Monday, August 20, 2012

Free Pussy Riot Right Now!!!


Ok, I'm going to weigh in on this Pussy Riot saga, because I know the whole world is waiting on pins and needles for me to do that.  So, here I go.  I hope I type something worth reading.

For the benefit of the two people who may have just recently had WiFi installed in their caves (finally) and have not heard of this entire scandal, here's a link to an article about it.  Now for my 2¢ about it.

My assessment of all of this is that the band Pussy Riot is being unbelievably harshly punished for disobeying a law that shouldn't even exist.  Come on!  Hooliganism???  Is that the charge the Russian police are going with here?  Smashing a window display or vandalizing some kind of landmark with aluminum bats, crow bars, or fire (or all 3), THAT'S hooliganism.  It's especially bad when it results in physical injury or even death.  If these ladies had done anything even close to that, then they'd be rightly imprisoned.  Simply saying the unsolicited thoughts that enter your mind about the country's leader in a public place is NOT HOOLGANISM!  It is simply free speech!  In a healthy democracy, people are applauded for that, not punished.
It seems to me that Mr. Vladimer Putin is too much of a big cry-baby that can't handle criticism.  If that's true, then he is not fit to hold office.

And it really feels odd to me that part of the reason for their arrest is for blasphemy.  Here in Canada, we can't go 5 minutes with being blasphemous in one way or another.  In the animation school from which I graduated, there was a student there who drew up a storyboard in-which, in the background, Jesus Christ could be seen selling crack cocaine to little kids.  As I recall, jaws were on the floor but no police were called.
And here's sketch from a great Canadian comedy troupe, the Kids in the Hall, where they combine the Bible with Dr. Suess:



I know.  Pretty sacrilegious, right?  How could they desecrate Dr. Suess like that?  (Oh yeah, and for any Religious Right members watching this, the guy playing Jesus in that sketch is very much a homosexual and proud of it.  Is he going to Hell?  If they have $5 margaritas, he hopes so).  As of right now, all 5 kids in the hall still walk the streets with no fear of indictment.

And, of course, there's me.  I made a comic book called Jesus Needs Help which angered this preacher enough to speak out against it not just once but twice (and about 8 other times in private emails).  I'm sure if he had his way, I'd have been arrested by now.  But, I still definitely walk the streets and I still have the freedom to blog about anything I choose.

The only criticism I could give to the girls at all is that the statement that got them in trouble doesn't really make sense.  Urging "the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin"???  What kind of a weak sauce threat to a world power is that?  She's just a 2027 year old virgin.  What is she going to do to Putin, have sex with him that is so tense and awkward that he kills himself?  There are other biblical figures who would be much more of a threat I'm sure.  David could easily throw a rock at his head.  Hey, maybe even Goliath could wear a rock-proof head band and stomp Putin's dumb ass into the ground.  I'm sure if Delilah let Sampson grow his hair down to his ankles, he'd be more than strong enough to bring the entire Russian government to its knees.  Daniel could unleash his lions.  Jonah could lure him into a whale's belly.  Any one of the four horsemen could make short work of him easily.  Or, the best idea would be to take an actual Bible, one that's really thick and heavy, and just simply club Putin on the head with it.  I know, ironically there's a passage or two in that Bible that preaches against that, but double ironically there are other passages in that same Bible that contradict them so it all evens out.  But, out of all the possible threats they could have made, they went with the Virgin Mary.  Okay!

Like I mentioned before in this blog post, there is no such thing as being arrested for blasphemy in Canada.  Therefore, I hereby urge the members of Pussy Riot and all of their management staff to relocate this band to Canada.  They will definitely have an audience here.  Although, according to some recent findings, one of the girls DOES have citizenship in Canada.

So, it looks like them moving here to work and perform in complete artistic freedom might just be possible.  For their sake, and the world's sake, I hope so.

