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,
ALL CHARACTERS AND EVENTS IN THIS SHOW–EVEN THOSE BASED ON REAL PEOPLE–ARE ENTIRELY FICTIONAL. ALL CELEBRITY VOICES ARE IMPERSONATED…POORLY. THE FOLLOWING PROGRAM CONTAINS COARSE LANGUAGE AND DUE TO ITS CONTENT IT SHOULD NOT BE VIEWED BY ANYONE.
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.
Straubhaar, Joseph D., Robert LaRose, and Lucinda Davenport. Media Now: Understanding Media, Culture, and Technology. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.