Amazon is now warning viewers about ‘racial prejudices’ in the cartoon classic Tom And Jerry.
The BBC reports that the classic cartoon featuring a mischievous cat and mouse, some made more than 70 years ago, now carry a warning for subscribers to Amazon Prime Instant Video. The warning states that the racial depictions in the cartoon were “wrong then and are wrong today.”
In a screenshot above, Tom and Jerry: The Complete Second Volume is given the following warning:
“Tom & Jerry shorts may depict some ethnic and racial prejudices that were once commonplace in American society. Such depictions were wrong then and are wrong today.”
It isn’t only the streaming video that has a warning. The wording is similar to disclaimers accompanying some collections of the cartoons on DVD. The following warning can be found on numerous Tom and Jerry DVDs.
Tom and Jerry was first produced by the MGM film studio in 1940. The cartoons, directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera and produced by Fred Quimby, ran until 1957, with carefully choreographed chase scenes set in the homes and gardens of suburban America. In fact, some of the episodes even garnered academy awards. The series won seven Academy Awards included the “Cat Concerto” in 1946, the “Two Mouseketeers” in 1951 and “Johann Mouse” in 1952.
Though the series was capable of winning Academy Awards in the late 40s and early 50s, the cartoon has deemed inappropriate for today’s children for more than just racist depictions. The Daily Mail notes the original shorts have been subject to controversy on several occasions over themes including representation of women, the glamorization of smoking, racial stereotypes and even cannibalism.
It isn’t just Tom and Jerry that has come under scrutiny. When a Looney Tunes Golden Collection was released in 2005, actress Whoopi Goldberg was asked to explain why certain episodes were kept in the collection. She noted that the images are important to keep intact as they show that prejudices existed.
“Removing these inexcusable images and jokes from this collection would be the same as saying (these prejudices) never existed. So they are presented here to accurately reflect a part of our history that cannot and should not be ignored.”
Frank Furedi, a professor of sociology, notes that the warning is a form of “false piousness.” Furedi says this type of censorship of the past has been “sweeping cultural life” and is a form of “reading history backwards.”
“We’re reading history backwards, judging people in the past by our values.”
What do you think? Are racism warnings helpful or a type of censorship? Do you think the Tom and Jerry racism warning is called-for?