In conclusion, I would just like to add my voice to the Free Pussy Riot brigade.  I'll end this post simply with one of their songs.  Ladies, this is the best publicity you could ever get.  I wish you all the success in the world.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Star Spangled Banner by Jimi Hendrix

It's my birthday again.  On this day, I've enjoyed going onto the blogosphere to talk about some woefully misunderstood things.  In the past, they've all been cartoon characters, namely Daffy Duck, Pepe Le Pew, and Tweety.  This year, I'd like to try something in a different vein.  So, as a birthday present to myself, I will talk about a woefully misunderstood non-cartoon related thing, Jimi Hendrix's version of the Star Spangled Banner.  Of course, before you read even one thing I have to say about it, listen to it in the embedded video below:



Most people don't quite understand what Jimi was trying to say with this song.  They're not at all sure if this is for or against America.  I have known some people who think it is just a blind jingoistic tribute to  "Yankee Doodle Land" and it makes them sick.  (Always sticking feathers in their hats and calling them macaroni.  Sheesh!)  And there's others who feel that Jimi took a cheap stab at America by simply converting the Star Spangled Banner into the raukus "noise" of his guitar.  This attitude was portrayed brilliantly in Pixar's first Cars movie, by the way.  (Yes, the clip below is in Spanish)



However, most people simply just don't understand the song and dismiss it as Jimi just making noise for random reasons.  I remember one stand up comedian talking about it.  His comment on the part where Jimi breaks into Taps was "do you get the feeling he forgot what song he was playing part way through?"  Well, if I could find that comedian, I would tell him that Jimi was very much aware of every single sound he was playing during the entire song.  It all added up to one, not cheap knee jerk, but rather a very brilliantly, scathing satirical assault on America.  "How?" you ask.  Well, I think I've got it figured out.  If you want to know as well, read on.  (Although, if any of you reading this had it figured out already, that is awesome for you.  You're invited to read on and possibly add a few points I may have missed.)

The clue for the song's message is in the "noise" Jimi interjects at different parts of the song.  Go back to that youtube clip and listen to it again.  Those aren't just random sounds.  They are the sounds of war, specifically the Viet Nam War.  They are sounds of:


Bombs dropping!

Tanks muscling their way around!

People screaming in terror!
And the basic anguish most of the people felt for being in that impossible situation.


Notice he starts playing all of that right after the part where the song usually says "and the rocket's red glare".  This of course is how he shows that war has always been a part of America's anthem.  (By the way, for those who aren't aware, the rocket's red glare in the original anthem is a refernce to another war that America lost, namely the War of 1812.  Here's a fun song about that:


Tee hee)

So, the playing of Taps is to commemorate all of the people who were needlessly killed in that muddled conflict.




Sadly, very very sadly, Jimi's message in that song is just as relevant for America today as it was in his time.  The evidence for that is painfully clear.







I guess it'll take more than song and a few thousand deaths before America will finally learns its lesson. Oh well, maybe after America invades Iran or Syria and some other musician writes a song against that will America finally squint their eyes passed that "rocket's red glare" and see the light.

Come on, Ms. Gaga.  You can do it.

I'll end this post with a similar misunderstood song about the whole Viet Nam situation.  Most people stupidly assumed it was a partiotic song about the good ol' U.S.A. when it's actually putting down the way the U.S. government treated the veterans of the Viet Nam War.  President Reagen even used that song for his re-inaugeration when he was re-elected president in 1985 (and some people look back with fondness at him???????)  Anyway, enjoy the song:



And always:

(aaaaaaaaaaand.............. Happy birthday to me!)

Friday, July 8, 2011

My response

Here is a recent review of my book, Jesus Needs Help:

ForeWord Clarion Review

HUMOR

Jesus Needs Help

David Germain

CreateSpace

978-1-4538-8271-9

One Star (out of Five)

The divide between free speech and hate speech is as uncomfortable to define as it is to discuss. When broached in casual conversation, passionate reactions often supplant a civil discourse about the context of the speech in question. David Germain’s graphic novel, Jesus Needs Help, falls prey to these rhetorical traps at the cost of detracting from his fable’s anti-censorship message. The story is straight forward. Jesus, attempting to deliver his Sermon on the Mount, is harassed by a band of censoring monkeys, each representing a different stereotype intent on suppressing freedom of speech. These include: the goose-stepping Nazi Monkey, the sword-wielding Not Muhammed [sic] Monkey, the Afro-sporting and gun-toting Black Panther Monkey, and the Feminist Monkey with deeply sagging breasts.

Shocked by the abuse, God declares “I do intend to put my son through a brutal crucifixion soon, but this is too much.” The Almighty cages the monkeys and forces them to watch winged beings enjoying forms of art and expression that challenge the very ideas they wish to suppress. Heaven, as experienced by the simian antagonists, is a hell of their own making.

An independent animator living in Nova Scotia, Germain produces comic strips for his own blog and, occasionally, for the Dalhousie Gazette. He has a great love for classic animation. And, as exemplified in both his blog and Jesus Needs Help, he ardently fights all forms of censorship and perceived threats to free speech through humor and illustration. His work challenges the idea of political correctness and demands the reader’s attention with a blend of shock and Juvenalian satire.

