Sunday, March 20, 2016

Short Subject: Mickey’s Mellerdrammer (1933)

Well I’ve just found a short that’s so far in the back of the Disney vault it surpasses ‘Song of the South’.

The minute I saw the opening with the poster saying Mickey and his friends were presenting Uncle Tom’s Cabin I figured there was going to be something in here that would be unpleasant within a modern context, but even I never expect this. Mickey does blackface. 

Really there’s nothing more to say about this short than that.  Not the plot of the play going awry, not some funny bits with the audience throwing vegetables, not even what I believe is the first use of Goofy’s iconic laugh, because he gets pelted with vegetables and ends up in blackface too!  Only Donald Duck escapes this, because his first short was still a year away.  

It’s actually rather surprising that it took this long to find a short with this politically incorrect subject matter considering these were done in the late 20s and early 30s.  Yes, this was all perfectly acceptable at the time just as the anti-Japanese and anti-German sentiment is all over many of the wartime shorts, and that’s why I think it’s important not to simply toss these away and pretend they were never made.  They were made the fact is it was acceptable to stereotype and ridicule a group of people simply for the colour of their skin, and it’s good that I feel uncomfortable about seeing that because it’s means we have built a society that agrees it’s no longer acceptable to do that.  There is certainly a long way to go in that department obviously, but progress has been made and it shouldn’t be dismissed.  It should be talked about so it can be pointed out in today’s world when it takes on different forms, like for example whitewashing and we’ll be getting to that too eventually.      

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