Let’s talk about sexist cartoons. Art is always a product of its time, meaning that anything creative, especially mainstream arts, have been influenced heavily by the time they were created in. We have previously looked at racial stereotypes in classic cartoons, as well as war propaganda (with and without racial stereotypes), but that is not all there is to see.
One issue in particular, not regarding race, is the portrayal of female stereotypes and the female role in society. What makes this even more pressing is the fact, that, unlike racism, sexism in the media is getting lesser, though we are still struggling with it today. While we will mostly look at classic sexist cartoons and their portrayal of female characters, we will take a glimpse on how women have been portrayed in recent times. Bear in mind we are strictly talking animated cartoons here, which makes it even more worrisome as those are an intricate part of the development and conditioning of the youngest members of our society.
Betty Boop was always designed to be a “sexy character” and has therefore been featured in some questionable sexist cartoons, some of which have been banned in the past. What makes her very sexualized appearance especially concerning is the fact, that Betty is usually portrayed as an underage girl. Her age is not officially fixed, but subtextual, she has described herself as 16 years old in one cartoon, while blowing out exactly 14 birthday candles on another occasion. And as any underage girl, she has to watch out to not become the victim of pervy sex predators because what else.
Well technically the good ol’ man of the mountain just wants to eat her, but the image of the overbearing old man, chasing down a barely dressed (underage!) girl for whatever reason should convey the image quite nicely. As it diminished the female protagonist as inferior and reduced to sexual objectification, it is a prime example for sexist cartoons.
Of course, the strongly armed spinach slugger has a well-deserved place on this list, not for his sake, but for his love interest Olive and his rivalry with Bluto which makes it another good entry among our sexist cartoons It is probably one of the best-known displays of male dominance, fighting over a woman. In his case, it’s all about carnival games and who can throw balls at an African-American’s face the hardest.
As if that wasn’t enough, Betty Boop, which was created by the same studio, has a little cameo as well. She poses as a braless hula dancer for a predominantly male crowd, while Olive gets, once again, kidnapped by Bluto. Well if you’re looking for the portrayal of a helpless woman at the mercy of some overly strong men, look no further. This sexist (and racist) cartoon of all the sexist cartoons has you covered.
Fun Fact: Rumor has it, that the creator of both Popeye and Betty Boop once created an explicit crossover of the two. However the short has been under wraps and was only shown “as a gag” internally. Need I say more? Ah yeah – sexist cartoons are sexist.
In My Merry Oldsmobile
Let’s get back to the good old sexual predators and voyeurs. Must’ve been a hard time back then, at least according to the Fleischer Studios which produced all animated shorts we mentioned so far, this included. If one knows that women are only objectified by most men and need desperate saving, then it’s Fleischer apparently considering the vast amounts of sexists cartoons he’s produced over the years.
Well, at least it’s a happy end. Nonetheless a creepy one.
The Sailor and The Seagull
What is the most common day dream of men? Correct, being a mighty personality and getting served by beautiful women. At least that was the vision of UPA (which were also responsible for most Mr. Magoo shorts) with this jolly animated adventure from 1949.
As we can see, it’s as easy as a clap of the hands to command women to do as you please, including some mighty sexy dancing.
King Neptune has some mighty beautiful mermaid daughters; one has to be aware of that. So beautiful in fact, that they get kidnapped by rapey Pirates in this animated short by Disney from 1932.
Of course daddy can rescue his little girl just in time with help from several sea creatures, still, somehow the only desirable trait of women so far has been sexual. Plus the fact that all men seem to only get their company by force, with little to no regards to their actual will.
Taking about gender-specific cliches, let’s consider Disney princesses for a moment. This is not necessarily about racist cartoons but racist animated movies. Every child knows and loves Disney’s animated feature films, and it’s been around long enough to make a significant impact on generations of people and most of them include some significant royalty in the form of princesses.
Though there has been an improvement in the formula, Disney films still mostly depict fragile women in pursuit of their life-long goal to marry their prince. Granted, that formula has been revised in a way that gave them more leeway in who they marry. Common folk for example. They have a bit more free will, though the overall depicted life goal of every Disney princess is still getting married and starting a family. Talking about strong independent women. Not even frogs are safe.
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