I like to have fresh content daily at Cars In Depth, the car culture site that I edit. That can be a grind so to make the writing load a bit lighter, on Fridays I’ll feature YouTube videos with vintage car commercials (or promotional films) and “Car Tunes“, songs about cars and being on the road. It’s always fun to see what you learn on your way to learn about something else, and while I was looking for an appropriate vintage ad to run this week, I came across this animated 1951 short from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, directed by Tex Avery called The Car of Tomorrow. It was one of a series of silly looks at the future (or actually a satirical look at the present), looking at farms, homes and televisions as well. Retro future is always fun. Some people take it too seriously though.
You can find two different versions of The Car of Tomorrow on YouTube, one is a few seconds shorter because it’s been censored to satisfy today’s sense of political correctness. One of the original scenes that was cut out featured a Native American (though in 1951 of course he was called an “Indian”) driving a rather Pontiac-looking convertible that had a tipi as the convertible top. Another censored bit was of a Chinese man (can I say Chinaman?) riding in the back of a roadster that turned out to pulled by a rickshaw driver. Now to be honest, that shows how silly some of the PC sensitivities can be. Native Americans, at least the Plains Indians, indeed lived in tipi tents. Though today they are more likely to be powered by pedal bikes or scooter motors, rickshaws are still used throughout China and much of the rest of Asia.
It’s not just Tex Avery. There are many, many old cartoons with ethnic, racial and gender stereotypes. Warner Brothers even let the copyrights lapse on some of the Looney Tunes cartoons, allowing them to pass into the public domain, because it was thought that Bugs Bunny’s wartime imitation of Japanese folks might cause the studio some PC grief. When you consider just how racialist Imperial Japan was, how racism as well as imperialism drove some policies regarding China and Korea, Bugs’ squinty eyes and thick glasses just don’t seem to be a terrible moral crime.
What I think best demonstrates the nonsensical silliness and hypocrisy of the PC censorship of old cartoons best is just how selective the censorship is. The censored version apparently was not censored enough since the bowdlerized version has still upset feminists. The cartoon features a car “especially designed for the women” that is not only painted pink and trimmed with curtains, panties and flower planters, Avery gave it an obvious bust and derriere. Actually, come to think of it, Avery’s ladies car it is a bit reminiscent of the Dodge LaFemme, a pink car with a cosmetics case that Chrysler actually sold in the 1950s.
Also, while the censors were exquisitely sensitive about the feelings of Native Americans and Chinese, they absolutely ignored another ethnic stereotype. Coming not long after the deleted scenes with the Indian convertible and Chinese roadster, there is the “super thrifty Scotchman model”, pedal powered. In today’s racial and ethnic calculus it’s wrong to show Chinese using people power to get around but it’s perfectly fine for Scots to do the same and there’s nothing wrong at all about saying that the Scots are cheap.