The cartoons, produced between 1940 and 1957, are being tagged by Amazon for its depiction of a black maid and for the use of blackface in some episodes.
Tom and Jerry: The Complete Second Volume is accompanied by this warning: “Tom and Jerry shorts may depict some ethnic and racial prejudices that were once commonplace in American society. Such depictions were wrong then and are wrong today.”
Amazon’s warning says such prejudice was once “commonplace” in US society, according to the BBC.
The warning was attacked as “empty-headed” by sociology professor Frank Furedi of the University of Kent, who said it was a form of a “false piousness” and a type of censorship which “seems to be sweeping cultural life.”
“We’re reading history backwards, judging people in the past by our values,” Furedi said.
Tom and Jerry was a longtime mainstay on American and British children’s programming, and can still be seen today.
However, it does seem rather difficult to believe that there’s a need to attach a warning to a children’s cartoon that identifies the stereotyping of blacks as wrong. Blackface is pretty much accepted as verboten in our culture today and has been for several decades.
Furedi said calls for such warnings are a form of “narcissism,” with the concerns not really being about the content of a book or work of art but about individuals asserting their own importance.
Ironically, Amazon found no need to issue such a disclaimer over the violence inherent in Tom and Jerry.
According to Wikipedia, Tom and Jerry “… cartoons are infamous for some of the most violent cartoon gags ever devised in theatrical animation such as Tom using everything from axes, hammers, firearms, firecrackers, explosives, traps and poison to kill Jerry. On the other hand, Jerry’s methods of retaliation are far more violent due to their frequent success, including slicing Tom in half, shutting his head in a window or a door, stuffing Tom’s tail in a waffle iron or a mangle, kicking him into a refrigerator, getting him electrocuted, pounding him with a mace, club or mallet, causing a tree or an electric pole to drive him into the ground, sticking matches into his feet and lighting them, tying him to a firework and setting it off, and so on.”
The violence is so over the top that The Simpsons based the cartoon characters of Itchy and Scratchy on Tom and Jerry, albeit with even more violence and a whole lot o’ blood.
Amazon may have to rethink not warning viewers about violence after a recent incident in Asia.
In China last month, an 8-year-old boy almost blew his head off with a homemade shotgun when he and friends decided to re-enact a scene from the cartoon.
The kids allegedly swiped the makeshift gun from a neighbor and proceeded to stuff partially dismantled fireworks down the gun’s barrel, according to the New York Post.
When Wu Yuan ignited the device, it created a massive blast that detonated a shotgun shell inside the weapon’s barrel and sent 130 individual pellets flying directly into his face. The police said the only reason the young boy survived the blast is because the fireworks stuffed into the barrel blocked many of the pellets.
For the record, adding a warning to such cartoons about violence isn’t going to prevent exceptionally rare events like the above from occurring. Parents keeping tabs on mischievous-minded children are the only remedy for that challenge.