Parenting has never been an easy thing. Many dads can think back to their youth and the time spent reading, playing and watching cartoons with their fathers. Yet even those seemingly innocent activities are undergoing changes within our current climate of social change.
A few weeks ago the Looney Tunes along with child story writer Dr. Seuss came under Fire for their material. There was old Dr. Seuss material that illustrated very disturbing and clearly insensitive depictions of Black people. Around the same time, the New York Times released a piece from Charles M. Blow that called out a classic Looney Tunes cartoon character, Pepe Le Pew. In the case of the infamous skunk, the writer said that this cartoon character was teaching and perpetuating rape culture. Pepe is oftentimes overly aggressive to the point of creepy and stalking towards the target of his affection. Characterized as an overzealous romantic it was funny at the time but times are changing. With surging conversations on the importance of consent and various movements speaking out on the ways in which men make women uncomfortable, Mr. Le Pew has been canceled. So much so that a scene in the new Space Jam sequel featuring Pepe was deleted.
We live in a very reactive society but as fathers what does the cancellation of childhood favorites mean? It means that before automatically emulating the things that many of us experienced with our fathers there needs to be time taken to examine and evaluate just how classic material translates today. All it takes is a few minutes on Google to realize that American cartoons have a very troubling history of racist and discriminatory content. From Mickey to Bugs they’ve all had ugly moments. With kids actively using the internet at younger ages, it's best to sit down and address these matters now before a child stumbles across the material on their own.
Many of today's newer animations like Teen Titans or Steven's Universe portray much more updated themes of respect and inclusion while still being the wacky slapstick driven entertainment that a child should be free to enjoy. You don't want to take the innocence and wonder away from your child by introducing him to the harsh realities of life too soon but keep in mind that children are sponges and they absorb everything.
An argument could be made whether or not canceling cartoons is a bit much. There is the matter of tone and context, along with the fact that cartoons are not supposed to be the foundation of parental decision-making. Entertainment has always reflected the views and ideals of society. Unfortunately some entertainment doesn't age well as those once acceptable views get turned on their ear. Spending quality time with your child to enjoy the things that they do is an amazing experience. And being able to flashback to some of the things you grew up on is a great way to bond. Let's just make sure that we're not sacrificing good social behavior for some cheap laughs at our kids' expense.
Written By Jason Francis