Racist Cartoons and Dr. Livingstone, I Presume

First, I’d just like to apologize for this week’s Tarot Tuesday. I’m not sure why I was struggling so hard yesterday but I was really in one hell of an ADD fog and I underperformed on that post. My bad, y’all.

Okie doke. Checked that box. What’s next?

Ah, yissss.

So cartoons used to be pretty damn racist, eh?

I remember when my paternal grandfather was alive, when I was probably eight or nine. Maybe younger. I don’t know, I really don’t have a linear memory of time when it comes to my childhood. Even more recent memories, for me, are more situational, and difficult to put within a certain time frame. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s just the way my mind works, I guess.

In any case, my mom was working second shift on the phones at Blair at the time, and I remember my dad and I would go, after dinner, from our house at the top of Mohawk Avenue to my grandfather’s house in North Warren – my dad’s childhood home, into which we would eventually move – to take care of him. Both of my paternal grandparents had multiple health issues by the time I was developing memories I’d be able to recall in adulthood.

We used to go to his house in the evenings and get him fed, and cleaned up, ready for bed, and then into bed. I mean, we didn’t. My dad did all that. I just laid on the living room floor and watched television.

As you do.

And one thing that I do remember very clearly is that starting around eight at night, from 8 to 11 p.m., there was a set of four shows on Nick at Night that I loved so, so freaking hard. I’d watch the set every night we were there, which was many, many nights. It got progressively weirder as the evening went on, and I truly believe that it’s part of what gave me my tastes in entertainment as they are today.

The night would start out with “Mr. Ed” at 8 p.m.

Okay. Talking horse. Weird. Definitely stupid. But not really all that dark, by any stretch of the imagination.

Next would be “The Munsters” at 8:30.

Now we’re heading into classic monster territory, which I still dig super hard, and I always appreciated The Munsters for their ability to remain authentically gloomy in a world full of shiny, happy, blonde-ass Californians. They taught one important lesson that the only family I love more than them – The Addams’ – didn’t teach and that is the blatant lesson of acceptance. The Addams’ did too, to a certain extent, but in a much different way. The Munsters, though, were softer. And they took poor, disgusting Marilyn under their wings without so much as batting an eye at her awful affliction of normalcy and beauty. It was truly inspiring.

But The Munsters were, at their core, a ripoff of The Addams’, and a doofy one at that. But “The Addams Family” came on every night at 9:30, to rectify the situation and defend their title as the most badass family in all of classic T.V. history.

I always wanted to be just like Wednesday Addams.

Achievement unlocked, is all I can say about that.

#notashamed

#Wednesdayismyhomegirl

And, after the Addams’ rocked my world, at 10 p.m., the cherry on the “weird-ass TV that normal kids probably weren’t watching in the 1990’s” sundae came on.

Bam.

“Alfred Hitchcock Presents.”

Now, there are two types of people in this world:

They are (a) those who love Alfred Hitchcock more than Rod Serling and (b) good and decent and intelligent human beings.

I will always, always be loyal to Serling and his “Twilight Zone.” The writing was tighter, the themes were more big-picture and considerably darker, and Rod was hot as hell, goddamn it. Imagine eight-year-old me lusting after Rod Serling in his swanky suit with his cigarette and gravelly voice asking me to imagine if I would…

Of course I’ll imagine, Rod Serling. If you told me to jump off a bridge wearing a Superman costume and singing “Barbie Girl” off key I’d do that too.

Just say the word, you delicious slice of old man, you.

I was a sick kid. I’m not sorry for it.

The best thing about Alfred Hitchcock presents was hearing “Toccata And Fugue” during the opening. After that, it went downhill quick. Hitchcock was undeniably boring by comparison with “The Twilight Zone.”

Damn. Still kinda have the hots for Serling. Here’s my very favorite episode of all time, and the one that cemented my adoration of Serling. Mmm. This dude. He’s delicious. Especially his brain. Yummo.

I’ve got it bad and I always will. Fun fact, this episode is all about how stupid racism is. So. It fits in with the theme of this post.

Anyhow, my point in this extended expository introduction is that I grew up digging black and white ancient television hard.

And that translated to cartoons. I always was very picky about my television, and specifically about cartoons, as a child. I’m sure there were (and still are) some sensory processing issues at play. I remain intensely sensitive to sound and touch, and certain colors are like crack for me while others are like, just, vomit-inducing. I have very strong reactions to sensory stimuli, and it makes no sense what I like what what I despise, and it goes so far as to affect the way I live my life.

But that’s another story. The point is that I always preferred the old, 1940’s versions of Looney Tunes.

Which were super, super fuckin’ racist, you guys.

I’m saying damn. Just…I don’t know how they remained on air for as long as they did. I had to hunt down this clip, which I’m going to embed with the disclaimer that it is racist as hell and it needs to be viewed with the understanding that it portrays a really mentally sick period of American History. I’m not glorifying it here.

I’m using it as a visual aid.

I remember as a kid being really affected, in a sensory way, by the cartoon image of Henry Morton Stanley in this cartoon. I don’t know what it was. The shape of him, the color. Yes, I’m telling you that I have strong reactions to different shades of gray.

Not those shades of gray, pervert.

Stay on task.

Anyhow, he hit all the right dopamine buttons in my brain, just by the way he was animated.

This morning, I came into work and checked my email, as I do first thing each morning, and I had a History Channel newsletter, which I do once every couple of weeks or so. I usually just flick down through it and move on, because I don’t actually care, but sometimes some weird, obscure historical thing will catch my eye and today this one did:

“Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

Immediately, some ancient, reptilian part of my brain just shot on, and hummed to life, dinging like a pinball machine and humming like the freaking Jurassic-era PC they expect me to make magic on at work each day.

I recognized that line.

Where did I recognize that line from?

I was obsessed, instantly. I could remember the image of Stanley in the cartoon but I couldn’t for the life of me pull up any idea of who else might have been a character, or a title for the cartoon, or even a synopsis of what might have happened. Just Stanley. Just animated Stanley with his big, long, wrinkly, squinty-ass face.

I started researching the line, which was made famous by an actual movie that depicted Stanley’s expedition into Africa in the 19th century to make contact with the presumed-dead explorer Dr. David Livingstone. Here’s the background, if you care to read about it.

And here’s the cartoon which, again, IS VERY, VERY RACIST AND WHICH I AM NOT GLORIFYING IN ANY WAY, BUT WHICH I AM EMBEDDING IN ORDER TO VISUALLY REINFORCE MY CONVERSATION ABOUT SENSORY SENSITIVITY.

Is that disclaimer loud and bold italicized and capitalized enough?

I swear to God if anyone trolls me for embedding this I’m going to reach through the monitor and punch them right in the soul for being a total choad farmer.

Don’t be a choad farmer, guys. It’s not worth it. It’s bad for you.

So. There we go.

You can thank The History Channel for this one.

It’s entirely their fault.

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