Wednesday, July 10, 2002

'Toon In, Drop Out

If in spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love, then summer must be the season when a young man - heck, everyone's - attention turns to their navel. And you know what they say about that, don't you? You don't? Well, neither do I. But I do know that too much navel contemplating, like too much anything, isn't good. I do know that idle hands end up in you-know-who's workshop.

Three summers ago, the Cartoon Network banned Speedy Gonzales from the airwaves, calling the Mexican mouse "an offensive ethnic stereotype."

Yet, for three years running, human Hispanics, most recently in the form of the League of United Latin American Citizens, has been begging the Cartoon Network, which owns the rights to not just Speedy, but every Warner Brothers cartoon ever created, to put the mouse back on the air. "Speedy Gonzales is one of Cartoon Network Latin America's - where shorts of the cartoon regularly run - favorite characters!" they cry. "He's a cultural icon," they whine to the, get this, ANGLO American network brass.

But, as of summer 2002, their bilingual arguments were still falling on deaf, white ears. (The word for "no" is the same in Spanish as it is in English.)

You'll recall that it was a bunch of gringos who got their gauchos in a knot over the English in the Classroom initiative five Junes ago, and it was a bunch of idle palefaces who took issue with the Frito Bandito a generation of summers back.

I don't have a medical degree, but I can smell an alarming trend from cinco paces back. And it seems to me that white man's brains don't do well in the heat. (So it's a good thing Congress doesn't convene in the dog days of summer.)

Many Julys ago, Sambo's Restaurants started going belly-up. Apparently, there was a gaggle of non-African American people who found the Little Black Sambo dolls the restaurant sold offensive. Summer after summer, the dolls disappeared, until, one day, neither the dolls - The little stuffed tiger was so cute! It even had a plate of pancakes and a teensy pat of butter! - nor the coffee shop itself could be found anywhere in Southern California. (There's one in Santa Barbara now, but the damage has already been done. And the food, frankly, just isn't as tasty without the dolls.)

In the summer of 2000, a cluster of Anglo businessmen opened a Krispy Kreme donut shop two miles outside Koreatown in the greater Los Angeles area, effectively crucifying about 10,000 Korean American entrepreneurs in the process. Were these white men's hands too long idle? I mean, there were plenty of other sites in the greater Los Angeles area to establish what is probably the country's one-million-and-sixth Krispy Kreme donut shop. Or did they, like so many other of my brethren, just go crazy from the heat?

It occurs to me that, since Cartoon Network owns the rights to the Warner Brothers mother lode, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig aren't long for this world, either. I'm guessing that the former will be declared offensive to neurotic fowl by the summer of 2003; the latter? Well, that's a tough one. For one, there is the weight-conscious population to consider, most of whom have already had it up to their double chins with mean-spirited oinking jokes. On the other hand, there is the Lap Dancers Union of America, all, presumably, big fans of Porky's racy, i.e., bottomless, ensemble. And what about the Speech Impediment faction, who look to the pig for inspiration? Who say, "by golly, if h-h-he can st-st-st-utter and be a st-st-st-ar, why can't I?

Phew. It's a good thing I keep my idle nose buried in as many books as I can when the mercury rises. There's not much damage a person can do when she's catching up on her summer reading.

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