Are Cartoons Promoting Racial and Gender Inequality?

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Remember the time when we all used to rush from school to the TV room, throw our bags on the couch and sit with the TV remote watching our favorite cartoon shows. Those days were definitely amazing and those cartoon shows taught us a lot as well. Tom and Jerry, Oswald, Pingu, Pokemon, Noddy, Mickey Mouse, and this list of my most loved cartoon shows goes on endlessly.

These days, children come back and watch cartoons like we all did. Parents don’t bother what their children are learning from these shows. They assume that children are watching cartoons and that is fine. What can probably be wrong in a cartoon show, right?

Recently, I visited my local guardians and sat down with my cousins to watch their favorite cartoons. The more I watched, the more I was disappointed and disturbed to see how deeply problematic notions of race and gender were so easily naturalized in such shows. In one of the shows (this show is extremely popular among children, almost every other child watches it and likes it), I noticed that none of the major characters was dark, all of them were white (extremely white). The only characters that were dusky were also a little notorious and the evil characters were represented in black from head to toe. None of the features of evil characters were shown, they were draped in black. Here, black came to represent evil so easily. We are Indians, and in an Indian cartoon show, this representation of skin complexion made me uneasy and forced me to ask my cousin to change the channel and watch any other cartoon.

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I do understand that changing the channel and watching something else is not a solution because that something else might support some other stereotype. For instance, the one we watched next was so gendered that I am ashamed to acknowledge that even I used to like this show once. According to this cartoon, if a girl had solved a mathematical problem, she had taken help of her boyfriend, because she is a girl and she can’t know Maths. It doesn’t stop there because what preceded this scene was the mocking of the protagonist because he blushed and he was laughed at and got labeled as effeminate.

These things might appear to be puny but they affect the child’s psychology and these notions of gender and race get ingrained in children. It’s deeply necessary to sensitize children on such issues; else we would never be able to hope for a better and equal world for all races and sexes. The scary part about all this is the stereotypes promoted by popular culture among children finds its way into marketing of products as well. The colored covering of KinderJoy, gifts inside the pink cover always turns out to be Barbies and other kind of dolls, and inside the blue cover, it’s almost always automobiles. This is high time we pay attention to such things that destroy the child psychology and attempts to naturalize the problematic stereotypes, deliberately or indeliberately.


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