But when it comes to race, racism, free speech, and censorship, context is everything. In the context of Germain’s avocation, his Horrible Mother Monkey, for example, could be read as more than a Jim Crow-era mammy complete with hair rollers and a muumuu. Rightly or wrongly, she’s a homage to Hanna-Barbera cartoons of the 1940s and 1950s, now censored due to culturally insensitive blackface gags, cannibals, and the perpetually rodent-plagued Mammy Two Shoes. Sitting on a shelf at the comic book store, however, the context of Jesus Needs Help is reduced to an Anglo Christ whose sermon to an Anglo crowd is interrupted by a parade of brown apes.

Germain’s portrayal of Heaven faces a similar challenge. Intended as a celebration of free speech, punk rockers entertain crowds in one area of Heaven, while violent movies and banned cartoons are screened in another. And it works until the reader sees a drawing of a slant-eyed Asian in a sedge hat removing a victim’s brain presented in the context of protected speech as being equal to a staging of Oh Calcutta [sic] or a gangsta rapper dropping a culturally divisive and defining N-bomb on stage with no consideration for the difference between hate speech and free speech.

Germain attempts to use shock value as a way to raise awareness about the dangers of censorship in a society claiming to value freedom of speech. But his use of outdated and painful stereotypes obscures the noble cause for which he stands.


Joseph Thompson

Most people, upon reading such a review, would be screaming bloody murder right now (or "bloody redrum" if they were in a hotel in Colorado). "AW! He don't like my book. He must be one of them-thar jerks or something. Where's that vice of mine I use as a replacement for my mother's nipple? WAAAH!!"
But, I'd like to think I'm better than that. And besides, there's no two ways around it, that is a well written review. Joseph Thompson has obviously done himself some book learnin'. There is absolutely no need to assassinate his character. However, that doesn't at all mean that his review was perfect. There are more than a few things that he got wrong. That is what I am responding to with this blog post.

I'll start with the one really big thing that bothered me about his review. He made the egregious assumption that all of the monkeys looked like black people (no I'm not going to call them "African Americans" here because they live in other countries besides America don't you know). Ok, so then I guess he thinks that Tom Cruise is a black man.


If he is, then he's doing the greatest, most consistent white-faced minstrel show
I've ever seen (which, as a white man, deeply offends me >;P ). Or perhaps he thinks all the nazis were black. That must have been why they were all so pleased with Jesse Owens' athletic performance at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Or, perhaps looking at the American Monkey makes him think that all Americans are black even though they are considered a 'minority'. Ok, I think I've made my point with all that sarcasm. The truth is, all of my monkeys are exactly that: monkeys. Just monkeys wearing costumes, that's all. The Horrible Mother Monkey is NOT even close to an homage to Mammy Two Shoes. Case in point, here is the previous comic I did with these monkeys in-which they go after Tom & Jerry themselves. You can see Mammy and the Horrible Mother within the same comic to make your comparison. Or, better yet, here's a good shot of Mammy from the cartoon Saturday Evening Puss, the only time her face is revealed.



You're welcome. (Confidentially, my mom actually thinks that the monkey is based on her, even though I've never seen her wear a muumuu).

There was also something else about his objection to the monkeys that not so much angered me but more-so just struck me as odd. He seemed to find offence only with the more left leaning monkeys. Notice that in that review he singled out the feminist and black panther, not to mention the Not Muhammed Monkey whom most of your modern-day political correctness police would object to for making any kind of a statement about the actions of some people in another culture no matter how crazy or destructive they are. He didn't seem to mind my depictions of the more conservative right wings monkeys like the victorian, the american, or the preacher.
Maybe he thought those depictions were "spot on". Clearly, Mr. Joseph Thompson made the mistake of approaching this book with his own political bias. That is a big mistake to make with this book. The monkeys are designed to make fun of the extreme Ann Coulters and the James Carvilles of the world. If you are one of those two people, or a fan of one of those two people (or anyone like them), you will not enjoy this book of mine. You will consider me a "Kool-aid drinking
stooge for the other side" and then get angry. Chris Rock said it best during a stand up routine of his, "anyone who uses only one political ideology for every issue is a fool." There's no doubt that both Coulter, Carville, and most other out-spoken pundits like them fall under the category of those types of fools. However, it is my sincere hope that Joseph Thompson is not one of them. Hopefully he can rise above that type of petty bickering in his own life. I just wish he would have revealed that more in his review.

