September 29, 2008

  • I don’t know if others have noticed, but Pepe Le Pew is a glaringly insulting portrayal of the French people and all things Gallic. The cartoon relies on the stereotype that the French don’t bathe, hence Le Pew being a skunk, a rather malodorous animal. (Some people might think that the cartoons portrayal of the French as oversexed is a stereotype but, as anyone who has been to France knows, this is an astonishingly real picture of the French.) He speaks with a funny accent, too! It is completely galling! Could it get any worse? At least there was never an episode of Pepe capitulating to the Nazis. Vive l’amour!
    -Contributed by Mark C.
  • Brendan S. mentions several characters seen in the feature Who Framed Roger Rabbit? that were created after 1947, the year the film takes place. I read an interview with the filmmakers where they stated their excuse for this was that these characters were hanging around Toon Town in that year until they were “discovered” a few years later by the studios, as if they really existed and shared the same legends as live action movie stars. A bit of dramatic license. I think a bigger problem is the glaring lack of Tom and Jerry in the film. I guess they couldn’t get the rights to these characters.
    -Contributed by Mark C.
  • Is it just me, or does Panthro of the Thundercats seem like a feline representation of a black man?  It’s interesting to me that even when human protagonists are replaced with somewhat more bestial protagonists, that animation directors would feel the need to express racial diversity.  If you ask me, Thundercats was already demonstrating diversity by depicting feline humanoids, which have been grossly under-represented on television and elsewhere.  (I mean, just because they don’t exist doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be represented, right?)
    -Contributed by YHN


July 28, 2008

  • I’m surprised no one has mentioned this: the lack of biological parents in cartoon shows. Think of all the characters who live with someone other than their parents: Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby living with Uncle Donald then Uncle Scrooge in DuckTales. Gosalyn and Darkwing Duck in Darkwing Duck, Robin and Nightwing living with Batman. Also, Penny and Uncle Gadget. No explanation is given about their parents’ whereabouts. When I was a kid I wondered where they were. I think if cartoon creators have a handle enough to show orphans, they should go the full monty and explain where mom and dad are.
    – Contributed by Mark P.
  • Yet another common device that cartoon manufacturers use is to add a character to a show that is there solely for the purpose of comic relief (usually, it backfires, though). This character is quite frequently of some other species, &c. than the main character(s). Examples are Slimer in The Real Ghostbusters, Snarf in ThunderCats, Alexander in Josie and The Pussycats, Blip in Space Ghost, Orko in He-Man, Chim-Chim in Speed Racer, Godzuki in Godzilla, and Needler in The Pirates of Dark Water.
    – Contributed by The Editor
  • What’s the nature of ghosts in The Real Ghostbusters? Are they extra-dimensional critters, traumatic psychic residue, or is the team actually capturing the souls of the deceased with proton lightning and cramming them in a basement nuclear reactor? That seems awfully blasphemous. Perhaps it’s symbolic of people’s willingness to ignore their past, or maybe a commentary on modern urban life being “soulless.”
    – Contributed by Blake

From the archives: Bestial Sexuality in He-Man and She-Ra

May 8, 2008

Contributed by Lady Bast.

He-Man revolves mostly around bestial relationships rather than sexuality (although it’s there), hence all the human/animal crossovers (e.g. Beastor, King Hiss, Cobra Khan, even the Sorceress). Some are even cybernetic, brandishing nasty little built-in devices (e.g. Trap-jaw and Hordak if you want to cross into She-Ra). Most of these are the bad guys because we want to underline their bestial natures, but some, like the Sorceress, are good guys. The difference is that good guys get to “bond” with animals that are admired and not feared.

Again, this is a Medieval-type society even though technology also seems to be at a high. Most people seem to have mechanical equipment of sorts and many use blasters though He-Man uses a sword to underline his sexuality. Skeletor also uses a sword (it is supposedly the “other half” of He-Man’s) to mirror the hero, but this happens rarely. Usually, Skeletor uses a magical staff with a ram’s skull on it. This is probably meant to represent evil (i.e. horns of the devil – bestiality).

In keeping with this theme, He-Man (as He-Man) is a big, hulking, Mr. Universe kind of guy with a California tan and blond hair (really big with the girls at this time). Adam, though pale, is also a big, hulking, Mr. Universe kinda guy. The difference is that He-man wears reds and browns and golds (and no shirt) because he’s a manly man whereas Adam wears pink and lavender. In the 80s, He-Man equalled a “real” man. Adam was a pasty-faced, pastel-wearing pansy.

