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Response to packman (Original post)

Tue Mar 2, 2021, 01:21 PM

13. It's more complicated.

There's a volume of his political cartoons made close to, and shortly after, the start of WW2. Some of them made strong statements AGAINST anti-semitism and racism in the US. My copy isn't with me, otherwise I'd share some of them (or at least indicate page numbers in the book).

In general, when he wanted to portray a country in a bad light, he'd caricature the leader of that country, whether it was Hitler, Mussolini, Laval, or - at least before Operation Barbarossa - Stalin. He only made a stereotyped version of someone living in these countries when he was extolling them; hence, sinister Stalin became a heroic bear in mid-1941.

The one unfortunate exception was the Japanese. When shown in his cartoons, they were the stereotypical buck-toothed versions with squinty eyes and round glasses. He was in favor of internment of Japanese civilians, and this came through in his cartoons. But I've sometimes wondered how much of that came from innate racism and how much came from his steadfast support for FDR. Probably, it was both.

Everything I've said here applies equally to many of the Looney Tunes cartoons made at the time. Some of them can be seen on Youtube. Indeed, some of these were intentional propaganda; at the time, parents would have taken their children to the matinees, so the cartoons were aimed at adults as much as at the kids.

I say none of this to defend the racism expressed in these media. But neither should we pass judgment on the basis of attitudes that, at least in part, reflected the culture and events surrounding those who made them.

To write him off as a bigot is, in my view, too simplistic. His views on race and religion were not straightforward. And I have a strong dislike for dismissing people, or their works, entirely on the basis of attitudes we now find offensive.

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