Oh, one more petty little thing he got wrong. That wasn't punk rock being played in Heaven, that was heavy metal. Though I wouldn't object to a punk rock concert upon entering the pearly gates, it was indeed heavy metal I was going for, more specifically the type of metal that had parents like Tipper Gore all concerned back in the 1980's. Like this.

But, in all fairness, like I said, Joseph did basically write a solid review of my book overall. Even though he disagreed with some of the philosophy within the content, not once did he assassinate my character. Heck, he even built me up higher than I think I am even. That is a glimmer of evidence that he is capable of rising above the petty partisan bickering I mentioned before.
I'm not at all bothered by Joseph Thompson's 1 star review. You can't please everybody. I'm secure in the knowledge that most of the people who have read my book have liked it. The people I really object to are the ones who quickly glance at the cover, assume it's some kind of a Jehovah's Witness pamphlet and then walk away. They are people with closed minds who are truly missing out. I certainly can't force anyone to buy or read my book. All I can do is urge everyone to look passed the cover. Read at least 5 pages in before you decide what type of book it is.
Or, for contrast, here's a more positive review of my book written by one of Todd Rutherford's staff. Don't just go by Thompson's opinion. Read both reviews, then read the book and make up your own mind. That's all I can ask of anyone with regards to my book. If you can't find my book in any stores, then you can definitely order a copy from Amazon.

Or maybe I'm being a bit too hasty. Maybe I can persuade Mr. Thompson into liking the book after all. Come, Joseph. Come over to my side. Come join the small intimate party of those who enjoy my book. It's okay. You'll enjoy yourself. Come. Come.

"Come play with us, Joseph. Forever..."

DUN DUNNNN!!!

"...and ever..."


DUN DUNNN!!!


"...and ever."




DUN DUNNNNNNN!!!

"Tony, my big wheel bike is soaked with urine right now."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

hey


5.0 out of 5 stars If you censor one, you must censor all.
In Jesus Needs Help, cartoonist and animator David Germain pursues the theme of censorship versus God's gift of free will. The comic is an entertaining fusion of humor and the deeper meaning
that lies just beneath the surface. Centering around a group of censorship monkeys, the cosmic ramifications of Jesus Needs Help are clear: there will be many "monkeys" who take offence at something until the concept of free will gradually erodes. In other words, God's free will is like beautiful artwork and what makes us different; therefore, "Let God's Free Will Sound From Every Mountain, Every Valley, Every Sea, and Every Field."

Jesus Needs Help is about freedom of expression. As Jesus Christ is ready to recite the Beatitudes, or the Sermon on the Mount--from the Gospel of Matthew--he is bombarded by a group of monkeys whose combined goal seems to be the destruction of self-expression. The Victorian Era Monkey is the first to confront Jesus, demanding to see the Beatitudes stating, "We don't want to needlessly upset anyone by violating traditional values." The monkeys range from Psychologist Monkey, who thinks Jesus is advocating mass clinical depression, to the Horrible Mother Monkey, who concerns herself with matters not pertaining to her--and manages to always lose her children--the Preacher Monkey, American Monkey, Black Panther Monkey, the Feminist Monkey, the Scientologist Monkey, Not Muhammad Monkey and the Nazi Monkey.

In a nutshell, we live in a world of extensive free will and freedom of expression. Each of these monkeys seeks to create a more uniform and conformed world. The monkeys attempt to implement adherence to everything, from scientology to the Nazi Monkey, who uses force and "Nazi-like Tactics To Enforce Their Wishes Onto Any and All Speech or Art."

Jesus Needs Help features Jesus surrounded by these eccentric monkeys, until God realizes that even his Son does not deserve this. Ultimately, Jesus is able to recite the Beatitudes as part of His Sermon on the Mount, while the monkeys' punishment is to be jailed in heaven. This is bad news for them because "there is no censorship in heaven."

David Germain's Jesus Needs Help is engaging, meaningful, and a page-turner that readers can devour within a half hour. It's a must read, highly recommended.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut



June 30, 2009 marks the 10th anniversary of this movie. Of course, fans of South Park (of which I am one) find it hilarious. Some enjoy the movie simply because they enjoy the show, therefore this movie was an easy sell to them. Others enjoyed the story and many of the jokes on their own merits which is great. Sadly though, many of these people were too engrossed in the jokes to really pay attention to what the movie was trying to say. Even sadder still, many non-fans didn't see it even though most of them really should have seen it for their own good. The movie's message was clearly aimed at them. This movie deserves much more attention than it's gotten over the past decade.


