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Wed, Dec 07, 2016 9:12am


I don’t think it happens as much these days but those of us who do cartoons have been occasionally pressured, in much the same way a guy with a gun pressures you to hand over your wallet, to include certain “social messages” into our work. There’s nothing wrong with trying to include a benevolent moral in a cartoon if — and here come a couple of big IFs — it doesn’t despoil the entertainment value and it can be done without a condescending, lecturing tone…and especially IF the message is a sound one.

For a time in the eighties, a lot of us had to include a message with which I did not agree. It was, basically, that the group was always right; that one should avoid the anti-social behavior of not going along with what everyone else thought. This was embedded in many cartoon shows in many ways. On a show I launched called Dungeons and Dragons (the DVD of which is just now being released), I had to make one of the kids a sour presence who always wanted to go in a different direction from all the others. The same network also had a show called The Get-Along Gang, which was about a batch of cute, furry animals who always had to be reminded to get along with the gang. There were other examples.

Wed, Dec 07, 2016 9:43am

Nice irrelevant swipe at the death of copyright, as if it were a natural monopoly rather than a way for middlemen to increase costs. But really, this stuff is no surprise to anyone who’s watched a cop show with their brain turned on.

Wed, Dec 07, 2016 1:32pm

How much of this conformity can really be blamed on the apparatus of mass media, and how much on the simple fact that people are people? The enforcement of conformity and the muting of dissent has existed (and arguably been way more effective) long before the current media landscape, thanks to religion and social mores and the thousands of autocratic governments that preceded democracy. Galileo wasn’t silenced by Facebook. Possibly more dissenting views are expressed now than ever before (though the people who hold these views self-sort into bubbles, which is different from saying that their opinion is being suppressed). And those who hold a certain view always seem to think that THEIR side is being muted by an enforced conformity, even as they freely express themselves (think of all the bigots claiming to be silenced by the “political correctness” of the larger society).

It’s telling that the article positively cites Germany’s pushback against anti-Semitic sentiment. Germans presumably have a mass-media apparatus, and aren’t strangers to social media or the Internet. So perhaps it’s not the technology at our disposal, but how we choose to use it. It comes down to our principles and whether we have the courage to defend them. It comes down, as always, to people.

reply to  Bluejay
Wed, Dec 07, 2016 2:11pm

I’ll be honest. I’m not sure I followed all the specific details of Ross’ article. The issue for me is who gets seen and who doesn’t. If we keep seeing movies and TV shows where the heroes save lives by torturing people and where violence is the first and best solution to a problem, then we may start to think that’s a reasonable point of view. If most of the black people and Muslims onscreen are criminals and terrorists, that will affect our policies on crime and terrorism. If most of the police officers onscreen were black, the Black Lives Matter movement might look very different.

It’s possible I’ve gone completely off-topic.

reply to  Danielm80
Wed, Dec 07, 2016 2:39pm

Yes, but I’d say the problem is not with “mass media” but with how PEOPLE tell stories, which is a problem that long predates mass media. We’ve been praising violence as heroism since before Homer. That’s not to say we can’t change, but that we need to focus on the kinds of stories we tell, not the medium in which we tell them. Blaming “the mass-culture apparatus of film, radio, and television” is not the answer. That’s like blaming the water pipes for delivering shit-filled water, when what we need to do is teach people not to shit in the reservoir in the first place.

And, you know, there’s progress. (As always, not enough, but still worth noting.) LGBT representation onscreen is better than it was decades ago. Moana and the new Star Wars movies are putting women at the center of some of our most popular stories. (I *did* say it’s not enough, so nobody please comment about how it’s not enough!)

All this, though, is not really the focus of Ross’s article.