Prejudice and stereotyping, as displayed by popular media, in this case 2D Television Animation, are unfortunately nothing new. But with time comes some progress (and with great power comes great responsibility! Right, Spiderman??). Women are still shown in demeaning and submissive roles but there are now images of the opposite. The 60+ population is still underrepresented but the 2D world is showing more incorporation than the live action media world. Minorities are now highly represented but also highly pigeonholed. Is there a way to showcase all walks of life and still avoid stereotypes that are so prevalent in our reality? Bart Simpson once said, “you’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t.” (Someone else said it first, but we’re living in the 2D world now!)

Damnation aside, how far have we come? To understand the present we must look at the past, the following is a brief overview of stereotypes in 2D TV Animation over the last few decades.

1958: The Huckleberry Hound Show

Southern stereotypes flood this Hanna-Barbera classic. Although the show may be credited with giving animation a place in the television world, it also portrayed Americans from the Southern States as slow and dim.

1969: Scooby-Doo, Where are you!

Another Hanna-Barbera gem, the original form of Scooby-Doo ran for only 2 seasons! Notice anything about the meddling kids of the Mystery Gang? Not much variety, huh?

1972: Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids

Hey, Hey, Hey! Bill Cosby’s animated series became the first ever to feature the black community. It’s progress!

1981: The Smurfs

Where are the women!? There are a total of three female characters within this entire series and they weren’t even original cast members! It seems as though the creators do not think the girls would be interested in the Smurf adventures. Or maybe it was just easier to animate the nearly identical-looking boys? Either way, equal representation please!

1997: South Park

This show is a can of worms. The creators, being fully aware of this, start each episode with a little disclaimer that reads,


Does the fact that South Park touches on every race, religion, sexuality, and gender issue under the sun show progress in the fact that we can voice these topics on public access? Or does the foul humor at other people’s expense cause us to take two-steps back?

2000: Dora the Explorer

This seems like major progress. An animated series, run on Nick, Jr., featuring a Hispanic female adventurer! The show is educational and makes an attempt at teaching English-speaking children a little bit of Spanish. In 2005, Dora’s cousin, Diego, got his own show entitled, Go, Diego, Go! The shows are very similar, besides the sex of the host character. The dichotomy seems unnecessary but on the whole the shows are progressive.

2012: ???

What’s next!?





Fat Albert

The Smurfs

South Park


Straubhaar, Joseph D., Robert LaRose, and Lucinda Davenport. Media Now: Understanding Media, Culture, and Technology. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.


4 thoughts on “Timeline

  1. I agree with your opinion that through the progression of 2D Television animation over the years there is a mix of progress and recess. Today it wouldn’t be a shock to see an African American cartoon character on TV while in the 50’s I’m sure it was unheard of. But if most of the African American cartoon characters today poke fun at racist issues of the past and mock the real struggles of African American lives in America is that really progress?? Shows like Fat Albert and South Park definitely fit that description as you highlighted above. I really think that more cartoons need to figure out how to turn positive messages and educational ideas into humor and entertainment because that seems to be the main disconnect in my eyes. It’s a big expectation and will definitely be hard since the standard has already been set for so many years, but change has to start somewhere.

    • If there is one thing we know it’s that the media universe is constantly changing! So, I agree, it would be nice to see that standard shift. The show, Futurama, recently featured the topic of “robosexual marriage”, which basically had a ton of stereotypes about homosexual marriage and the absurdity of the matter. The fact that a cartoon is dealing with issues of sexuality is something that would have been unheard of 50 years ago! Check out the episode and decide for yourself if it’s harmful or helpful to the cause! It’s called “Proposition Infinity”.

  2. This timeline gave perfect examples of blatant 2D stereotyping from over the years. The Smurfs example is definitely a classic example of women’s absence in popular media. For a show that seemed to be making some kind of post-racial statement by making all its characters’ skin color blue, it seems striking that they’d leave out females entirely. Where they could have gone with a post-gender setting as well, they offensively went post-women instead.

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