18 October 2006

Black Cartoons - MIA?



After watching my youngest child running around proclaiming to be Handy Manny, I took a long hard look at the state of television entertainment for Black children.

Now before I lose all of my good daddy credits, I want to make it clear that my kids don't sit around all day staring blankly at the television, but reality is reality and they do have their favorites shows.

Handy Manny is a decent little show - it centers around a friendly, young Latino man and his talking tools. Almost all of his neighbors are Latino and the show slips in as much Spanish as a typical American audience can handle. This show, the newest member in the Latino Cartoon Invasion, was the straw that broke the camel's back with me, because it clearly shows just how woefully under-represented Black people are in children's cartoons! I understand that Latinos are pouring into our country in amazing numbers everyday both legally and illegally - but the mass media [AGAIN] is devaluing the Black audience.

Black people are disproportionately unrepresented in television and in movies - that's no big secret and its far from new. But I am very distrurbed by the fact that now the mass media is reaching out so agressively to welcome and embrace the Latino children's audience. It is as if Black kids aren't even worth an effort in the world of children's cartoons!

I actually asked a few of my Black contemporaries to "Name a Black Cartoon." We all said the same thing you just said - Fat Albert! Now - I will say that there is at least one other Black cartoon, "The Proud Family." But sadly, The Proud Family is disappointing at best. Many of the storylines deal with issues that are fairly ghetto minded: Hoochie dancin'; stealin'; being disrespected, dealing with hoodlums, etc. I know that a lot of folks in the entertainment industry believe anything Black on film has to "be keepin' it real," but "keepin' it real" doesn't have to mean cookouts and crime . My little kids - My Little Black Kids - don't need "keepin' it real" with booty shakin', guns, fightin', drinkin' and bling wavin'. My Little Black Kids deserve the same alphabet learning, number learning, positive images and inspired storylines that White and Latino kids get shown by other White and Latino people.

This Latino Cartoon Invasion [as I call it] consists of some very nice cartoons - let me make that point crystal clear. Most of these shows are educational and have positive stories and include: Captain Carlos, Dora the Explorer, Go Diego Go , Dragon Tales and Maya & Miguel. It took me just three seconds to come up with these few names. But the only cartoon based on Black characters is The Proud Family. Pitiful.

Fortunately, I have been seeing and hearing a lot about an educational cartoon created by and starring Andre 3000 called "The Class of 3000" and my fingers are crossed real tight that this will be a cartoon with a Black lead that I can be proud of. (No pun intended)

TTBD

20 comments:

HomeImprovementNinja said...

You gotta be kidding me?

Think about how many prime time TV shows there are where the main characters are black vs latino.

Cosby, Bernie Mack, Martin, Living Single, Everybody Hates Chris, Moesha, My Wife and Kids, Sisters etc. etc.

THere's only been 2 sitcoms EVER where the main family is latino. Chico and the Man, in the 70s and the George Lopez show now.

t-hype said...

There's also Little Bill. I love Little Bill but you're right. I can't think of any other black cartoons outside of The Proud Family unless you count The Backyardigans. Do not play. Uniqua and Tyrone are nothing but black!

The Thinking Black Man said...

Hello Home Improvement Ninja,

I could name old Black sitcoms all day. Your list just scratches the surface, and just for the record 98% of black [lead] shows are sitcoms or varying quality. That is all Hollywood is willing to invest in. Hollywood does not believe that Blacks, on average, have the intellect or capacity to be loyal to a show with a dramatic [non-comedy] core - therefore they don't make very many of them.

Does anyone remember "Under One Roof"? The best four episode drama with a black cast I can recall.

Now, with regards to Chico and The Man and George Lopez - you may be right, at this very moment I can't disagree.

But there are two counter points I want to offer FIRST - Latinos have several AMERICAN broadcasted TV networks: Telemundo, Telefutura and Univision come to mind this moment! These networks have comedys, dramas, game shows, videos, talk shows, and news - so technically Latinos have TONS OF LATINcentric television shows to watch. And don't you DARE say Black folks have BET!!! With the exception of about 90 minutes of programming a day - BET is a shameful disgrace when it comes to entertaining Black people. Jesus Christ - how much booty shaking can you put on one network?

But my second point is my main point: Read carefully, MY BLOG ENTRY WAS ABOUT CARTOONS YOU GENIUS! WHY IN THE HECK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT SITCOMS? MOST OF WHICH HAVE BEEN OUT OF PRODUCTION FOR YEARS! I'M TALKING ABOUT CURRENT CARTOONS FOR MY KIDS!!! PAY ATTENTION!!!"

I hope your Ninja skills are sharper than your reading skills.

The Thinking Black Man said...

Hey T-Hype!!

YEEEEEEAH, Little Bill! How could I forget that one. Yeah, I like Little Bill a lot, so do my kids!

The Backyardagins is one of the very best cartoons on TV today. Did you know that a Black woman created that show? Yup.

I didn't count them, because they fall under what I consider an animal/kid kinda' show. : )

But most def' you are right about Tyrone and Uniqua.

Anonymous said...

Jesus Christ - how much booty shaking can you put on one network?
LMAO!

Ticledpink :p

Anonymous said...

I did not know that about the Backyardigans. That makes sense though because the first time I saw that show I was like Stop playin! Those little characters are gettin down!

I will most definitely step up my support!

Anonymous said...

Right on the money.

rockmara said...

Say what?

You mean you don't watch "The Boondocks" (even if it only comes on on Adult Swim)?

Tivo that.

(I'm not even going to reminisce about the Jackson 5 animated series and date myself - oh, wait, I still can 'cause it's been syndicated to CN, right? :D)

rockmara said...

Well, dang.

I just read what you think of A mcG in your files.

At some point, we'll also have to talk about corporate pressure to turn out, shall we say, less-than-conscious hip-hop videos. I don't mean just dumb sellout brothas and sistas saying "OK" to whatever, either (although thtat phenomenon has not gone away, certainly) ...

Because even Spike's first films were not Do the Right Thing, or Jungle Fever, or Malcolm X.

But that's a long discussion. My bad. Back OT.

The Thinking Black Man said...

Hey Rockmara-

I'm glad you read my post on Aaron MacGruder. That saves me a lot of key strokes here. I used to have Aaron's back. I thought the Brother was going to usher in a renaissance in Black cartooning and in newspapers.

Then he went to Cartoon Network...

If I never see, hear, or read anything by or about him again - it would be too soon.

What a disappointment.

Thanks for checking out my blog - I appreciate you, and everyone else that drops by!

Anonymous said...

I can't believe Andre 3000 is coming out with a cartoon. Will it be about his lyrical skills or his wardrobe? ;-p

Kidding. Couldn't resist. More power to him.

-Mal

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Heavenly Zeta said...

The Proud Family-indeed. It isn't even in production anymore, so typically what you're seeing are the reruns.
I'd love to see more positive cartoons featuring black folks, but unless we actually speak up and make ourselves heard, we will continue to get more of the same-which is nothing.

CreoleInDC said...

So...what's the solution? Do any of you have the skills needed to put together a positive educational black cartoon series? If so...do it. Seriously. I think it's always easy for us to point out what's wrong and/or lacking but where are the solutions?

I can't draw a lick but I'm a pretty decent story teller. I don't have kids so I'm not well versed in how a cartoon targeting children should be...but if I did...I'd like to think that I would try.

The Thinking Black Man said...

Hello Creole in DC-

Please don't take what I'm about to say negatively. I always appreciate the people that stop by my blog and think enough of what I say to leave a comment, be it FOR or AGAINST my opinion.

But your comment, like some others I've gotten always brings a half angered, half amused grin to my face. It's what I call the "Do something about it comment"

If I gripe about bad food - someone says then start your own restaurant!

If I say I got seasick on a boat, someone will say, then get your own boat and sail alone!

If I say there are too many illegal aliens in this country, someone will say, then join the border patrol!

Now I'm saying there aren't enough black cartoons, and basically you're implying that I should go create one.

Well, I have two things I'd like to say to you about that. First, believe it or not I am actually working on a project in that vein. SURPRISE! But secondly, I have a 9 to 5 job, a wife, two kids, a mortgage, a car note, I'm in school, I spend time with my family and somewhere during the day I manage to eat and sleep for a few minutes. So when people hit me with the "So do something about it, comment" I just want to say I barely have time to blog about stuff!!! I blog about things that interest and/or bother me because it helps me to reduce my inner stress by VENTING!!!

I'm not trying to change the world with my blog! I'm just trying to share some things that are on my mind, maybe get some insight and differing opinions and maybe, maybe, maybe make a friendly acquaintence or two. I'm not trying to run for political office, or eliminate nuclear weapons, or adopt 50 kids, or buy a TV station, or win a grammy - I'm just venting a little. That's all.

