Skip to comments.Speedy Gonzalez - Banned in the USA
Posted on 03/27/2002 4:37:53 PM PST by Tumbleweed_Connection
From Warner Bros. Oscar-nominated Mexicali Shmoes, 1959:
Two Mexican gatos relax atop a bridge, where, wearing floppy sombreros, they enjoy a view of the placid, picture-perfect pueblo; José cat strums his guitar and sings as his compañero, Manuel, croons along. Suddenly ¡Arriba, arriba, arriba, ándale, ándale, olé, olé, olé, ándale! Hello, pussycats, you looking for a nice fat mouse for deenner?
Manuel pounces, unsuccessfully.
Manuel - (bewildered) Andale, pues, pronto, pronto, el ratito
José (shaking head) Ah, no Its no use, Manuel. This mouse fellow, hes Speedy Gonzales.
Manuel Speedy Gonzales? Whos he?
José Speedy Gonzales, hes the fastest mouse in all Méjico. You dont catch heem with the feets, you got to catch heem with ze brains.
Manuel Brains? Where we get zees brains?
José (laughing) You dont need no brains, I gotta ze brains. Come with me. We get thees Gonzales fellow
Like those Mexicali gatos, many cartoon fans would love to catch Speedy too. But nowadays, theyd need more luck than brains.
The veteran Looney Tunes hero, star of more than 40 cartoon shorts and winner of an Academy Awardfor 1955s Speedy Gonzales, his second outing co-starring Sylvester, the greengo pussycathas been all but retired from the airwaves in the United States.
Since the late nineties, Speedy has been noticeably absent from the Cartoon Networks daytime and prime time lineup, apparently for fear of offending Mexican Americans. And aficionados have launched a campaign to get him back, alerting other fans to join a letter-writing campaign to request that Cartoon Network restore Speedy to its rotation.
The decision seems to be a preemptive move on the part of Cartoon Network, which now owns the exclusive rights to all Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. [The Cartoon Network did not respond to several calls from HispanicOnline.] Jon Cooke, who runs the Unofficial Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies Page, said he had received many e-mails about the absence of Speedy from such Cartoon Network shows as the Looney Tunes Show, Acme Hour, and the Bugs and Daffy Show.
I get e-mail from cartoon fans all over the world, and in the five years I have been running my page I have yet to receive an e-mail from anyone who finds Speedy offensive, Cooke said.
But CN officials say the network was instructed by its owner, Ted Turner, to stop showing the Speedy cartoons because of racial stereotyping.
The problem with [Speedy cartoons] is the references to drinking, laziness, drug use, and womanizing (Speedy knows my sister, Speedy knows EVERYBODYs sister ), according to Daniel Wineman, of the Cartoon Network Programming department, in a recent e-mail posted by Jon Cooke on his site.
This isnt worse than most any other WB character. However, since Speedy is Mexican, weve shied away from these toons. Turner Broadcasting has always been super-careful not to promulgate any of these stereotypes and this case is no different.
As Wineman points out, Speedy is only one in a list of now-controversial cartoons that have been archived. Reflecting changing notions of political correctness, many older cartoons rarely, if ever, now get television airplay, including the censored eleven, an infamous group of shorts focusing on black stereotypes.
Other censored cartoons include those with Indians, and cartoons from the WWII era, such as the Bugs Bunny short Bugs Nips the Nips, which has spurred protest from Japanese groups.
Speedy fans point out that the character itself is not the problem. I think its mainly the OTHER Mexican mice in the cartoons that they are afraid of and not loveable Speedy, says one fan identified as snowpeck on the Termite Terrace Trading Board, a message board for cartoon fans. What they dont realize is that Speedy breaks this stereotype by being a smart, hardworking, fast Mexican.
Not to mention big-hearted. Endowed with street smarts that match his lightning speed, Speedy has a strong sense of justice and a healthy sense of humor. He can always be relied on to come to the rescue, despite his amorous pursuits:
(Mexican mouse #1: You know Speedy Gonzales? Weel you get heem?
Mouse #2: Sí, I know Speedy Gonzales. I weel get heem. Speedy Gonzales, in love with my seester.
Mouse #1: Speedy Gonzales, in love weeth EVERYBODYs seester!)
