Cartoons are just harmless programs for kids to watch so that their parents can have a bit of a break, right? Wrong. Animation is a phenomenal medium of creativity, allowing many artists and writers to flex their hands and show the world what they can do. The issue comes when some of them use the art form to interject their views on politics or teaching lessons that ought rather be ignored for all of time.
What makes this pill harder to swallow is the fact that many of our childhood cartoons are guilty of this. They promote concepts like racism and hatred, which is especially concerning when you remember that it’s mostly kids that are watching these programs. To be fair, this isn’t as much of an issue as it used to be, but the morals and concepts you can learn from many cartoons are practically worthless. You’d be better off just cutting the family cable and playing a board game. From the dawn of animation, writers and artists have been guilty of incorporating racist or hateful attitudes into their cartoons. Here are 15 examples of these controversial shows that you should think twice before watching (keep your kids away from these!).
Many fans of Pokemon Red and Blue quickly latched onto the Pokemon anime when it debuted in the West. Featuring the classic tale of Ash Ketchum being given a Pikachu and trying to become the world’s greatest Pokemon Master, it was a tale for the ages. Unfortunately, even the people in Japan weren’t immune to some racist tendencies every once in a while, and that bled over into Pokemon.
First of all, we all know the issue of how Jynx was originally depicted. We’d have to agree with how it looks too — there’s no denying the likeness of it with African-American stereotypes. There were several other Pokemon created who were criticized for being racist as well. It makes us wonder when Game Freak will learn not to poke the bear of racial acceptance.
14. CLASSIC MICKEY MOUSE
While classic Mickey Mouse cartoons were some of the greatest pieces of animation in history, they weren’t entirely innocent either. In the ’30s and ’40s, America was much different back then than it is today. Because of this, old Walt was able to include some severely racist characters in the cartoons. Whether it was an African-American depicted as a slave or an Asian who looked a bit too much like a stereotype, Mickey Mouse played around with this idea many times over.
Eventually, Disney had to rework a lot of these ideas as America changed, and they’re not as guilty of this as they used to be. Still, it’s crazy to think that, when animation started, it was at the expense of different people groups.
13. THE SIMPSONS
Shows like The Simpsons hardly need any explanation as to why they’re on this list. The cartoon is created for adults, and the writers use that medium to get away with jokes that would otherwise be deemed as unacceptable. To the show’s credit, it wasn’t quite as stereotypical or racist when it began, but, as the creativity dwindled, other avenues of jokes were thrust into the narrative.
Take the new character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon (don’t even ask how that’s pronounced), for example. If you can’t already tell by the name, he’s an Indian. Furthermore, he’s got a myriad of children and a degree in computer science. The writers had nothing more to give this character than a lot of background for a good joke. In the actual show, he’s just there to embrace a stereotype for laughs.
12. CHIP N DALE: RESCUE RANGERS
Chip N Dale: Rescue Rangers, for the most part, is a pretty harmless show. After all, Disney knew how to make fantastic cartoons during that era, and their work was mostly excellent, and the same can be said for Chip N Dale. It was a fun romp filled with adventure and gorgeous visuals that was perfect for the kids at the time.
Where it started to get a little racist was with the Siamese twins. As their name implies, they are Asian cats who run a laundromat and are deeply connected with the criminal underbelly of the show. Audiences were quick to point out that this seemed a bit too much like an Asian stereotype, where they’re connected with some sort of gang. It’s not the worst case of racism in a kids’ show, but it is a little concerning.
11. THE MR. MAGOO SHOW
The Mr. Magoo Show is easily one of those old cartoons that doesn’t hold up today by any stretch of the imagination. It defies every sort of political correctness that one could think of (and that’s not a good thing). However, the biggest mark we have against the show is with Magoo’s assistant, Charlie.
Chinaman Charlie is a buck-toothed, clearly Asian man who works as a servant of sorts. He is forcibly brought along with whatever Magoo wants to do, and is basically a yes man. The biggest problem with the character is the fact that he’s portrayed with large front teeth, giving off the impression that he lacks some capacity of intelligence in the brain. It was so bad that reruns of the show had Charlie voiced over with a different actor.
10. SOUTH PARK
Do we even need to explain why South Park made the list? When the show is as it’s best, it perfectly satirizes current issues in politics and the world as a whole. It pokes fun of many big events while still being smart about it all. When it’s at its worst, though, South Park is one of the most irreverent, nasty, and mean-spirited shows in the entire world.
Using offensive words to describe other ethnic groups in the world as well as portraying characters true to their stereotypes, South Park has garnered a lot of controversy since it debuted. As a matter of fact, there’s an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to the various points of controversy that South Park has caused in America. Not exactly the most wholesome show in existence.
9. JONNY QUEST
Jonny Quest is racist. There’s no getting around that. After all, it debuted during a time where that was okay by cultural standards, so there were no issues in how the show depicted certain types of characters. Nowadays, what transpired in Jonny Quest would be appalling to the masses, and it doesn’t matter how much of a precursor the show was to Indiana Jones.
The best example of the racism is that one of Quest’s friends was Hadji, who was an Indian boy with a turban and jewel over his head. He was also adopted off the streets and used for his snake charming skills. Real subtle there, guys. There are also stereotypes of Africans depicted as babble-uttering tribal witch doctors. The show didn’t exactly hide its racism.
