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Bugs Bunny - A Racist Rabbit?

 
Ugly Redneck
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A favourite blogger of mine wrote an offbeat topic about the Bugs Bunny cartoon and possible racist references in it. I have linked the blog but I'm afraid the link will not work in a few days when he overwrites it with a more recent blog. However, I will summarize his post here..
For those familiar with Looney Tunes, you might recollect Bugs Bunny often using the term "Maroon" as in "What a maroon.." Mr.John Hawkins, like me and several others, thought it was just a comical pronounciation of the word "moron" meaning a stupid person. But out of curiosity he finally decided to look up the word in the dictionary and presto! "Maroon" does exist as a word and it has several definitions. One of them being : "A fugitive Black slave in the West Indies in the 17th and 18th centuries. A descendant of such a slave. In the West Indies and Guiana, a fugitive slave, or a free negro, living in the mountains"
His question is that since Looney Tunes have been in existence since 1930s is it possible that these cartoon were overtly racist then and the word just carried along through the years but was interpreted in a different manner. - Interesting I thought...
 
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Paul: I have linked the blog but I'm afraid the link will not work in a few days when he overwrites it with a more recent blog.
This is what permalinks are for! The one hidden under
"09:47 PM":
http://www.rightwingnews.com/archives/week_2003_12_07.PHP#001565
[ December 08, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
 
mister krabs
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Why would Bugs Bunny use "maroon" in the sense of a fugitive black slave to describe Elmer Fudd? I think in this case "moron" is the word that Bugs meant with his Brooklyn accent. However, there are Bugs Bunny cartoons that are horribly racist. Cartoon Network even refused to show them during a Bugs Bunny retrospective last year. I have seen them and they are despicable.
 
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
(...) However, there are Bugs Bunny cartoons that are horribly racist. Cartoon Network even refused to show them during a Bugs Bunny retrospective last year. I have seen them and they are despicable.


Well, Bugs is a nice person - for a rabbit -, but there are still some cartoons he is kind-of racist (some more, some less).
And I don't mean the black/white situation at all (as those "maroon" details are lost for those who have not english as mother language). It is the north/south rivality (US has a specific war time to that I currently forgot the name), also when politics is concerned (Democrats/republicans, as far as i go).
Is not being neutral all that wrong, must I ask?
Even before being a racist of any kind, Bugs has "an opinion of his own", and he has just any many faults and qualities as its writer wants it to be.

And that depends on time, is "context-based" just like its drawing. Cartoons change, and that's quite difficult (for me) to accept sometimes.
But that's barely another thread.

That's all for now, folks,
Regards,
Gus
[ December 09, 2003: Message edited by: Gustavo Torreti ]
 
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Thomas Paul: "there are Bugs Bunny cartoons that are horribly racist. Cartoon Network even refused to show them during a Bugs Bunny retrospective last year. I have seen them and they are despicable."


I rented a collection of "Censored Cartoons" which included several Bugs Bunny episodes. They had a little black boy who was hunting a rabbit. I thought it was no less insulting to black people than the Elmer Fudd character is to whites.
There were also some WWII-era cartoons in which Bugs Bunny made fun of Hitler and Tojo. They were treated in a very stereotypical way. For example, they showed Tojo as having narrow eyes and buck teeth; they showed Hitler as having a silly mustache. Both were made to speak with thick foreign accents. Absolutely horrible. :roll:
[ December 09, 2003: Message edited by: Frank Silbermann ]
 
Paul McKenna
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Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:

I rented a collection of "Censured Cartoons" which included several Bugs Bunny episodes. They had a little black boy who was hunting a rabbit. I thought it was no less insulting to black people than the Elmer Fudd character is to whites.
There were also some WWII-era cartoons in which Bugs Bunny made fun of Hitler and Tojo. They were treated in a very stereotypical way. For example, they showed Tojo as having narrow eyes and buck teeth; they showed Hitler as having a silly mustache. Both were made to speak with thick foreign accents. Absolutely horrible. :roll:



Do I detect a thick scent a sarcasm above?
 
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Originally posted by Paul McKenna:

Do I detect a thick scent a sarcasm above?


Witler o' Wacist Wabbit
 
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Stereotyping and caricaturization are pretty common in the cartoons of that Era. And there's no small amount of Cold War sentiment that runs through goose-stepping fascists, and slanty-eyed, buck-toothed this and that. You can judge it in retrospect if you like -- I don't think anyone of the time would think their fears, resentments, hostilities were misplaced, though. They were making fun of the enemy -- low humor, even mean-spirited. But judging it through a contemporary lens doesn't really do anythign for us. It's part of our cultural past; we can condemn or we can acknowledge it for what it was.
As for racism in Bugs Bunny, I'd have to go back and take a look. Not a single cartoon comes to mind that I would remember as 'horribly racist.'
 