His peoples protectorSpeedy drags his mouse friends home if he thinks theyve had too much to drink, and keeps an eye out for gatos and other predators who intrude on the mices home turfits no wonder all the mouse señoritas swoon over Speedy.
Which brings us to another facet of this toon hero: Like other Hollywood Latino lovers, the chivalrous Speedy cannot resist the charm of a dropped hankie, a proffered flower, or brown-eyed glances from behind a demure fan.
(A crafty gato cooks up a contraption sure to snare Speedy and leaves it outside Speedys window. To catch Speedys attention, he attaches a note to the present, signed Your loving Lupe. Enter Speedy. Reads note. Ah A present from my loving Lupe. Such a sweet Lupe I wonder which loving Lupe eet ees?)
But lets face it. Speedy is not the only ethnic character in toon town to fall prey to Cupids arrows. Theres Pepe LePew, Warner Bros. debonair French skunk, whose defining characteristic is his penchant for falling in love and who continues to be featured regularly in CN programming.
And what say you to Disneys Pepe Carioca, that samba-dancing, cigar-smoking, wordly parrot who guides an innocent Donald Duck through the ins and outs of Brazilian culture in 1945s The Three Caballeros? Heck, even Droopy, MGMs laconic and all-American basset hound, brightened up at the prospect of a date with a Latin señorita, although he must have had some Latino blood in him, judging from his many appearances as a torero.
Which all seems kind of harmless in light of the current revival of rambunctiousand often explicitly sexycartoons in the spirit of the golden (read pre-television) era of animated shorts, crafted for projection in movie theaters and meant to appeal to all ages. Cerebral slapstick, double-entendre, parodies of political figures, celebrities, and other entertainment genres were the norm.
Were not talking skits the like of Comedy Centrals South Park, or MTVs Beavis and Butthead, designed exclusively for an older audience.
We mean the kind of intellectual irreverence, always a staple of classic cartoon humor, that is experiencing a renaissance as producers seek to engage adults, as well as todays more savvy youngsters, with such animated features as the Toy Story series and DreamWorks most recent release, Shrek.
But it was the release of 1988s Academy Award-winning Who Framed Roger Rabbit? which brought back the feel of the 1940s cartoon heyday and put toons on a par, both intellectually and emotionally, with their human co-stars.
The storyline hinges on a heartbroken Roger Rabbit despairing over his wife Jessicas rumored infidelity(And Ted Turner is worried about a Mexican mouse with a soft spot for the señoritas?) Who can forget buxom, throaty voiced Jessica (Im not bad, Im just drawn that way) agreeing to play patty-cake with lecherous gagman Marvin Acme to save Rogers screen career? In classic film noir style, the plot also features murder, bribery, a private eye driven to drink, and seedy underworld cabaret scenes.
.Its also shock-full of cartoon gags. Most interestingly, the film presents the toons as minority contract workers subjugated by the animation studios, which keep them under control and segregated in Toontown.
This portrayal of cartoon characters as entities with a life of their own, subject to the same trials and tribulations as humans, provides an interesting basis for their enduring appeal. Mexican American comedian Adrián Villegas uses it as a vantage point from which to explore the figure of Speedy, one of six characters he portrays in his bilingual one-man show, Six Mexicans Named González, his take on the Mexican and Chicano experience.
I depict him as nothing like the character in the cartoons, but rather illustrate that Speedy (his stage name) is actually a suave Ricardo Montalban-like mouse thespian who immigrated from Mexico and was only playing a partbut a part he cared deeply about, said Villegas, who sees Speedy as a symbol of minority rebellion and subversive anti-establishment politics within the Latino, and specifically the Mexican American, community. Excerpt: "Six Mexicans Named González"
Wild Wacky World
The monologue is done tongue-in-cheek, he said, while pointing out that it celebrates the Speedy Gonzales character rather than condemning it. It tells the rags-to-riches tale of Speedys struggles with racism in Hollywood and what it was like dealing with the double stigma of being Mexican AND a rodent, said Villegas, who dons a sombrero, mouse ears, and mouse tail to impersonate Speedy on stage.
For the record, I love Speedy Gonzales. I did the monologue because I feel he was a character ahead of his time, and possibly the ONLY positive Latino character for several decades, Villegas emphasized.
The character remains immensely popular. He continues to appear on official Warner Bros. Looney Tunes merchandise and was featured on Rhino Records Looney Tunes Kwazy Christmas, released this past holiday season, as well as snagging a cameo role alongside Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Michael Jordan in 1996s Space Jam.
