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TinotopiaLog → Protecting Us From Ourselves, Part 943 (26 Dec 2005)
Monday 26 December 2005

Protecting Us From Ourselves, Part 943

I have read a number of things about the Whoopi Goldberg disclaimer — called an ‘introduction’ for some reason — on the new Looney Tunes DVD collection. I only saw the introduction — ‘disclaimer’ would be a better term — yesterday, because Santa left a copy of the collection for Nicole.

For two and a half minutes, Ms. Goldberg tells us that these cartoons are great. However.

However, the Looney Tunes and their irreverent brand of humor are products of their time. Unfortunately, at that time, racial and ethnic differences were caricatured in ways that may have embarrassed and even hurt people of color, women, and ethnic groups.

Now, nobody intended it, but that’s what happened. Now, some of the cartoons here reflect some of the prejudices that were commonplace in American society. Especially when it came to the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities. Now, these jokes were wrong then and they are wrong today. But removing these inexcusable images and jokes from this collection would be the same as saying they never existed. So they are presented here to accurately reflect a part of our history that cannot and should not be ignored.


Ms. Goldberg goes on to pat Warner Brothers on the back for how progressive its polices really were back then, woof woof woof.

You can see the video (in iPod video format, which should be playable by any computer with Quicktime 7 or the most recent version of iTunes) here.

I have mixed feelings about this disclaimer. If this is what’s needed for companies to be able to release cultural products from the past which are now regarded as entartete Kunst, so be it. Big companies like Time Warner live in stark terror of being accused of even seeming to be discriminatory in any way, probably because it’s almost totally impossible to defend oneself or one’s company against such charges. Time Warner is attempting to do so preemptively, by hiring famous black person Whoopi Goldberg as their aplologist. If they couldn’t do this, they wouldn’t release the cartoons at all.

If this works, it might be possible one day to again see Disney’s Song of the South.

But at the same time I’m personally offended by this disclaimer, because it seems to carry with it the implication that I, Tino, need this warning: that without it, I might think that it is suddenly okay to make fun of ethnic groups. Because certainly there’s nothing else in the culture that would indicate otherwise. Cough.

I must say that the only ethnic group I’ve seen made fun of on the discs so far is hillbillies. I’m sure, though, that there’s ten seconds somewhere on these four DVDs of a porter or bellman drawn to look like a monkey saying ‘Yazzuh, Mistuh Fudd, I’se sho nuff seen dat rabbit what yo lookin’ fo!’ or some such: and for that I have to listen to Whoopi Goldberg for two minutes and thirty seconds every time I put one of the discs in.

And I think that this has helped me locate the origin of most of the discontentment I feel and write about here: In too many of my daily interactions, I am given no credit for not being a child/moron/criminal/racist/jackass/scam artist/drunk/junkie/etc. — I’m assumed to be all of these things until I prove otherwise, and then that proof is only accepted grudgingly, and with suspicion. And I’m tired of it.

It’s not just me, of course, but the fact that you are also not given credit for not being a child/criminal/etc. is not my problem. But we have reordered, and we seem to be continuing to reorder, our society to primarily serve the needs of people who don’t really contribute to it. Children are nice, but they’re not in a position to make any meaningful contribution to society for twenty years or so: this is why we don’t let them vote.

Criminals by definition do not make a contribution to society, but take from it. And morons — which I mean to include real drooling idiots as well as people who cannot figure out that just because Bugs Bunny made fun of the Japanese in 1942 does not mean that we still have anything against those fine people — will only sporadically be useful to anyone else.

And yet things are arranged primarily for them! If only there were some setting on the DVD player where I could affirm that I am willing to take on the risk of Bad Mojo myself, and that would allow me to skip not only the Whoopi Goldberg variations, but the threats that inform me that this is one of those rare DVDs that may not be legally copied and distributed to all and sundry.

If only there were a chain of convenience stores with signs on the door that said ‘WE CARD UNDER 21 because after all those are the people we’re trying to protect from themselves and all’ instead of ‘WE CARD UNDER 30’, meaning that they fully intend to inconvenience a lot of legal adults lest they sell beer to a few particularly mature-looking 20-year-olds.

If only there weren’t even any need to put signs on the doors of establishments that would rather that your children not have fits on the floor: why on Earth isn’t ‘behave yourself’ just understood to be the rule everywhere?

All of this might be acceptable if it produced a new golden age, but I cannot help but notice that teenagers still drink (in increasing numbers, actually, depending on whose statistics you believe), that people still pirate movies and music, and that plenty of people are still racists. Perhaps it’s time to think about a different approach, rather than just continuing to ratchet up the surveillance, threats, and lectures another notch.

Posted by tino at 15:13 26.12.05
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