I was sitting in A&W yesterday reading the free local newspaper, 24 Hours, and came across an article about Turner Broadcasting censoring Tom & Jerry cartoons. Later that day a friend emailed me the news as well. Today, every animation fan seems to have their thoughts on the subject posted on their blog. They are not happy.
Here is a clip taken from an article written for The Independent:.
The complaint concerned two episodes of the cartoon called "Texas Tom" and "Tennis Chumps" which were shown repeatedly on Boomerang this year. An unnamed member of the public complained that the scenes were "not appropriate in a cartoon aimed at children". "Texas Tom" was made in 1950 and shows Tom trying to impress a female cat by rolling, lighting and smoking a cigarette with one hand. In "Tennis Chumps", made in 1949, Tom plays a match against his long-term rival Butch, who is seen smoking a large cigar.
Ofcom did not have to uphold or reject the complaint because it was resolved by the company Turner, which holds Boomerang's broadcasting license. Yesterday, Turner Broadcasting said it was voluntarily editing smoking scenes out of more than 1,700 episodes of Hanna-Barbera cartoons, including Tom and Jerry, Scooby Doo, The Jetsons and The Flintstones.
A spokesman for Turner Broadcasting said: "We recognize that it is not suitable for cartoons aimed at children to portray smoking in a cool context and has additionally pledged to review the entire Hanna-Barbera catalogue to remove scenes that appear to glamorise or encourage smoking."
Everyone is up in arms that Turner would maliciously hack great art like Tom and Jerry. They are upset that the new generation of kids will not know the true Tom and Jerry. These are but a few of the complaints that I have heard.
First of all, if an animation fan wants to view a complete uncut Tom & Jerry cartoon, why are they watching Boomerang? Don't they know that DVDs have made animation fans happy over the past few years by releasing restored and uncut compilations of vintage cartoons? Walt Disney Treasures, Looney Tunes Golden Collections and Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collections are just some of the places you can find these old cartoons. Plus you get special features and there are no commercials!
Second, people need to remember that these cartoons were not made for children! They were shown to an adult audience before feature films in a theatre. There was a lot of content that was not for children including extreme violence (which Tom & Jerry is the worst), sexuality, racism, politics as well as parodies of movies and people of the time.
So if a broadcaster is planning to show these 'adult' cartoons to children then I think that they have a responsibility to make the age appropriate. Kids won't be able to discern the context of the films because most of them haven't been taught about where and when they were made.
But on the flip side, I am tired of classic works like Tom and Jerry and the Flintstones constantly being recut to fit today's overprotective culture. When will the line be drawn? Will Roadrunner/Coyote cartoons be banned for animal cruelty? Will Speedy Gonzales be redubbed to take away his stereotypical Mexican accent? Will Garfield be redrawn slimmer because some complained that he is pro-obesity?
I am okay with this smoking issue because I understand that the broadcasters are trying to be socially aware. But I am getting tired of censorship cutting up classic works.
I will leave you with this short Flintstones commercial for Winston Cigarettes.