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Not only cartoons.
A couple years ago I picked up an old novel by a favorite author, Taylor Caldwell. Published in 1943, it was a historical novel set in a US mill town in the late 1850's. The owners of one mill were German immigrants, and a more subhuman grunting bunch of utter pigs have never made it into print. The heros were all of English or French descent.
Unlike her better-known works this book had been out of print for many years, probably since the war. I could see why. Not only was it incredibly offensive to German-Americans (including moi), it was just bad literature. The villains were scarcely recognizable as human at all. Much as I imagine Nazi-era literature must have portrayed the Jews, I think. A good character must act from recognizably human motivations. These people were bestial for no discernable reason or to any profit.
[ December 11, 2003: Message edited by: Alfred Neumann ]
 
Michael Ernest
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Rudyard Kipling is another example. A pure product of his age, writing on a line of sentiments we have since wanted to discard.
 
Frank Silbermann
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Michael Ernest: Rudyard Kipling is another example. A pure product of his age, writing on a line of sentiments we have since wanted to discard.


I've read hardly any Kipling, but it was my impression that he had much more sympathy and respect for the natives than most Englishmen of his time.
 
Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Michael Ernest:
As for racism in Bugs Bunny, I'd have to go back and take a look. Not a single cartoon comes to mind that I would remember as 'horribly racist.'


"All This And Rabbit Stew" - Bugs Bunny is chased by a slow-witted black hunter in a manner akin to Elmer Fudd. Bugs wins out in the end by playing on his adversary's weakness for gambling.
The cartoon was considered too racist by United Artists and was withdrawn from syndication in 1968.
This site has some stills from the cartoon:
http://www.itctel.com/arlateo/CNUndressed/AllThisAndRabbitStew.html
 
Paul McKenna
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Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:

I've read hardly any Kipling, but it was my impression that he had much more sympathy and respect for the natives than most Englishmen of his time.


I personally dont have anything against Kipling.. but to quote him - "It is the burden of the white man to civilize the blacks and the browns"
I was extremely shocked to hear this, considering that Kipling grew up in Bombay surrounded by "browns" right from childhood to adulthood.
 
Michael Ernest
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Ah. Ok, with that example in mind, the ethnic stereotyping in those cartoons I agree is outdated; at best they're highly controversial as sound children's entertainment. But I think it's a stretch to refer to poking fun (or trying to) by exaggerating racial features as racist behavior. As was said above, I don't see why this character would be any more offensive than Elmer Fudd. That African-Americans might be more sensitive to it makes sense; the overtones of entertainment produced by a Caucasian-majority culture depicting a minority culture are going to be suspect.
Interesting to note that the primary concern of that site is documenting cartoons that depict full or partial nudity. Which reminds me, when is Catoon Network going to show Fritz the Cat?
[ December 10, 2003: Message edited by: Michael Ernest ]
 
HS Thomas
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Kipling is best remembered for The Jungle Book and Kim.
 
Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Paul McKenna:
I personally dont have anything against Kipling.. but to quote him - "It is the burden of the white man to civilize the blacks and the browns"


The poem, "White Man's Burden" written to convince the US to "civilize" the Phillipines:
http://www.boondocksnet.com/ai/kipling/kipling.html
 
Al Newman
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Kipling isn't completely discredited. My favorite is The Gods of the Copybook Headings.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Heading said: �Stick to the Devil you know.�

 
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i read an article before, saying california soon will have no majority race, that is, no race is over 50% of total population. and when you look at the way latino grows, you have to believe latino will become the majority in california in the future. a population majority may not mean too much. but it could be the start of something.
 
Frank Silbermann
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i read an article before, saying california soon will have no majority race, that is, no race is over 50% of total population.


Hasn't that already happened?

you have to believe latino will become the majority in california in the future. a population majority may not mean too much. but it could be the start of something.


The future depends upon the rate of Latino assimilation (i.e., the rate at which they marry whites and become prosperous Republicans).
If that doesn't happen, then California will continue moving left; businesses will leave, and Latinos will ask themselves "Why did we bother leaving Mexico?" And blacks in California will be frustrated at not getting any of the spoils of politics, _despite_ a leftist takeover.
 
Al Newman
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Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:

The future depends upon the rate of Latino assimilation (i.e., the rate at which they marry whites and become prosperous Republicans).


They don't have to marry whites to become prosperous Republicans. I wouldn;t were I them. The average Latina is more attractive than a white....
 
Michael Ernest
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You gonna marry a statistical average or you gonna marry the person you can find that best suits you?
 
Anonymous
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Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:
Hasn't that already happened?


not yet, as of year 2000.
Race // California // United States
White persons, 59.5%, 75.1%
Black or African American persons, 6.7%, 12.3%
American Indian and Alaska Native persons, 1.0%, 0.9%
Asian persons, 10.9%, 3.6%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, 0.3%, 0.1%
Persons reporting some other race, 16.8%, 5.5%
Persons reporting two or more races, 4.7%, 2.4%
Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, 32.4%, 12.5%
White persons, not of Hispanic/Latino origin, 46.7%, 69.1%
 
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Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:
Hasn't that already happened?


