A couple of weeks ago was the Great American Smokeout, which is always the third Thursday of November. It got me thinking about one of my more recent (if you can call it that!) posts on this site, Cancer Cures Smoking. It’s ironic, but while I’m a non-smoker, I’m not crazy about smokers being around me, and I have no sympathy for smokers when it comes to increased taxes, fees, and the like, I see tobacco as part of history. Thus, when well-meaning companies and organizations attempt to do the Politically Correct thing, I see it as an attempt to erase history.
Let me give you an example. Earlier this year, Turner Broadcasting (the same folks that brought you colorized movies) announced they were going to edit a bunch of Hanna-Barbera and MGM cartoons, such as the Flintstones and Tom and Jerry, and remove any scenes that “glamorized” smoking. While i understand the pressure they might be under from various groups, in this instance the decision was prompted by *one* complaint– not hundreds, not thousands.
I disagree with their decision. These cartoons aren’t just episodes and vignettes we watch today, they’re also from and representative of an earlier time in our history. After all, there’s a lot to criticize in these animated offerings beyond smoking. The Tom and Jerry cartoons, while far more mild than their Warner Brothers counterparts, featured cartoon violence. The Flintstones, an animated take-off on the old “Honeymooners” show, shows a lovely domesticated family with decidedly 50′s and early 60′s values and mores, especially regarding women’s roles in the house and in society.
Although I generally agree that TV has a very strong influence on people, especially impressionable young minds, animators, film corporations and television companies can do the “right” thing with anything they make these days (I haven’t watched Saturday morning shows in ages, but the last time I checked, about fifteen to twenty years ago, what was being shown were essentially extended animated commercials for products sold at your local Toys R Us and Target). To whitewash history is to pander to certain segments in our society who aren’t willing to take a rational, reasoned approach to programming (such as perhaps becoming involved in current programming, rather than trying to edit old shows made 40 or more years ago.
Lest you think it’s merely Turner that’s guilty of creative editing, others are to blame too. Disney, for example, edited out Pecos Bill’s cigar in the “Pecos Bill” short, seen in the animated musical anthology of shorts, “Melody Time” (a junior version of “Fantasia,” “Melody Time” and its companion “Make Mine Music” were made in the immediate post-war years in the late 1940s, sort of the doldrums for Disney, before he resurged during the 1950s with “Peter Pan,” “Lady and the Tramp,” and “Sleeping Beauty,” among others). Excuse me, but emasculating a cowboy by taking away his cigar? Sure, Pecos Bill is still enjoyable sans cigar, but it reduces the original work through a form of politically correct censorship. Disney did the same thing in recent years at its flagship amusement park, Disneyland, when they changed the pirates in the Pirates of the Carribean ride to chasing women carrying platters of food, rather than the women themselves. Funny, but it was my understanding that pirates who attacked a seaport in the Spanish Main usually added carousing to the looting and burning. They’re *pirates* you know– bad guys…? Still, with the supersizing going on today, chasing a bunch of food wasn’t entirely out of place, I guess. I’ve heard that as part of the retrofit for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, they’re going to remove the food and go back to pirates being pirates. Now if they’d just put Pecos Bill’s cigar back…