The film's story starts when the 4 main characters, Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflofski (with his little brother Ike tagging along), Eric Cartman, and Kenny McKorrmick manage to get in to see an R-rated film called Asses of Fire starring their favourite cartoon characters Terrance and Phillip. The relentless foul language in that movie inspires the young kids to swear just like them. Although little Ike mispronounces "donkey-raping shit eater" as "dopey baby shee deeder". The kids then do all this swearing at school which gets the teachers and the parents
involved immediately. Kyle's mother Sheila is so upset by this that she is ready to form a committee to get rid of foul language forever. She doesn't just merely want to ban Terrance and Phillip, she decides to get to the "source" and ban everything from their home and native land: Canada. This eventually leads to WWIII and in-turn causes a pussy-whipped Satan and his abuser Sadam Hussein to rise up from Hell and conquer the Earth. Of course, the ironic twist at the end is that Cartman's excessive swearing combined with the electrically charged V-chip inside his brain end up saving the day which then leads to Satan reversing the damage that was caused by Sheila Broflofski's committee.


I personally enjoy this movie mostly because it hits the nail on the head as far as modern-day censorship goes. Kudos aplenty are due to Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and especially to the subversively creative mind of Pam Brady. (I'm certain South Park would be nowhere without her). All types of Soccer Moms, Thought Police, and any other Paranoid Prudes have come up with all sorts of bullshit excuses for censorship. They make all sorts of ridiculous claims that all this racy content inspires real world destruction. While poking around the internet one day, I found this little crackpot blurb as to why Apu from The Simpsons is such a "dangerous character":

If a gunman holds up a 7-
Eleven store and sees a South Asian man behind the counter,
and thinks of him as “just an Apu” instead of an actual human being
with friends and family and hopes and dreams and feelings, it makes it that much easier to pull the trigger, doesn’t it?

Um............... yeah. Well, you see, GUN MEN WILL SHOOT ANYBODY BEHIND THE COUNTER OF A CONVENIENCE STORE BECAUSE THEY'RE HOMICIDAL MANIACS!!! Has there ever been a report of a robbery where the gun man said "hey, there's Apu behind the counter, let's kill him". The Sheila Broflofski's of the world only offer paranoid hypotheses backed up with 0 proof knowing damn well that other paranoid soccer moms will fall for it. That's why this movie and the real-life Sheila's inspired me to create something I hope further puts these people in their places: Censor Monkeys!! (That's a link to the Facebook group).

The movie even demonstrates that even though the racy movie did introduce swear words to the boys, it was indeed NOT the movie alone. One of the lyrics in the opening song says "...off to the movies we shall go where we learn everything that we know, because the movies tell us what our parents don't have time to say." Neglectful parents lead more directly to bad behaviour than even 1000 Porky's sequels combined. That point is hammered home much more succinctly when Kyle's mom Sheila starts her committee and sends her and all the parents to Washington in order to persuade them to take action against Canada, leaving all the kids at home unsupervised. Later, in the middle of WWIII, Kyle makes a heart-felt plea to "deal with me" when it comes to profanity. In other words, don't force the media to do your parenting job.

Sadly (or should I say "depressingly"), not enough people got that message. Roger Ebert and some of the other movie critics of the time who did like seemed to have gotten the message. One even brilliantly stated, "this movie will offend people that need to be offended once in a while". I love how he indicates that offensiveness is a societal need rather than just a guilty-pleasure type of want. And really, he's right. A good offensive show (be it a movie, tv show, song, etc.) keeps one on their toes and helps them to not be too comfortable in their one little sanitized world. That's what good artwork is for. It stirs emotions and makes you think. However, it seems that less people understand that these days. Around the time this South Park movie came out, the FCC received about 111 calls from people complaining about content. That's the "extreme" number the movie was trying to make look ridiculous. After good ol' Mr. "Dubya" is elected president, by 2004, the FCC was bombarded by over 1,000,000 calls. I'm sure most of those had to do with Janet Jackson's Superbowl performance. But even since then
there's been crazy people in the Middle East going crazy over Muhammad cartoons, crazy militant black people and equally crazed and militant white-guilt whitey going crazy over two print cartoons within a span of a few months, the New Yorker cover last August and the New York Post last February. The most recent as of this posting is from the ultimate Soccer Mom Sarah Palin coming down on David Letterman. Yeesh!! I think this movie needs to be revisited again. How did so many people miss such an obvious point?

