Childhood Ruined: 10 Offensive Cartoons Of Our Youth

Our grandparents and parents' cartoons were clearly offensive. The Siamese cats from Lady and the Tramp? The whole "Indian" scene in Disney's Peter Pan? Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby for God's sake?
We'd like to think that the cartoons we watched in the 1980s and onward — even those in syndication from earlier decades — might have fared a little more fairly, what with the social justice movements of the 1960s and '70s and all. Not so!
While alternative cartoonists like R. Crumb and animators like Ralph Bakshi knew what was hidden beneath the surface and made it clear in their over-the-top depictions of racism, misogyny, and violence, the mainstream continued to employ cultural stereotypes as an easy way to tell children's stories.
We look back on 10 of those here. Maybe you'll disagree with some of them. Good! Start a dialogue. In any event, you'll never look at Saturday morning cartoons in the same way again. (Sorry.)
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Photo: Courtesy Le Journal de Spirou.
The Smurfs

Bet you never knew that Gargamel is an anti-Semitic caricature of a scheming Jew or that the Black Smurfs — the fly-bitten, evil, language-less incarnation of the regular Smurfs, which became the Purple Smurfs in the English version — are a colonialist representation. Just ask Antoine Buéno, a French sociologist who wrote a scathing takedown of the cartoon a couple years back. Don't even get us started on Smurfette being the only female. (There was actually another, Sassette. Equality?)
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Photo: Courtesy of Hanna-Barbera.

Radio icon Casey Kasem used to do some voice work for Transformers, but that all came to a halt when Kasem, who's of Lebanese heritage, took issue with the negative portrayal of Arabs in the show. In particular was a subplot about an oil-rich Saharan land ruled by a man called Abdul Fakkadi. Its name? The Socialist Democratic Federated Republic of Carbombya (population: 4,000 people, 10,000 camels). Libya! The '80s! Sigh.
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Photo: Courtesy of Nelvana Limited.

We're hardly the first to point out that Jean de Brunhoff's lovable pachyderm implicitly celebrates the French colonialist expansion into Africa or the "civilizing" effect it allegedly had on its inhabitants. It's still true, no matter if some people at The New York Times think that their children won't be turned into "more effective colonist[s] by stories of elephants riding elevators." They will, they will.
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Photo: Courtesy of Hanna-Barbera.
The Jetsons

C'mon — a future entirely made of white people? Is this Charles Davenport's dream? If you wanted to get really overanalytical, you could probably infer something about the show legitimizing the slavery of domestic help with poor Rosie, the robot maid.
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Photo: Courtesy of Hanna-Barbera.
Super Friends

When Hanna-Barbera decided that it should add a little diversity to its team of Super Friends superheroes, its heart was in the right place. And, who did we get but a bunch of cultural stereotypes? There's El Dorado, the Mexican wrestler-ish dude whose only memorable line is "sí." There's the Samurai, with his man-bun and Fu Manchu, and the Apache Chief, because that's what all Native Americans look like. And, who could forget Black Vulcan, who was, you know, black?
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Photo: Courtesy of Hanna-Barbera.
Jonny Quest

We can probably thank this show for giving birth to one of our soldiers' favorite epithets for Iraqis. The Calcutta-born orphan Hadji, with his Nehru jacket and turban, is enough of a caricature of an Indian to begin with. He also shares a name with a common U.S. military slang term for Muslim civilians during the Iraq War. (It should be noted that "hajji" is an Arabic term of respect for someone who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca.)
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Photo: Courtesy of United Productions of America.
Mr. Magoo

Even the blind Mr. Magoo could probably tell how insanely racist the depiction of his Asian house boy Charlie (a.k.a. "Cholly") was. His buck teeth are so big, it's amazing that he could even pronounce all of his Rs like Ls. Jesus, just look at that.
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Photo: Courtesy of Walt Disney Television Animation.
Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers

Our chipmunk heroes might not be racist depictions themselves, but at least one pair of villains sure was. Taking a cue from the siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp is the Siamese Twin Gang, a pair of scheming felines who operate an illegal underground casino — and a laundromat! — and speak in broken English.
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Photo: Courtesy of CBS.
The California Raisin Show

Look, there's probably nothing wrong with giving anthropomorphized advertising mascots some ethnic flavor. In fact, it's even refreshing to see a little bit of diversity in our dried fruits. The California Raisins, though? They're a bunch of dudes with soulful voices who go around belting out Motown classics while wearing little white Al Jolson gloves. Was The Jazz Singer not available?
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Photo: Courtesy of Hanna-Barbera.
Paw Paws

This short-lived Hanna-Barbera show combined elements of The Smurfs, Care Bears, and good ol'-fashioned Native American stereotyping. There's Brave Paw, Medicine Paw, and Wise Paw, all defending the tribe's wooden totem poles against the Meanos. Oppressed minorities are so cuddly, aren't they?

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