Many modern audiences have been finding offence in hugely popular, classic TV shows like Friends and The Simpsons – where some people have found gags to be, at times, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and fat-phobic.
But Warner Bros has taken another approach when it comes to the ‘prejudices’ displayed in old cartoons – including the racist stereotyping in the depiction of a black maid in Tom & Jerry – having added a warning that both address them and condemns them.
Tom and Jerry: The Complete Second Volume, for instance, is accompanied by the caution: “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. While not representing the Warner Bros. view of today’s society, these shorts are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed.“
The BBC previously reported that the caution was also spotted by users of Amazon Prime.
When the warning came to people’s attention a few years ago, cultural commentator and Kent University sociology professor Frank Furedi attacked the ’empty headed’ message, telling the BBC it was a form of ‘false piousness’ and a type of censorship that ‘seems to be sweeping cultural life’.
“We’re reading history backwards, judging people in the past by our values,” he said.
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Others on forums like Reddit, meanwhile, have praised the move, with one writing: “I prefer this rather than cutting the films. The recent Tom & Jerry Blu-Rays should have learned from this. It was a different time in history. Most films had racist stuff in it.”
Another said: “Good on WB, this was succinct and informative.”
One other person explained: “When I watched Tom & Jerry, they sometimes had a rather stereotypical black housemaid who you only saw the legs of. Later on, they lightened her legs, but she still had a stereotypical black voice. They then changed the voice.
“What’s funny though was that as a kid, I didn’t realise she was the maid. I thought that was her house (although I do think there were a few episodes showing the homeowners). So from my perspective, it looked like they felt that a black woman couldn’t own a house, so they made her white. Although realistically by the time they did that I likely had understood the history there.”
Similarly, Whoopi Goldberg was also enlisted to introduce depictions of racism and prejudice of the show for Tom & Jerry – The MGM Hanna-Barbera Classics.
Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros