Friday, May 22, 2009

Bad Bugs Bunny

I was very politically incorrect last night as I went to the Loft Cinema here in Tucson to see Bad Bugs Bunny. BBB is a series of Warner Brothers cartoons presented by Dennis Nyback, a film professor at Portland State University. BBB is a collection of censored Warner Brothers cartoons that are too racist, sexist, and violent for today's audiences. It even included a couple of the famous Censored 11.

Just a few thoughts. The opening cartoon was Hare Ribbin' and one of the two I remember seeing as a child. Bugs Bunny torments a dog until the dog is so depressed, Bugs blows him away at the dog's request. It was rereleased with the dog committing suicide (since that is less offensive) which is the version I saw as a kid. Sioux Me is the other one I remember seeing which revolves around the Sioux trying to make it rain.

A couple of prominent WWII cartoons were Tokio Jokio and Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips. Tokio Jokio is a done as a faux newreel showing the Japanese war effots. Bugs Nips the Nips is set on a Pacific Island where Bugs battles the Japenese (and does one of his famous drag scenes as a geisha). Both of these were very intended to dehumanize the Japanese during WWII. After the screening, Nyback said he did a film festival where he showed these and they showed some Japanese anti-American WWII cartoons...I would love to see how we were stereotyped.

He Was her Man was pretty violent toward women (although she turned the tables in the end). Let it Be Me really is kind of hard to see as anyone who is not named Bing Crosby thinking it should be censored, but there was a man named Bing Crosby who got it censored.

Ali Baba Bound is pretty relevant these days as Porky Pig has to defend an outpost from Ali Baba and his Dirty Sleeves, complete the suicide bomber.

The show closed with Tin Pan Ally Cats and Coal Black and the Sebben Dwafs. In Ally Cats, a caricature of Fats Waller has what could be best described as a bad trip. Coal Black is the classic but overly stereotyped take on the famous Disney movie.

Many of these are available on Youtube or other sites...I will let you search for them if you want to see them.

Its amazing to look back at these in a historical context. There are shocking moments but interspersed with truly inspired humor at times.

And this bring me to another point: corporate censorship. Corporations determine so much of what we are allowed to see and the media available to us. The motives are many and varied but in the end, we lose. With the passage of the Copyright Term Extension Act, it will be many years before these go to the public domain and we can freely see them (and I bet the try to extend it again when many of the protected works are about to go public domain).

I have been frustrated trying to get books, music and video that are under copyright but no one publishes. Some of these works may even be what we call orphan copyrights, works that are still under copyright but no one can figure out who controls it.

Yes. corporations control a lot of speech to say the least. We may say we have free speech, but that only does so much good if we only have it in person. The internet has been an equalizer to some extent, but it's not hard to imagine ISPs pulling the accounts of people who take on controversial subjects or phone companies refusing to carry certain messages on their lines (and if you think that will never happen, it has already been tried).


OrbsCorbs said...

I'm sure I saw some of that tainted Warner Bros. stuff. Also, plenty of the Three Stooges war output (Moe was a natural as Hitler), along with their usual stereotyping of the occasional African-American (usually portrayed as wide-eyed domestic servants who were buffoons).

You know, I never gave much thought to copyright after a creator's death. I mean, what is a reasonable amount of time for someone to own the rights to something they didn't create? Then again, why shouldn't Warner Brothers own their cartoons ad infinitum, provided that they legally and properly compensated the people who worked on the cartoons, with the understanding that Warner Brothers would own the final product?

hale-bopp said...

I can give you one good reason why Warner Bros should not own the cartoons for all time...the US Constitution. Article 1, Section 8 clause 8, "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

I think limited times is starting to lose some meaning here.

kkdither said...

I only own the rights to my own thoughts for a few minutes, then... alas, they are gone.