I’ve been looking at some material that discusses how stereotypes are used in animation and cartoon and I want to discuss some of them in a number of posts. I think it’s an interesting subject to talk about as it seems to be a double-edged sword — characters need to portray a certain look that the audience can match to a particular social group or an identity they know of, however if the artist goes too far it could lead to some people being offended. The basis of character design is over-exaggeration and showing the audience the character’s persona through visual aids, and this is done most successfully by exaggerating certain features which can be recognised to relate to a specific demographic or even a character trait. Historically, stereotyping in cartoon like the early Warner Brothers stuff would be seen as offensive by today’s standards as you can see from some of the clips in the video linked below. I think the main difference is that other social groups (in the case of this video Blacks and Asians) were being ridiculed and the animators used the stereotypical physical features to build on when trying to portray their views of the characters. The use of cartoons in American war propaganda is mentioned in the video, where the Japanese are portrayed as being short “with really big, buck teeth sticking right out of their mouths”. After looking at this aspect of character design I can be sure not to ‘over-over-exageggerate’ any of my characters, although I think they’re all quite simple in design, and are from another planet so they don’t have many earthly political views. That being said, Animal Farm is a perfect example of how fictional characters (who were to later become cartoons) can draw parallel to political movements, in this case the Russian Revolution and the Stalin era of the Soviet Union. The book had to overcome some obstacles before being published, as no one (i.e. four major publishers) wanted to publish such a blatant critique of the Russian Soviet Union at such a sensitive time, just before the end of WWII. Orwell added a preface to the book commenting on the self-censorship of Britain:
The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary…. Things are kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervenes but because of a general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact.
I see this as a very ‘British’ way of looking at things, ‘if it’s going to cause hassle and isn’t necessary, why bother?’ and I think it goes against a person’s rights to express himself, in this case I think Orwell was illustrating the ideology of the Soviet Union without derogating them, although some argue that allegorically depicting them as pigs gives that impression.
(The embed code wasn’t working)