Are Cartoon Characters Like Speedy Gonzales and Apu Racist?
There’s this live action/CG Speedy Gonzales movie coming up with George Lopez providing the voice of our favorite speedy mouse. As dumb fuck an idea as I think this is, if the Chipmunk movies are any indication, this movies will make gigantic fuck tons of money for Warner Bros.
Speedy got me thinking about other cartoon characters that are representative caricatures of different cultures. I didn’t do an exhaustive examination, but the other character that obviously stuck out right away was Apu from the Simpsons.
Speedy cartoons portray a number of questionable Mexican stereotypes. While Speedy is wicked fast and always alert, many of his fellow mice are portrayed as slow, lazy, drunks, especially Speedy’s cousin Slowpoke. Speedy also wears a big yellow sombrero and speaks in heavily accented Spanglish.
Apu represents the stereotypical Indian convenience store owner and is one of the few non-yellow character in the entire Simpsons cast. He tends to leave things on the shelf way past their expiration date. He’s been shot, stabbed, and robbed and he still welcomes you with a nice smile and a friendly “Come again” when you leave.
Certainly, Speedy and Apu portray stereotypes of Mexicans and Indians. But does that mean they are necessarily racist? I mean no one ever uses racial invectives when talking to or about either of these characters. They’re both considered respected parts of their respective communities and not ostracized. The characters around Speedy and Apu don’t really care that they’re different. Sure, they may laugh at them once in a while, but it’s never in a demeaning way. There are many minorities who would love to be treated in such a manner.
I’m usually pretty quick to judge things as racist. But in the cases of Speedy and Apu, I’m not so sure. Yes, they do represent stereotypes. Yes, they talk with funny accents. But no one in their universes really gives that much of a shit. They are welcomed parts of their communities. That doesn’t sound all that racist to me.
So, Angry Zen Minions, what do you think of Speedy and Apu?