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Adiós, Speedy. Not So Fast

LULAC Goes Looney Tunes

Adiós, Speedy. Not So Fast


April 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002
THE NEW YORK TIMES. All Rights Reserved.

AY caramba! The Cartoon Network just can't seem to stay out of the line of fire in the culture wars. Last year it angered Bugs Bunny purists by omitting racially insensitive cartoons from what would have been a complete marathon broadcast of the Wascally Wabbit's oeuvre.

Now it's Speedy Gonzales fans who are hot as jalapeños – over the plucky Mexican mouse's virtual absence from the cable network's broadcasts. In an interesting twist, Hispanics are among those leading the criticism. The Web site, specializing in Latino news and entertainment, has posted articles taking the network to task for what many see as a cave-in to political correctness; the site also offers a link to a bring-back-the-mouse petition drive.

But the Cartoon Network says P.C. isn't the overarching reason the Looney Tunes star is scarce on the channel (not banned, it insists); rather, Speedy shorts don't make the rotation because they simply aren't a ratings winner among the channel's vast archive of more than 8,500 cartoons.

Laurie Goldberg, a network spokeswoman, conceded, however, that part of the audience appeal problem is the toons' negative stereotypes – like Speedy's lazy cousin, Slowpoke Rodriguez – and their depictions of drinking and smoking, clear parent turnoffs.

Yet many Hispanics view Speedy as a positive ethnic reflection because he always outsmarts the "greengo" cat Sylvester, says Virginia Cueto, associate editor of the Florida-based HispanicOnline, who has been covering the issue for the English-language site.

Noting that Cartoon Network International still shows Speedy regularly in Latin American nations, Ms. Cueto said the network's main concern in the United States "seems to be what non-Latinos would get from watching these cartoons," as if Hispanic preferences here don't matter.

And so people are peeved. Here are excerpts from the overwhelmingly pro-Speedy (and mostly anonymous) postings on HispanicOnline:

THIS is an Outrage!!! Viva la Mouse! Viva Speedy Gonzales!

Come on! What is America coming to? . . . I guess they'll censor "West Side Story" because they've offended us Puerto Ricans in Nueva York. Get a grip! . . . I say bring Speedy back and let those censored idiots eat frijoles!!

Demeaning? Pleeeease, we need to get over the stupid P.C. [expletive]. I am of Mexican parents and I have much better things to do than worry about Speedy G, unless of course he was in my house – then I would get Señor Sylvester to take care of him.

The problem I have with this is that they are basically saying they know better than Hispanics do and telling them they should be offended by Speedy when in fact most are not.

That little mouse is a hero. . . . How about banning Pepe LePew, for stinking and being French, or Boris and Natasha, for being Russian, or . . . Rocky the Flying Squirrel for not being P.C. to squirrels.

What deee hell is all the rucus about. The leeettle mouse is one of the foniest mouses in all of Mejico. I have enjoyed the leeettle mouse and Slooowpoke for many yeeers. Now, weeee have Pokemon and his amigos. Weee need to bring back Speedy! . . .

I am 30 years old and have found myself saying, "Arriba, Arriba, Olé, Olé" many times throughout my life. The little guy is in me. I have a small stuffed version of him in the back window of my car as I fly through the Houston highways! . . .

I am shocked that this little guy is being questioned over all the other stuff on TV. Give him a break. He's a good, happy, zippy little guy that doesn't beat anyone up, and doesn't have to save the day. He just IS!

If you ask me, the cartoons depict "gringo" society (those crafty American cats . . .) as a not-too-bright, conniving species that exploits anyone who happens to be handy. The Mexican mice are always content in their own pueblos, doing their own thing, and here come the gringos into Mexican turf, interfering and looking out for their own interests. And Speedy always wins! So who is being depicted negatively here?

Program note: The Cartoon Network says Speedy Gonzales can be seen on the channel in May, in "Daffy Duck's Fantasy Island." It says it is considering broadcasting Speedy cartoons late at night or on its sister Boomerang channel, which features classic cartoons.

LULAC Goes Looney Tunes

Should Speedy be brought back from cartoon exile?

By Al Carlos Hernandez

April 6, 2002
Copyright © 2002
THE NEW YORK TIMES. All Rights Reserved.