8. LOONEY TUNES
Looney Tunes is often heralded as one of the greatest cartoons to ever grace television screens, which paved the way for other shows to follow its excellence. Characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Roadrunner are all classics that are recognizable today. However, the show was created decades ago, when America wasn’t as against racism as it is today. Because of this, there are several episodes where stereotypes were present.
The most targeted group in the show were African Americans. They were constantly horribly portrayed with jet black skin, gigantic lips, and given some sort of stereotypical profession to have. Looney Tunes eventually grew out of this trend, but the damage had already been done for the classics. They wouldn’t be acceptable by today’s standards.
7. THE GRIM ADVENTURES OF BILLY AND MANDY
There’s some innately mesmerizing about a show that explores dark concepts and makes well-structured jokes out of them that are understandable by kids. That’s what made The Addams Family and every Tim Burton movie a success. However, where those projects succeeded, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy fails.
While it doesn’t promote racism like many of the other shows on this list do, it does give off a vibe of hateful behavior. Many of the problems in the show are solved with violence or some sort of mean-spirited action. Conflicts are created and resolved at the expense of a particular character, and it never stops. The show is very loud and boisterous in all the wrong ways, and it portrayed physical violence and mean humor at its worst.
6. JOHNNY TEST
Cartoon Network shows have been spotty at best, and the mid-2000s were the worst times for the channel. Enter the show Johnny Test. Animation quality (or lack thereof) complaints aside, the show isn’t good from a character standpoint. While it doesn’t go out of its way to portray any racial stereotypes, it’s irreverent humor that is always poking fun at someone else’s pain isn’t morally suitable by any stretch of the imagination.
Johnny is always bribed into being a guinea pig for his sisters, but he’s also the most irritating character on the show. With no respect for anyone, he does whatever he wants to get whatever he wants. Then there’s the awful portrayal of his parents, which always results in Johnny having no consequences for his actions. If we talked to our parents the same way Johnny did, we’d be grounded forever.
5. ROCKO’S MODERN LIFE
The guidelines on animation weren’t as clear cut back then as they are today. A great example of this the show Rocko’s Modern Life. Debuting on Nickelodeon, it was assumed that this show would be completely acceptable for kids. The reality is that it incorporated a lot of adult jokes that would never fly on a kids’ network in today’s culture.
Among many hateful and crude jokes, Rocko’s Modern Life could be fairly racist at times, depicting the dim-witted best friend as a gluttonous cow, and the turtle with glasses as a nerd who would never amount to anything. The show is returning for one last hurrah as an animated film, so we hope that they learn to keep the original vibe correct while leaving some of it’s more suggestive jokes behind.
4. FAMILY GUY
Family Guy is another one of the shows that needs no explanation as to why it’s on this list. Along with other raunchy comedies like The Simpsons, American Dad, and South Park, it’s been subject to a lot of criticism from audiences as well as other animators. Seth MacFarlane certainly gained his fair share of enemies when he put together this project.
Stewie constantly makes black jokes throughout the course of the show, there are many characters who are designed specifically to fit certain stereotypes, and there’s even a channel called the Black-U-Weather Channel. If that’s not enough to convince you that Family Guy is racist, then we’re not sure if anything will convince you. Regardless if those jokes are “the point” of the show, it’s not a particularly compelling point, to say the least.
Chowder started out as a fantastic joke. Having some of the best fourth wall-breaking jokes in any cartoon, it hooked audiences and was determined to be on Cartoon Network’s top spot for a while. Unfortunately, the show went downhill after its second season, running out of plotlines and gags. Because of this, the writers focused on lazier humor to describe the show.
Most episodes in the later seasons can deal with the characters being downright nasty to each other. It deals with themes of blackmailing, stalking, and rudeness. There’s not a lot of moral lesson to be learned in the later seasons of Chowder either. The show merely incorporates these ideas just for the sake of a gag, and it comes off as really crude as a result.
2. HEY ARNOLD!
Hey Arnold! is one of the best shows on Nickelodeon. The way that it was setup and how its problems were handled served as an excellent character study. However, no show is perfect, and Hey Arnold! is extremely guilty of racial stereotyping.
First of all, Arnold is the selfless little white boy who everyone respects. Then there’s his afro-wearing, athletic, black best friend, Gerald. You also have to deal with the the young Asian girl, Phoebe, who has impressive academic grades. You also have Mr. Kokoshka, the Czech neighbor who is a little behind in the mental department. You get the point by now. Hey Arnold! might’ve been better off had it decided to divide the various races out a little more fairly as opposed to just feeding into stereotypes.
1. CAPTAIN PLANET
Any show about a superhero tasked with saving the planet is bound to garner some sort of political attention in one way or another. Captain Planet was a very agenda-heavy show, promoting themes of protecting the environment above all else. The title character did this with the help of his Planeteers, which are each heralding from a different race.
That said, just by their accents alone, you can tell that the writers were going very stereotypical with how they were depicted. It’s also worth noting that the Indian Planeteer’s elemental power was Heart. Captain Planet has also suffered some criticism regarding how the villains made entirely out of waste or garbage were portrayed, but that could be excused as it’s not very blatant if it is an example of racism.
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