He-man rides this big cat, right? Looks like a tiger. Green. Why doesn’t he ride a lion? Only male lions are really associated with masculinity, most other cats are associated with the female persuasion, as is the colour green which is usually a symbol of fertility. This one’s tough to prove, because the colour might just have looked good on the background. And tigers are rather ambiguous sexually: they are not directly associated with the male, but they are muscularly powerful and this one does have a male voice, and they’re not directly associated with the female, though most cats are by default. The nitty gritty details are just something else to think about. Male or female, a cat was used because the cat symbolism was big in the 80s. Especially the big cats because they had the power of the beast and the sleekness of the sexual.

And She-Ra rides a horse. The unicorn horn had nothing to do with She-Ra’s sexuality (or lack thereof), it was there because unicorns would sell. The key here is that She-Ra rode a male horse and we all know what a woman riding a mustang represents, yes?

A word on stereotypes: women are always wimps and/or ditzes in He-Man. Teela is supposed to be this great fighter, right?, but she’s always the one who gets to sound like a total idiot with that whiny “Adam, where’s He-Man?” (or vice versa) thing that she does. And if the Sorceress is so powerful, how come she spends so much time moaning and groaning about this and that and needing He-man to rescue or “help” her (as in he does all the work)?

The only exception to this, as far as I can tell, is Evilyn. She’s one of Skeletor’s lackeys and I can’t remember a single sucky thing she might have done. Mind you, I may be wrong. I don’t remember too much about her because they didn’t use her nearly enough, probably because the presence of a female in the bad guys’ camp removes their illusion of “sexlessness” (i.e. they’re all beast).

This applies to She-Ra as well. The “evil Adora” was much more effective than the “good Adora”. When she was working for evil, Adora was respected as a general in Hordak’s army. As a good guy, she’s a wimp and needs to transform into She-ra to do anything effectively. Notice that She-Ra’s voice is deeper than Adora’s, probably to make her sound more masculine. Female heroes (I don’t use the word “heroine”, a hero is a hero no matter what the sex) are often portrayed as “men with breasts,” a sad affliction that still surfaces occasionally. In fact, the only way to make her seem feminine is to give her these empathic/telepathic animal communication and healing powers. Like a woman absolutely has to be nurturing and healing. I think that all these extra powers succeeded in doing was to make her look weaker than her brother (she needs more power to do the same job). Although I’ve often thought that He-man got the short end of the stick because his sword doesn’t change into other things (Sword to Shield!). That’s like the ultimate Swiss Army Knife.

Other aspects of this stereotype manipulation are all the supposedly strong females in She-Ra who swoon over the male ones (as Glimmer did with He-man in “Secret of the Sword”) and let them take over, or who surrender/run away when confronted with a male opponent (e.g. Catra of the Horde who wimps out every time she loses her mask). Again, only Shadoweaver is of any interest although why she doesn’t just kill off Hordak (who’s too stupid to have been Skeletor’s mentor, I don’t care what the movie says) and take over is a mystery to me. The only really great female characters Filmation comes up with are almost never used… such a pity.

As you can see, He-Man and She-Ra don’t walk the sexual/bestial barrier that Thundercats does. It does use a greater amount of stereotypes, though I’m sure they thought they were quite advanced in using female fighters and lead characters.

Again, I don’t want to imply that the animation companies were trying to project these messages or used such symbols on purpose because they didn’t. And it certainly isn’t what us children picked up on either. The creators of these shows just used the images that were popular at the time, symbols that were created and used by advertisers/designers to represent the facts that already existed and those facts were that people in the 80s really, really wanted sex and bestial imagery and that, in this case, we haven’t yet obliterated all the stereotypes.

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Ex Situ: The 10 Most Insane, Child-Warping Moments of 80s Cartoons

April 8, 2008



Most of the staff here at J. Cart. Overanal. spent their childhoods basking in the Rubik’s cube-colored glow of the 1980s. When we weren’t playing Burgertime on our Intellivisions, we were plopped in front of the TV, enjoying the most toyetic entertainment DiC had to offer.

Let me remind you that we are talking about the 1980s: Thriller. Ronald Reagan. Trapper Keepers. ALF ran for four seasons.

So this Ex Situ is what we consider a warning. When all of the young white boys who were watching cartoons of the 1980s become old white men in charge of our nation’s government and economic infrastructure, humanity is surely doomed.

Without further ado,

The 10 Most Insane, Child-Warping Moments of 80s Cartoons
>Catena Ex Situ


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