In an act of unconscionable imbecility, LULAC --the League of United Latin American Citizens -- the US’ oldest Hispanic American rights group, and Hispanic Online, a Florida-based haven for closet Latinos, have publicly advocated and petitioned for bringing back racist cartoon Speedy Gonzales to the Cartoon Network after a two year absence.

"To many people, he was a hero," said Virginia Cueto of Hispanic Online, which launched a campaign to revive the Mexican mouse. "He is seen by many Hispanics as a positive role model. This guy is a winner! He is always outsmarting his main nemesis Sylvester the cat – or as Speedy’s non-Latino creator terms it, the GREEEEN-GO Pussygato."

Maybe to Hispanics he is a hero but to Latinos, he is an abomination.

Apparently, in Ms. Cueto’s attempt to be cute, she does not actualize that cats and mice cannot really talk and if they did they would not be stupid enough to continue to insult the potentially strongest minority group in the country. Since they cannot read either, the latest census probably passed over their heads, too.

Big up, however, to the Cartoon Network (CN) spokesperson Laurie Goldberg, who said that the network has no current plans to air Speedy. "We never ‘pulled’ the Speedy cartoons, we just haven’t aired a lot of them, " she said, citing not only the networks concern over inappropriate or offensive stereotypes, but an additional consideration -- a given programs ratings. The 40 Speedy cartoons in Cartoon Network's collection have traditionally garnered low ratings. They are a part of an 810-cartoon library, which runs in rotation.

In the real world -- not toon town -- they do not run Speedy cartoons because it has terrible ratings, but because the majority of people -- including cartoonists with half a brain -- know that the Speedy Gonzalez cartoons are blatantly offensive, so normal people stopped watching them.

So in comes LULAC to the rescue.

"¡Viva Speedy!" LULAC director of policy and legislation Gabriela Lemus said. "Give the mouse a chance. I have never heard of any Mexican-American complain about him. I grew up in Mexico, I watched it with my grandmother and we weren’t offended. How far do you push political correctness before you can’t say anything about anything anymore?"

Profound political rhetoric indeed. In other words, to quote another cartoon icon, Quick Draw McGraw to his much maligned Latino sidekick, the accented donkey Baba Louie, "I’ll do the thinin' around here, Baba-Louie, and don’t you forget it!"

I guess it's comments like that which makes LULAC the political powerhouse for strong national Latino policy and legislative leadership that it is. I am hoping that bringing back poorly-rated racist cartoons is not high on the list of its national agenda.

Maybe Ms. Lemus can host a "Dress Up Like Your Favorite Hispanic Stereotype Character Dinner Dance" at the next national convention in June. Executive members could come dressed as Speedy Gonzalez, Bucky & Pepito (similar lazy Mexican-exiled cartooners), The Frito Bandito, or the recently-furloughed Taco Bell Rat-Dog. Maybe Hispanic Online could even webcast it!

As an industry insider, I would like to inform advocates that cartoon animals are only inventions of artistic and oftentimes drunk people, in this case, non-Latinos from several decades ago who consider Latinos second class citizens.

Speedy was a mistake.

Any time a character is given an ethnic accent only for comedic value, this trivializes and diminishes that person and culture. This is done in an effort to make the dominant culture -- those inspired to laugh --feel superior. This type of subliminal institutional racism viscerally affects our children and degrades Latinos as people of honor and respect.

Although self-congratulatory publicity-seeking cartoon advocates such as Cueto and Lemus bemoan the fact that their favorite rodent has been sent to broadcast limbo, they ought to consider that most cartoon viewers are children and well-known musicians.

Los Angeles psychologist Robert Butterworth, (and no, his mom is not the Mrs. Butterworth, the maple syrup bottle lady) says, "These stereotypes are ingrained when we’re young. and what do kids watch? Cartoons. I know that adults are saying 'Oh God, it’s just Speedy Gonzalez’ but these are impressions that are put in very early and hard to pull out. I’m the last person to hold for political correctness, but kids absorb this thing on a preconscious level."

Lemus of LULAC says, "Speedy points out to his friends the good parts of being motivated and always beats the bad guy."

Isn’t that what LULAC is supposed to do?

Speedy boosters or "Speedy freaks" as I call them, shouldn’t expect to see their rodent hero back anytime soon, at least not in the United States. Speedy will appear in reruns of a full-length Warner Brothers movie "Fantastic Island" later this month, however, where he will play "Tattoo", the vertically challenged side kick of Mr. Rourke.

But I’m not even going there.

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