Racial Stereotypes in Cartoons and Animation

I started making a little animation about three dudes: one Asian, one white, and one black. But I started relying on stereotypes to design my characters. However, I wonder if people will be amused or offended…

Aren’t the differences what make the characters interesting? Haven’t cartoons often been racist in the past? Have things changed?

Give em more specific features dude, they don’t have to be caricatures of their race as perceived by another race (which is where racism in caricatures come from)

and yeah, the og plan won’t fly. You’ll be killed in the streets. You gotta either carry out that plan anonymously or not at all. I’d recommend not. Or at least learning a bit about the folks you wanna portray.

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Why? Honestly, why would you think to yourself “I’m going to make something that relies on stereotypes?” If you care about offending people, then you should work on self-reflection and moving past your internal stereotypes. I think you do care, since you’re asking, so I think you’re asking the wrong question. Instead of wondering “will this offend people?”, maybe ask “why am I doing this, and why do I perceive people in this way?”

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You should do whatever animation you want.

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These days, trying to make something that is packed with humor is like trying to play minesweeper on the hardest difficulty, as it seems nearly every show made more than 5 years ago is racist, sexist, misogynist, or xenophobic in some way.

You’re technically not supposed to do jokes or make anything other than the most generic scenes in this day and age as some people will find offense in nearly everything. The best you can do is just ignore the cancel culture rhetoric and hope for the best.

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I have been reflecting on this for the past few days and I appreciate your response @j_claytonhansen about why and how I ended up at this point.

I think that a person’s reaction to racism is affected by their experiences in life with racism. It is easy for me to use stereotypes for my characters and try to create a little humor in that way because I maybe haven’t had a lot of life experience with actual racism.

I just thought of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves as I was working on this post. I was going to point to its lack of racial diversity, but now I thought of how the Disney writers used other characteristics to differentiate their dwarves.

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I’m now thinking about the character of Speedy Gonzales, the Mexican mouse. Most people know him, right?

I like this character and he’s funny. We are supposed to laugh at his funny antics and the way he yells “Andale, Andale”…

I mean if they were developing a Mexican mouse for a cartoon now, what would he look like? He has many stereotypes in his character design, would they just take out a few to make him a little less overtly stereotyped?

Speedy Gonzales is from a time where humor was valued and it was okay to laugh at yourself, before the time where millions became stiff as a board in terms of enjoying things because of the supposed injustices lying in wait around every corner and under every rock.

As a result you can barely find him today outside of pirated content.

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Hmm, I didn’t think Speedy would have that problem because he doesn’t have a lot of negative stereotypes.

Like sure, most Mexicans don’t wear sombreros around all the time… but they do come from Mexico.

You have not read up on “cancel culture” apparently.

Look it up, the views in numerous cases are pretty extreme. They have targeted everything from Harry Potter to Rudolph.

There is very good reason for not tolerating or promoting lazy and crude racial stereotypes.

To put it as gently as I can. They ultimately diminish and demean us all and are also devoid of any real empathy, true understanding or a common humanity. At worst they can ferment and reinforce deep prejudices and division and contribute to much pointless and very damaging misunderstandings.

Many, if not the greater majority are also very tarnished now in the wider historical placing of their original context. Which is another reason why so many find it a bit disturbing, to put it very mildly … to see them pop up today.

I don’t think blanket censorship or canceling out of past art, film or literature is a wise or good thing in any open society. Nor the hiding or re writing of history. It would be heartbreakingly sad for instance to loose Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffanys just because of her embarrassing upstairs neighbor.

As historical examples we can be informed by them and try to be aware of the broader issues of their time and creation. But when knowingly resurrected or perpetuated as a part of a current culture after most of society has moved on from and discredited them. This can clearly be more much more problematic. But as in all things there are degrees. Sensitivity, awareness and common sense must always be relied on too.

Truly great and lasting character humor and story’s come from genuine lived knowledge and real observation and speak to our universal experience. Great and insightful art will always speak to everyones lives. Surely that is a better goal to aim for. Rather than engage or flirt with discredited and very poorly understood and damaging tropes from the past. Take inspiration and real wisdom from genuine lived experience and try to reach out in your work through true compassion understanding honesty and a shared humanity.

Take care everyone. Try to stay safe and healthy and think of others too.

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The irony of Speedy Gonzales is that the character is actually very popular in Mexico. Goes to show that things aren’t as simple as calling all stereotypes bad.

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A million likes for this post :slight_smile:

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I think it has been easy for me to forget just how old some of the Looney Tunes and Disney productions are when I look to them for inspiration.

“Okay, it’s absolutely true that many historic animations were ‘the products of their times.’” But this certainly should not prevent you from creating an animation that fully exploits the human “coat of many colors.” Simply let all of them be: “actorshuman actors.”

In guiding your plans, I suggest: “No, these ‘differences’ are no differences at all.” Focus on your characters and on the story that you have given each of them to tell. Then, decorate them in beautiful colors, “if” and “as” you see fit. Your choice of skin-tone ought not reflect, nor influence, “how they feel, or how they act.” Focus on character and story. Nothing else.

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Yes, writing that is somewhat based on stereotypes need not be a bad thing if you have good writing that goes with it.

Though the images he posted (which are now gone from the thread) suggested stereotyping for the sake of stereotyping (ie. without the wit or the cleverness of the classic cartoons). He can make the black dude stylish and the Asian guy a rice aficionado all he wants, but they should have personalities more substantial than the 1 dimensional cutout seen in the original proposal.

i agree, im writing content for a game and maybe a series and have stories, characters, episodes done and in progress, but i actually havent even started on what the charaters even look like (a few costume concepts though)

others have already added excellent points, here are my 2 cents

Just make sure you tell the story you want to tell and do your best to make the characters as complete and as complex as you can.

After you’ve done your best effort make sure to tell the story you want to tell, there’s always a risk to offend people. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how hard you try, if you do things right some people will love your work, some other will hate it. That’s the risk of art.

Be considerate about your audience and reflect on why the story matters to you, let that guide how you develop your characters

Best of luck!

Think about the Swiss cheese! You think all cheese is Swiss?!?

Yeah, but what if that experience matches “tropes”. I bet you will say - hey brown person dont do that, thats not what I, the real wisdomer ©, want you to do!

Just to add fuel to the fire - banning jokes about races is basicaly form of segregation. Like - “you are not in the club, i am afraid joking about you, i fear you”