Yes, it has in the San Francisco Bay area.
 
Al Newman
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Originally posted by Michael Ernest:
You gonna marry a statistical average or you gonna marry the person you can find that best suits you?


I'd rather marry a statistical average than marry for money.....
 
Al Newman
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Originally posted by <economist>:

not yet, as of year 2000.
Race // California // United States
White persons, 59.5%, 75.1%
Black or African American persons, 6.7%, 12.3%
American Indian and Alaska Native persons, 1.0%, 0.9%
Asian persons, 10.9%, 3.6%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, 0.3%, 0.1%
Persons reporting some other race, 16.8%, 5.5%
Persons reporting two or more races, 4.7%, 2.4%
Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, 32.4%, 12.5%
White persons, not of Hispanic/Latino origin, 46.7%, 69.1%


What about 'Don't know', 'don't care', and 'garradda my face'?
 
Anonymous
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Originally posted by Alfred Neumann:

What about 'Don't know', 'don't care', and 'garradda my face'?


Persons reporting some other race, 16.8%, 5.5%
Persons reporting two or more races, 4.7%, 2.4%
never underestimate the IQ of government
 
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British paratroopers adopted a maroon beret in 1942. Given the timing of the Bugs Bunny phrase I would think it would be a mocking reference to the absurdity of parachuting possibly behind enemy lines while possibly under fire!
I asked my 92 year old father who has Alzheimer's about the phrase. He said it was about some military group but, he couldn't remember, specifically. So, I looked up color groups within the military through the Google search engine and discovered the above previously referenced info.
I haven't asked Dad about it yet.
Maybe some child of grandchild of the creators of the cartoon would be better positioned to remember what it referenced. I highly doubt it was a racist comment, at all.
 
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A digression:

It has occurred to me that if reparations are to be paid in the USA for slavery, it had better be done quickly. Between racial mixing and immigration, the percentage of the population who can be blamed for US slavery is being diluted rapidly and the percentage of people undeniably eligible for compensation not far behind. The Scottish side of my family I'm fairly certain didn't enter the (Northern) States until after the Civil War was over. We're plenty of Vietnamese, Latins, South Asians, etc. who never participated in that system. Not to mention US First Nations, and all the other places like Russia/East Europe, the Middler East, Africans of all colors, all coming in and making themselves part of the scene. And quite a few of them have extensive histories of slavery of their own. The word "slave" after all, doesn't resemble "Slav" by accident. Janissaries, anyone? What makes US slavery especially heinous was that it was strictly race-based and admitted no self-redemption. The most (in)famous of slave traders in my own home state departed it because he favored Spanish-style slavery, which allowed one to buy one's freedom, as opposed to the US style that did not.

Anyway, that's a digression. Cartoons are based on stereotyping and exaggeration. Stereotypes, after all, a way of making concepts easier to handle by reduction to basic commonalities. The danger lies in forgetting that they are reductions and using them as predictors against specific people. Or worse yet, constructing false stereotypes with which to attack people. "Rapists and murderers and some, I think are good people". Lazy immigrants who steal all our jobs and stay at home collecting welfare. Cartoons (and fairy tales) use stereotypes because they are short, and thus require shorthands. Bigots use stereotypes because they want excuses to be bigots.

There were about a dozen rules set down on how Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner were allowed to interact. I don't think that Bugs Bunny carried a formal spec like that, but one of his primary characteristics was that his victims almost invariably had it coming. His retaliations were almost always based on being wilier than his opponents rather than simple violence, so whatever stereotypical weaknesses his opponents had were ripe for exploitation. He is, indeed a master of mental judo. I wouldn't categorize Bugs himself as "racist". He was very much live-and-let-live. But, as I said, if there was a racial weakness in the stereotype (or any other kind of weakness), he was perfectly happy to exploit it.

And, of course, when you're at war, stereotypes of the enemy get no mercy in any venue.

We needn't feel so superior though. We're hip-deep in stereotypes at the moment, to the point that the two main US political parties don't act towards each other as human beings with valid thoughts and feelings, but as cardboard monsters worthy only of total extermination. The idea that politics has become a "Team Sport" is false. If a Cowboys fan were to call for the complete and total genocide of the Packers and all their supporters, they'd likely get shipped off to the nearest mental health facility post-haste.

Kipling is complex. It's notable that his "White Man's Burden" was to "civilise" the "more primitive" darker races, not so much to enslave them, as so many of his compatriots cheerfully did. And he wasn't so far from a time when the "subhuman" Irish were being starved and life was made unpleasant even for so many Scots that they too were force to flee to the New World (hence my own ancestry).
 
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