Of course ‘Tom and Jerry’ is racist

Of course ‘Tom and Jerry’ is racist

[Ed. – But what about Elmer Fudd?]

So first, history. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera’s 1940 creation for MGM was a quintessentially American tale. The antagonist, Tom, was big and scary, but slow and possessed of more will than wit. The underdog—in this case, a mouse named Jerry, sly, jestering, and adorable—always won. It was also thoroughly American in its nod to racism.

After George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat” set the standard for mid-century cartoon storytelling, no human being could ever be smarter than animals. In Tom and Jerry, as with Mickey and Bugs and the rest, that human would have to be of color. Enter Mammy Two-Shoes, whose face was almost never depicted. Henry Sampson’s comprehensive study, That’s Enough Folks! Black Images in Animated Cartoons, 1900-1960, summarizes 15 cartoons between 1940 and 1952 featuring Mammy, including scenes in which she sings about pork chops while washing dishes, has a pair of dice fall out of her dress when Jerry shakes her down, and is buried by an avalanche of coal, which gives occasion for Tom to continue his antics in Stepin Fetchit blackface. …

One of Tom and Jerry’s animators, Jack Zander, told Lehman, “Now the mammy in Tom and Jerry was an outright racist cartoon character. [She] had the typical negro voice and served as a foil for the two animal characters. Showing just her feet and lower body kept us from worrying about her face and making her another ‘character’ to give personality to.”

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