Hateful Caricatures

At what point did cartoon caricatures automatically become “hate,” or offensive? For example, should white gun-owners be offended by the character Elmer Fudd? Because, as a white gun-owner, I’m not. Cartoons are all about exaggerating characteristics and stereotypes, of pretty much everyone and everything. If I watch The Simpson, am I supposed to then despise and hate all bald, overweight white guys? (Or yellow guys, or whatever.)

Yes, there can be depictions that are intentionally derogatory to a huge category of people. For example, the way U.S. war-mongers depicted Germans in general, and Japanese people in general, was 100% intentionally and maliciously racist, with the obvious goal of creating hatred. Of course, war-mongers in every “nation” do that, some more openly than others.

But if Dr. Seuss drew a stereotype caricature of a “chinaman,” should I assume that was intended as an insult, or the result of hatred? Because I don’t. Why is that seen, in and of itself, as derogatory or insulting? It depicts, in cartoonish form, a guy with slanted eyes, the cymbal-looking hat, and chopsticks. This may come as a shock to some, but Chinese people have “slanted eyes,” and a lot of them used to wear those “cymbal-looking” hats, and used chopsticks. How is any of that an insult?

It reminds me of the people who get offended if someone white suggests that black people like fried chicken, or watermelon, or grape soda (that one was a new one to me). How is any of that insulting? Stereotypes aren’t automatically malicious. To recognize a pattern, whether of physical features, or food preferences, or something else completely “virtue-neutral,” doesn’t magically mean racism or hatred.

Yes, if someone is actually trying to be insulting, then people can choose to feel insulted. (Or they can choose to ignore it.) But the inability to laugh at NON-malicious joking is just sad. Gays can joke about gay stereotypes, blacks can joke about black stereotypes, women can joke about women stereotypes, but it’s somehow bad if the same things seem funny to other people, too? Are we required to not be able to laugh together at the same things? We need to compartmentalize what is funny, and only laugh at jokes that our demographic group is allowed to find funny?

The world needs to lighten the fuck up. With all the actual injustice and violence going on–most of it at the hands of the state–fishing for extra reasons to be triggered and offended is just lame.

For example, “Blazing Saddles” was hilarious, and it used stereotypes to mock bigotry and racism. And it did it brilliantly. When’s the last time anyone in Hollywood dared to do something like that, instead of feeding the tension, division, and offended-waiting-to-happen agenda?

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Larken Rose is an anarchist author best known for challenging the IRS to answer questions about the federal tax liability of citizens, and being put in prison with no questions answered. He is the author of The Most Dangerous Superstition.

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