So, with that being said. I've checked out you blog and it looks very fresh and interesting! I'd like to leave a few comments... and I promise, that I will NEVER EVER tell you to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Thanks-
"Believe in Whurled Peas"

CreoleInDC said...

Wasn't telling YOU to do something about it per se...I was directing that to anyone with the talent and the dream that reads your blog.

So many times we have dreams but we are scared to pursue them for whatever reasons...be they financial, timeliness, or just plain fear.

I don't believe a lot of people believe that they can make their dream into fruition and get boggled down by the dictates of life such as wife, mortgage, kids, etc. There HAS to be a way.

I am so jealous of people who find a way to make money with their creativeness doing something they love. That has got to be a freedom that is amazingly powerful.

That said...all I was saying is that there has GOT to be more people with this particular dream than the stats would indicate based on the amount of shows there actually are. And if there are...why not pursue it?

Oh and don't worry...I wasn't offended...lol...if you've been to my blog...you know I handle offensive remarks with the GLOVES OFF! LOL!

Happy to meet you. Truly.

The Thinking Black Man said...

Well, thank Creole!

I'm glad I understand now. I thought you were tellin' me to pack my bags and my laptop and head off to Hollywood! Whew!

I agree with you! I tend to think that I have about 13 minutes a day to do whatever I want. I'm probably wrong though, it's probably more time and opportunity for stuff than I could imagine.

I too get a twinge of jealousy when folks use their natural talent and likes to make surprising money! Like those guys that started You-Tube in a garage and two weeks ago Google bought them for $1.6 BILLION! Hmmm, I think Google itself started the same way!!!

Well, please stop by again! I'll certainly be checking your spot out too!

Elizabeth said...

At the risk of really pissing you off...

Don't you think this issue is much deeper than cartoons on tv? It cuts through all of American society. Why is it that Latino and Koreans and Indians and Arabs and all these other groups can create an ecnomic oasis in the WASP American desert but blacks can't?

There aren't any Asian cartoons to speak of but now that Latinos have surpassed blacks as the majority minority, you have a slew of Latino cartoons. Why is it that Latinos can do this and blacks couldn't?

People of African descent have been in this country since before we were a country yet in most big cities you have a Chinatown, maybe a little Vietnam or a little Mexico but the black part of town is generally the part of town you stay away from. Martin Luther King Blvd is synonymous with bad shit happening and you'd better stay away. Why is that?

Is there a Latino equivalent to the "Oreo?" Is there a Vietnamese or Korean or Chinese equivalent to being an "Oreo?" Maybe there is. If there is it's not apparent. Yet, the "Oreo" is a common epithet in black culture. Perhaps this is the attitude that keeps blacks from not having black cartoons or black dramas.

I'm not saying blacks should become whites, I'm saying that blacks seem to have an idea that you need to give up your culture in order to obtain success. Latinos don't have this conflict. Chinese don't have this conflict. Koreans don't have this conflict. Why do blacks have this conflict?

The Thinking Black Man said...

Hey Elizabeth-

Naw, you didn't piss me off. Not by a long stretch.

I agree 100% that the issue at hand is far deeper and more far reaching than cartoons.

It is almost as if the white powerbase in various industries are figuring blacks are no longer the "minority of the hour" to be peddled to and parceled to.

I think you raise a very good point, one that I will have to come back to when I'm a little more awake!

Thank you very much for the comment! Please come back!

Anonymous said...

TRANSLATE THIS....
-RACISTA- IS IN SPANISH BECAUSE IM AM LATIN , AND I THINK THAT OUR PROGRAMS JUST HAVE ONE IDEA EDUCATE , GROW, AND RESPECT , FOR OUR CHILDRENS.
BECAUSE THAT IS HOW WE ARE , BUT WHATS THE MATTER THAT BLACK CHILDRENS WATHC OUR PROGRAMS THAT ARE JUST CONSTRUCTIVES> AND MAY BE LEARN A LITTLE BIT OF OTHER LANGUAGE ??? WHATEVER IT IS

.....FOR PARENTS LIKE U THAT , MAKE A DIVISION ON THE LITTLES MINDS ABOUT PEOPLE (RACIST)
ITS ALL THE VIOLENCE AND DISCRIMINATION ON THIS COUNTRY

EDUCATE YOUR CHILDRENS THE WAY YOU THINK ITS BETTER

WE ARE ALL THE SAME THING
BLACK SPANISH ASIANS AMERICAN