He also stars in an adventure game for Nintendos Game Boy Color, in which, as in many of his cartoons, he is called on to save his more vulnerable mice friends from the greedy clutches of Sylvester. But, the manufacturers warn, the item can only be delivered within the European Union and several additional countries listedwhich do not include the United States.
In fact, although originally directed not to play Speedy cartoons, Cartoon Network programmers are reconsidering, and Speedy has been sightedalbeit in the wee hours of the morningin recent CN programming, apparently in response to complaints from Speedys fans, according to Matthew Hunter, who runs Matthew Hunters Unofficial Speedy Gonzales Page on the Web.
Now that there have been some shakeups in the Warner conglomerate, Turner has lost his previously iron grip on his TV channels, and because of it, CN has made an effort to show what theyve been able to get approved, Hunter explained.
The Speedy cartoon canon includes not only the Academy Award winning Speedy Gonzales, but three other Oscar nominees: Tabasco Road (1957), Mexicali Schmoes (1959), and The Pied Piper of Guadalupe (1961).
While most often paired with Sylvester and Daffy, Speedy also shared billing with such other classic Warner toon stars as Yosemite Sam, Granny, and Tweety Bird. Often, his sidekick was his cousin Slowpoke Rodríguez, the slowest mouse in all Méjico, who, despite lacking Speedys quick wit and fleet foot, was just as formidable an opponent.
One of Warner Bros. most popular characters through the 1980s, second only to Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny, Speedy was teamed with the Roadrunner for 1965s The Wild Chase, in which Sylvester and Wile E. Coyote pursueShould we add fruitlessly?their respective nemeses during an arranged race between Speedy and Roadrunner. (By the way, do you know which of our speeding heroes crossed the finish line first?)
Despite Speedys auspicious beginning, experts agree that later Speedy shorts are of inferior quality, another reason why CN has shied from airing them, according to CN programmer Daniel Wineman. Nevertheless, the characters popularity endures. His limited reappearance on the Cartoon Networks cartoon rotation has fans exulting and feeling vindicated.
Speedy is back! Now lets see if the Hispanics complain, crowed a Speedy fan on the Termite Terrace Trading Post message board in April.
Why would they? wrote back another. They never did to my knowledge when Nick[elodeon] showed all those Speedy cartoons. I think sometimes the censors are afraid of things that arent really there.
Next thing you know, they will be attacking Steven Foster Collins ballads and Samuel Clemens' fictional writings.
Yes indeed! I loved those cartoons! Aside from all that, Americans have gotten so PC that you can't laugh at anything anymore - unless it's so filthy that it's actually ceased to be funny and just gone directly to gross.
Another thing that's rather peculiar about this one is that Spanish culture itself has no reservations about poking fun at people for physical characteristics (although this is changing). People frequently went by nicknames - things such as El Gordo, El Moro, etc. - that would have gotten the PC police on your doorstep in an instant here in the US.
I'm sick of PC. Bring back fun.
That's precisely what the PC crowd are, imaging victums of crimes that don't exist.
Who wants to bet there's some lawyer in the wings, looking to shakedown Warner Bros for the "trauma" inflected by this racial insult.
Back in the 60's, when people started worrying about cartoon violence, Hanna-Barbera started putting out cartoons that were supposed to teach something (usually with a NWO theme). I HATED those shows! Give me my anvils and wild takes!
My husband and I go round and round, he insists on watching them on the Boom Channel
These sawed off PC SOBs will go after Sam next is right.
I've got to know. Anyone?
I didn't like Scooby Doo because I didn't like how the smart girl was a frump and the cute one was a dingbat. Why can't a girl have brains and beauty?
I'll go get the briquets.
That's a shame, really. I think it is important and instructive to show how blacks (and other ethnic groups) were portrayed earlier in time. Helps show how far we have come. What are they going to do next? Ban Fat Albert?
I don't know that this is completely accurate -- while Speedy toons aren't all that frequent, I do see them from time to time. The one guy I am stunned has never been attacked by the PC crowd is my fave, Pepe Le Pew; the way he forces his attentions on Penelope (in such a loveable fashion!). I would have thought the NOW gang surely would have had him removed from Saturday morning cartooning already.
Mon cheri! Run with me to the casbah!
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