Actually, I think I might know that answer. The racy content of South Park itself is both its strength and its weakness. The content pretty much guarantees the show an R-rating or sometimes even an NC-17 rating, therefore the writing staff have really achieved carte-blanche it terms of what they can do. There's no such thing as "too far" for South Park. They can do anything they want without too much of a struggle. That's the kind of environment most artists and/or writers hope to achieve. (Of course, Woody Allen managed to accomplish this WITHOUT much profanity but that's another post). However, it's that very same as-racy-as-possible content that causes people to not pay as close attention to it. Like I said, no matter how far they go, fans just shrug it off and say "that's South Park for you". Non-fans (most of them real-life Sheila Broflofskis) just can't get passed the swearing and any other blood violent
or explicitly sexual content. Therefore, any message contained within any text or subtext of any episode falls mostly on deaf ears. I personally can indeed withstand any and all swearing that South Park can dish out. Hell, as a good Canadian boy, I watched as much Kids in the Hall as I could long before South Park raised its poorly animated head. I suggest that more people should do the same.

So, to commemorate this movie's "Aluminum Anniversary", I suggest gathering as many of your friends as you can to watch it (rent it if you have to). But don't just invite the people who enjoyed it. Make sure people who missed the point about censorship see it and give them the education they never had. Hey, maybe even schedule one of those outdoor theatre screenings of the movie. That way, every passerby will be exposed to it. Just make sure that the movie's message reaches the public at large. And, if any Broflofskis or any other Censor Monkey types do come around screaming bloody murder about the movie's content (or the content of pretty much anything), just sing the following lyrics in their collective faces as loud as you can:

Shut your fucking face, uncle fucka.
You're a cock-sucking, ass-licking, uncle fucka.
You're an uncle fucka. Yess it's true.
Nobody fucks uncles quite like you.

Shut YOUR fucking face, uncle fucka.
You're the one that fucked your uncle, uncle fucka.
You don't eat or sleep or mow the lawn
you just fuck your uncle all day long.

(Fart solo)

Shut your fucking face, uncle fucka.
You're a boner biting bastard, uncle fucka.
You're an uncle fucka I must say.
You fucked your uncle yesterday.
Uncle Fucka, that's U-N-C-L-E FUCK YOU!!
UNCLE FUCKAAAAAAAAAA!!!

suck my balls

If you need help with the music, here's the full song:


Happy 10th birthday, South Park movie. I hope you do eventually change the world for the better, because goddammit we need it now more than ever.



Friday, March 6, 2009

A Public Service

For over 3 years now, noted animation director John Kricfalusi has lamented on his own blog in more than one post about how noone knows how to make good cartoons anymore.  Some of his concerns include: "Animation schools don't teach young artists the right things", "Animation Producers interfere with the creative process way more often than they should", "TV executives like to spoon feed dumbed-down drivel to their audiences", just to name the ones most repeated.  Of course, other like-minded animation professionals as well as any other cartoon pundits with blogs (such as myself) have made similar statements as well.  However, all of those people have barely touched on one important thing.  The biggest problem concerning animation today is that people really don't know how to WATCH cartoons anymore.  It's almost become as lost an art form as conversation or parenting.  This is the problem that must be solved first before anyone does anything to fix the system inwhich animation is produced.  I shall attempt to do just that with this post.  Or, at the very least, lay the foundation for which repairs can be made.  Here is what I like to call:

How to Watch Cartoons: A Sad But Necessary Guide For Our Present Society.

As they say, a picture is worth 1000 words.  Therefore, so this post is not just a collection of words, I have procured the assistance of Harpo Marx. 

He will help give a visual demonstration of all the points I will be making throughout this dissertation.  So now, on with the blog.  May there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and necking in the parlor.

First off, I'd just like to say that the art of watching cartoons is not that hard to master.  There's really only one step involved.  When viewing a cartoon such as this:

The best response is this:

Nice and simple.  We as a society used to be able to do this.  It was as easy as tune in, turn on, walk away happy.  Or, if the product was of a lesser quality, we would tune in, hold nose, turn off.  Everyone from the eldest senior to the youngest infant knew how to do this.  But, in recent decades, we have managed to make this a much more difficult process.  We have put quite a few
 roadblocks in the way.  On the milder side, it has caused people to make sardonic grunts while others try to watch.  On the extreme side, entire committees have been formed in an effort to boycott or ban cartoons (and many other forms of entertainment as well).  Unfortunately, too many of those committees have members that are overwhelmingly verbose, reactionary, and possess an unhealthy 'holier-than-thou' attitude.  They seem to be an army of hyper-sensitive robots programmed to be a relentless force against anything that violates their narrow, quasi-utopian  idea of "decency".  All of this not only stifles enjoyment, it chokes the creative process too.

