Okay, so I keep meaning to look for this semi-rant I wrote about this cartoon ages ago.
The main thing is:
- This is a cartoon in blackface, seriously
- By which I mean, it’s based on Al Jolson, famed jazz singer and blackface performer from the 30s (this character is named Owl Jolson)
- More specifically this cartoon is based on his film The Jazz Singer, in which his climactic reconciliation of his background as a Hasidic Jew and jazz/blackface performer comes about with him in blackface
- This whole narrative plays into a dual role of Jews as the “new Blacks” or the “N——- of Europe” at the turn of the last century (though European anti-Semitism has a long history) and their role in US minstrelsy/proliferation of white jazz performance in the first part of the 20th century.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this cartoon, and I used to watch it all the time on the Tex Avery show and Toon Heads back when Cartoon Network played old cartoons all the time. It’s not a bad cartoon, and it’s one of the top examples of the role cartoons had in expanding the listenership of jazz. But it is a very interesting example of just how insidious blackface was and on how many levels it was applied.
Sheeyit, I never knew.