Thursday, November 15, 2007

Van Beuren Studios Presents Tom and Jerry Cartoon: Plane Dumb

Back in 1932, Van Beuren Studios created a show called Tom and Jerry. Please do not get mistaken for the Tom and Jerry show we know of today involving a cat, Tom, and a mouse named Jerry. The episodes on the show varied from show to show. Tom and Jerry’s cartoons were more like comedies and it showed the two men doing different task or occupations based on the show. Tom is the tall one and Jerry is the short white guy. In this episode, Plane Dumb, Tom and Jerry are seen on an airplane on their way to Africa. Along their non-stop journey they finally spot Africa and they are seen outlining the continent with the plane. Tom is happy to have made it there without stopping. But in the mist of Tom’s excitement Jerry states how they will not be safe in Africa. Tom suggests they disguise themselves and reaches on the side of his seat, (still on the airplane and he is the pilot) and pulls out a can of paint. He sticks his hands in the can of paint in the shape of a bowl, pulls them out and rubs his face. Jerry does the same. Now both men are seen in blackface with huge white lips. For some reason, after applying the blackfaces their accents and way of talk changes. They no longer have the voice of white men instead they sound very similar to black men and they are no longer forming complete sentences. But, shortly after Tom and Jerry applies the blackface their plane sudden begins to go berserk and they crash into the ocean. While stranded in the ocean, sitting on the wing of the plane Tom and Jerry are harassed by many sea creatures from an octopus, to sharks to a whale. Eventually they get across to Africa. Before they get to the shore it is seen full of animals, but as all the animals see them approach they scatter and head for hiding. Two animals (I couldn’t make out what they were suppose to be) eventually ran from the woods and passed Tom and Jerry. This startles Tom and Jerry so they look for refuge in a nearby cave. The cave is dark but the only things you can see in this part of the episode are Tom and Jerry’s white lips and the whites of their eyes. There is one portion when the two hears the roar of a lion that the camera zooms in on them. Up close they look like, at least in my opinion, like monkeys or something related to the ape, gorilla, and monkey family. But in the cave, they also hear the echoes of a bat and someone or something grabs Tom’s ankle. Tom asks Jerry if it is him that as his ankle and Jerry replies with a no. Tom wants him to say it is him because the unknown is scaring him. Somehow the cave lightens up and shows a row of African skeletons singing a hymn saying they are ready to the lord. I say the skeletons are African because their bones are black and they too have big fat white lips. Tom and Jerry run out of the cave and as soon as they exit, Africans are seen popping out of bushes and from behind trees with spears preparing to chase and hunt down Tom and Jerry. They chase the two men and Tom and Jerry decide to wipe their faces clean since they see the black face is not helping them and then the show ends.

I chose this article because I thought there was only one kind of Tom and Jerry show and plus I had never seen an actual blackface cartoon before. I thought it was interesting and worth sharing with others. As I watched this cartoon, it reminded me of when we watched Ethnic Notions in class and our discussion about blackface performances. Like in Ethnic Notions, the character’s facial features were exaggerated when it came it looking like a black person. Ethnic Notions discussed that many white performers did blackface in the exaggerated look of black people having huge fat lips and big beady eyes because it was funnier and it gave white people another reason besides the color of their skin to outcaste black people. These performances by white actors in blackface, according to Ethnic Notions were to also show black people as being buffoons and being unintelligent. I noticed these things also in this cartoon, Tom and Jerry when the two men did not know the sounds certain animals made, whether certain fish were dangerous or not, and whether there was a way to communicate with certain animals. Before they wore the blackface they were more intelligent people whom spoke proper English but after putting it on their English was more broken up and they tend to ask dumb questions to one another, at least in my opinion. Cartoons like this should not be aired and even in Bugs Bunny cartoons when they make reference to black people they need to stop using these blackface characteristics.

I found this cartoon, like I mentioned before, to be interesting. I knew of performances which existed showing blackface actors but to put the idea into a children’s cartoon… well that just amazes me. I think it is so interesting how “White America” pollutes the minds of children during their times of innocence and brainwash them to believe and feel however they want the children to feel. If a person sees or hears something enough, no matter how morally wrong it may be, the person begins to believe it to be true. I find it to be so sad how cruel this world really is.

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