now have a non-erasable smudge on their legacy as streaming the popular, mostly non-verbal, cartoon show gives viewers the honor of seeing a warning about potential moments of racist activity. iTunes and Amazon prime instant now post a disclaimer for all to read before pressing play on old Tom and Jerry streamable episodes stating that the Warner Bros classic contains some “ethnic” and “racial prejudices that were once commonplace” in American society.
Tom, the grayish-bluish crooner, inventor, and mouse-eating alpha predator. and Jerry, the menacing, lovable, hospitable, and resourceful mouse were a very common scene in many American and British households in the days when people only watched television on a TV, and the common consensus was they there were okay with many families.
Not today. In this age of ultimate political correctness and what Professor Frank Furedi, University of Kent Sociology professor, calls a new form of censorship in which he says, “We’re reading history backwards, judging people in the past by our values.” Professor Furedi believes that the way of thinking that leads to the Tom and Jerry cartoon now containing a disclaimer of racism is “sweeping cultural life,” and he may be right.
Representatives defending the decision to include such disclaimers on the popular children’s show believe that such censorship shows people who these cartoons, while hilarious, can contain some content that reflects some societal views that are in general no longer accepted. Nobody would argue against that; not even a racist.
The point in question is not that the disclaimers are true or correct. General consensus is that they are right. Take one look at Tom and Jerry’s “Mammy Two Shoes” (the African-American nanny character seen in various episodes strutting faceless in a pair a slouch socks and slippers, well known for yelling at “Thomas” and promising him future acts of animal cruelty if he didn’t follow her orders) and it is easy to see a prejudiced depiction of how the creators of Tom and Jerry may have seen black women at the time.
Mammy’s speech patterns, actions, and wardrobe would not have been the same if William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, the show’s parents, had chosen conversely to show a non-black nanny. This is all true, and the American people have always understood it.
Tom and Jerry has always been a show that bent the rules. Nobody has ever seen a mouse or cat smoke a cigarette. People are okay with a show that takes steps that push social or cultural boundaries, which is evident when looking at the success of shows like South Park, The Simpsons, and Family Guy. The problem which arises is that iTunes and Amazon’s warnings regarding potential racially prejudiced material have changed the way people will experience Tom and Jerry from here forward, where they will no longer have the opportunity to make up their own minds about the animation that they are viewing.
Racially prejudiced material created in the 1940’s reflecting racist attitudes toward certain groups of people is insensitive and wrong most would agree, but so is taking away viewers abilities to drawn their own lines in the context of the materials they are viewing and sacrificing the art of one of America’s most popular shows of all time. Tom and Jerry will always be a favorite because of it flawless execution on animation, comedy, and clever ingenuity of animals using household items as weapons. Viewers should be prepared, however, to be dragged down by the issues such hilarity could raise if you stream it through the wrong company. With these warnings now, the question of whether or not the Tom and Jerry Show is racist is now out of the hands of those who are watching.
By LaBaron Jackson