Cartoons are No Laughing Matter

I do not watch TV very regularly. As a matter of fact, while at Dartmouth, the only occasions when I have stuck to watching the black boxes on a regular basis have been during my breaks at home in Mexico. I generally only catch glimpses of major broadcast news channels on my way through the Jones Media Center, while studying in the periodicals room, or waiting for my plane in airport terminals.

I have tended to shy away from and avoid major national news networks like CNN and Fox, given their blatant and shameless bias for the Bush administration, and their inefficient distribution of impartial information on U.S. and global issues. As a matter of fact, I obtain my daily dose of news through independent and international sources, in order to avoid heavily manipulated reports and live a more sane student life. Yet recently I have been appalled, disgusted and, quite personally, offended by the national cartoon industry.

I sat down on Sunday night with a group of friends at Collis to watch a series of cartoons while finishing my homework. I must admit that ever since grammar school, I understood quite well that late night cartoons were for grown-ups only and contained quite a bit of grown-up humor. I expected all forms of un-political correctness, vulgarities and badly placed curse words. I was fine with that; it would be a night of cartoon fun with my friends. And so I was excited to watch TV shows with names like “Venture Brothers” or “Minoriteam” to entertain me during my night of homework.

Now, I consider myself to be quite mature at this stage, and can take quite a bit of rough, stale and stereotypical racist slurs thrown my way as “humor.” However, I never expected that cartoons could have hidden political agendas and be as offensive and racist as the ones I saw last Sunday night. As I remember, the plot for one of the cartoons consisted of the oh-so-accurate Mexican terrorists dressed up in large butterfly outfits wanting to infiltrate through the U.S. border. The cartoon was set in the dirt roads and bleached houses of Tijuana, Mexico, where Mexicans roamed the streets helplessly in large sombreros, were drunk at bars, or were taking naps. This perpetuation of racist stereotypes and prejudice towards Mexicans began to bother me. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

Next appeared a blonde, muscular, American superhero who had been sent to investigate the situation and detain the Mexican terrorists — in case you all hadn’t heard, Mexico is apparently full of them. On one of his missions, the badass superhero visited the “University of Mexico, Campus Tijuana.” Obviously that institution does not exist in reality, and this type of mentality perpetuates the prejudice towards Mexico’s large web of world-class universities. Most of the students in the classroom were older indigenous people or peasants that were portrayed as either asleep or in pursuit of the “English for Immigrants” class — another racially-driven fallacy. Regardless, the American hero was sent to the university to persecute a certain professor — portrayed with a terrible Spanish accent — who apparently helped terrorists. It was at this point that I picked up my stuff and left Collis, infuriated by the cartoons and political propaganda behind them.

First of all, the degree of racism, lack of knowledge about Mexico — the United States’ most immediate southern neighbor — and overall prejudice displayed was tremendous. If I thought that movies such as “Traffic,” “Desperado” or “The Mexican” displayed erroneous stereotypes of Mexico and Mexicans, these cartoons surpassed them by a long shot. Yet most importantly, these cartoons carried a political agenda: to increase the rejection towards Mexicans and southern immigrants, and pursue the effective implementation of the recently proposed immigration laws.

I do not know how much people have been following the immigration debates that have been sweeping the country, where both Republicans and Democrats discuss the best way to close America’s southern gates to immigrants. House Resolution 4377, also known as the Sensenbrenner law, requests that all illegal immigrants, or aliens as CNN describes them, be not only considered criminals, but have their most basic benefits like healthcare, education, and individual rights removed. It also suggests building a 2,000 kilometer wall between Mexico and the United States, similar to the Berlin wall of the Communist era or the Israeli-Palestine buffer zone.

Protests from innumerable groups in the United States and abroad have spread like wildfire. Just last week, over a million people marched in the streets of major U.S. cities. In Los Angeles alone, 500,000 people attended a massive rally last Sunday. Three days ago, 10,000 migrants marched from the Brooklyn Bridge to downtown Manhattan. High school kids continue to march and protest against HR4377 throughout Texas, California, Washington, D.C., New Mexico and other states. These protests don’t pursue a revolution in favor of immigrants. As a matter of fact, they are not even protesting to receive minimum wages for the arduous undesired labor that most immigrants harshly undergo. Waving American, Mexican, Central and South American flags, all the immigrants ask is that the government resolutions stop framing them as terrorists, aliens and criminals. They request that they be seen for what they really are: a vital force helping to drive the U.S. economy.

Yet here was the Cartoon Network, one of the most prestigious cartoon broadcasters in the United States, proselytizing against immigration, immigrants and distributing widespread racist poison amongst the “adult population” of the United States — according to the channel, they receive a third of all late night TV adult audience. I had tried to steer clear of Lou Dobb’s xenophobic comments on CNN, but I never expected something of this magnitude and political strength behind the cartoon industry.

I am still quite confused as to at which point terrorism and Mexican immigrants intermesh, and I am appalled at the connotative relationship CNN, Fox and, as I have now found, the Cartoon Network have been building between Mexico and terrorists. I especially question the need for a 2,000 kilometer wall between Mexico and the United States as a way to keep terrorists out of the country, given that a tremendously large and easily-crossed border with Canada exists. I can clearly read the increased racism against southern immigrants that these cartoons portray, and I infer that they pursue a completely different agenda than that of fighting terrorism and protecting the United States. I would not be the least bit surprised if Bush swallows the bullet and calls upon a new “War on Illegal Immigration,” which, next to his “War on Terrorism,” will almost fulfill his agenda.

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