Saturday, December 18, 2010

Betty Boop Film Class

Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle is one that I absolutely had to cover. For one, it's really funny. It has some great sight gags. I especially like the swarm of swimming islanders chasing Betty and Bimbo's boat around the hemisphere.

But what people truly remember the film for is accusations of racism, with which I don't agree, and one of the most memorably risque moments in all of Betty Boop where Betty dances topless, with naught but a lay covering her nipples. As with most Fleischer, the set-up is thin and actually a bit weird (Bimbo's just motoring around the planet playing a lute? Poorly?) and is little more than an excuse to have funny stuff happen.

I found this one in high-def!

About the argument for racism, I don't buy it. Yes. It's a horribly stereotyped portrayal of islanders, but it's a stereotype that pervades Western culture and literature, and IT'S FUNNY. Not because it's true, it's funny because of the culture that fostered the idea. The actual islanders are unfunny, our perceptions of them are funny. Fleischer wasn't making a statement about Hawaiian or Polynesian islanders being retarded savages, he was exploiting an idea that persists to this day. Look at Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. That was purposely and explicitly imitating the old Saturday serials. When making comedy, you take things that are common in culture and exaggerate or comment on them. To call this racist is to liken it to the portrayal of the Japanese in WWII-era cartoons, which is silly.

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