Here are some of the more modern reactions to cartoons:

1. No grasp of the surreal.

By definition, a cartoon is a heightened or exaggerated representation of reality.  Therefore, there are many examples in cartoons inwhich Earth's idea of physics, time, space, and matter are either bent at will or completely changed.  This has somehow become forgotten and in some animation studios it's even forbidden.  These days, whenever most people see a cartoon like this:

The typical reaction is this:



People are easily confused by the images they're seeing.  They make the mistake of applying the laws of reality to the cartoon.  Even the idea of animals walking on two legs and speaking is enough to create confusion these days.  The images presented in the above cartoon would make those individuals' heads explode.  Those whose heads don't explode would merely refer to it as "random" as though it were a "mistake".  
It was hardly a mistake.  Those surreal elements were in there for a reason, to fully utilize the fantastic capabilities of that animated universe.  Of course, the best written cartoons don't just do this for mere artistic sake.  Everything is timed out so that it becomes a pleasent surprise, even upon its 100th viewing.  Ergo, the best way to respond to these surreal elements is this: 

2. An over-developed sense of empathy

This is somewhat of an extension of the previous point.  I mentioned that cartoon characters live in a surreal universe where anything is possible.  Among the things that are possible is an
ability to survive the most brutal acts of violence that in the real world could be fatal.
  All throughout the Golden Era, both animators and pedestrians alike understood this perfectly.  When cartoons first came to TV, Peggy Sharin started a committee to regulate the advertising 
content of these shows.  Her aim was to make sure the shows were not just one long cereal commercial.  However, her organization contained plenty of soccer moms who started objecting to the entertainment portion of the shows.  They made claims that the violent slapstick was "imitatable behavior" that would lead to "aggressive actions" in the future.  Since then, many cartoons have been sanitized by appointed censors and have thus people's brains have softned.  

So now, a reaction to a cartoon like this:

...in these modern times, is this:
Some actually feel the pain of these characters as they get knocked around.  Of course, they disguise these feelings by suggesting that "children will learn to think that inflicting pain is funny".  Here's an example of cartoon watching from an Alfred Hitchcock movie called Sabotage.  The main heroine of the film runs a small movie theatre.  In this scene the kids are all enjoying Disney's Oscar winning short Who Killed Cock Robin.

Yes, she did become disturbed by the bird's comical death.  However, she was already depressed because her young son died in an explosion.  Pretty much anything would send her into a depression spiral at that point.  In fact, just a few minutes later she wells up with tears again after almost setting a plate at her son's chair for supper.  Does that make plates, chairs, and supper harmful to someone's mental health?  Absolutely not.  She just needs some time to get over her tragic loss, that's all.  
Truly, the chances of cartoons alone(or many other Tv shows, movies, or songs in general) warping minds and damaging psychies enough to influence behavior are that of a butterfly flapping it's wings in Norway and causing a tidal wave in Fiji.  This can't be emphasized too much, the best response to cartoon violence is:


3. The automatic association of images with the worst Nazi atrocities.

This one is very much an extension of the last one.  In this case, the empathy is quite often misplaced or misused.
Everyone who has poked around Youtube every now and then has seen an old cartoon with racial images that would not be "acceptable" by today's standards.  The ones that receive the most negative press are the ones that depict African Americans (or in some cases, just plain ol' Africans) but the cartoons depicting Asians, Jews, Indians, or homosexuals rub some people the wrong way as well.  Just show a cartoon like this:


...and many people's first reaction will be to do this:



Yep, those angry letters just start flooding in.  And in the most extreme cases, what crops up are more protests than you can shake a water hose at.  No matter what it is, whether the entire cartoon has disturbing images or just one small scene, there are people out there today that react as if the Nazis have re-invaded Poland.  These people need to calm the hell down for two reasons.
a) A caricature is not automatically an insult.  In fact, in many cases, it's just the 
opposite.  Caricature can often times be a form of flattery.  There's a reason why many Hispanics aren't at all offended by Speedy Gonzales.  Mexico even regards him as a hero instead of an insult.  For some reason, Hispanics seem to understand this c
oncept much better than the rest of the world.  
That artist guy at the carnival who drew you with a gigantic head on a tiny body was not making a scathing statement of contempt.  All he did was turn you into a cartoon.  That's all that happened there.  Really, if a caricaturist (professional or amateur) wanted to make a slanderous, mean-spirited caricature, you'd know it.  He wouldn't mince around and leave it for you to "guess".  It would be right there for all to see "Person A is a jerk and we all must shun him/her".  You wouldn't need to cross-examine the subtext to find the hate, it would be in the text.
Yes, yes, I'm quite aware that Africans have had a tumultuous past both in their home country and anywhere else they were forced to immigrate to.  Though, significant progress has been made, it certainly needs to be better than what we have in the present day.  It's no big secret that hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan were 1,000,000 strong in the early part of the 20th Century with many members occupying rather lofty political positions.  However, that doesn't mean that every single citizen of those days felt that way.  Many of the controversial images from the cartoons made in the Golden Age of Hollywood were moreso produced through ignorance rather than malice.  The people who made these cartoons were mostly ignorant of
 racial strife as well as many theatre patrons of the day.  Case-in-point, my Grandma. She grew up practically her entire life within the Ukrainian farming communities of Saskatchewan.  When she finished helping her parents run their farm, she got married and ran a farm with her husband.  This is basically how the first 60 years of her life went.  She didn't even know that "nigger" was a bad word until very recently.  My uncle and his kids found it out the hard way when they showed her an episode of Jerry Springer.  Of course, now that she knows how angry people get with that word she hasn't used it since (although she still refers to Brazil nuts as "nigger toes".  Old habits die hard).  
If the cartoon you are watching was made during your parent's generation, or that of your grandparents, or even further back, the best response is this:
Just say "it was a different time" and shrug it off.  Enjoy the cartoon for its own artistic merits if it has any.

b) Don't sweat the ambiguous.  Of course, it's more common these days to get upset over content that is believed to have subtle racist undertones whether they can be proven to exist or not.  Of course, the most recent example is the furor over this cartoon:

OOH!  AAH!  SHOCK!  HORROR!  SPLATTERED BRAINS!  OOP!  ACK!  It's that New York Post cartoon again.  Okay, for those of you out there that need to release a cargo load of anger right now, just sing a few choruses of this song before continuing:

Okay, back to the blog.

The reason I found the backlash to this political cartoon so bogus is because people were getting upset over images that "can be interpreted" as racist.  That's the operative term right there: "can be interpreted".  I've got news, everything can "be interpreted" as something sinister if the dots are connected a certain way.  How many times on Three's Company did the trouble start because someone put their ear to a door just in time to hear something that "could be 
interpreted" as something awful?  Is it Jack's fault that Janet thought he was going to get a vasectomy and thus caused chaos at the hospital?  Does Janet have any grounds for suing Jack for
 mental anguish?  And, of course, according to Sigmund Freud, every object in the entire world "can be interpreted" as either a penis or a vagina.  Should we reprimand the universe for being so dirty?  Can we sue or demand the termination of employment of every psychiatrist in the world for showing us all those sexually explicit ink blots?
The ones you should concern yourself with are the ones that CAN'T be interpreted as anything else but racist.  I found a motherload of them at this site.  There's no doubt about their agenda.  (No, it's not the Muhammed cartoons).

Lenny Bruce had this to say, "Words themselves are not offensive, it's the power we put behind those words that gives them their impact."  The same goes for images.  The best way to deal with words or images that you find offensive is to take that power away.  Really, though, images are just inanimate objects.  The only way inanimate objects can harm you at all is if it's being thrown at you.  Of course, in that situation, your beef would be with the 'thrower'.  THAT'S where your energy should be concentrated.  Forget the image.
Another good quote to keep in mind comes from Oscar Wilde.  He said, "There is no such thing as 'offensive'.  Things are either well done or poorly done.  That is all."  Case-in-point: Robert Downey Jr.'s performance in Tropic Thunder.  A role that could quite possibly have outraged the entire planet and send him to the same hidey-hole that Michael Richards is in, instead it got him an Oscar nomination.  The reason being: his acting performance was well done. 

(Oh, by the way, this next film was "interpreted" as advocating "violence against women".  Enjoy:

Well, that's about it.  I hope all who read this learned a little something today.  Of course, what good is learning something if you can't put it into practice?  So, for your viewing pleasure I'd like to present a cartoon that encompasses everything I've talked about.  Just apply all I've said to this cartoon and see how it affects your enjoyment of it.


Happy cartoon watching!