The Top Hollywood Scandals: An Animated Controversy
The Top Hollywood Scandals: An Animated Controversy
Not since Fatty Arbuckle's infamous Hollywood parties in the 1920s has there been such a flurry of debate about the morals and behaviour of some of the biggest names in Tinsel Town.
Enough is enough some are saying and the guns are out for the stars of the big screen and the small screen.
But it is the two-dimensional celebrities of the TV and Movie industry who are under the microscope more than ever. The outrageous antics of 'South Park' have been villified for such scenes as naked angels fluttering through the air and implying that Satan was having rumpy-pumpy with the late Saddam Hussein.
They seemed a perfect match but fundamentalist Christian groups described such goings-on as "cinematic cyanide" and demanded they be banned. Cartman was not available for comment, thankfully enough.
The Fox Channel's comedy 'Family Guy' has been the object of dozens of complaints about its on-screen nudity and profanity to such an extent that the FCC was involved.
In one episode 'Business Guy' in December 2009 lead character Peter Griffin is seen taking his father-in-law Carter Pewterschmidt to a strip club and introducing him to the wonders of a lap-dance. But it wasn't just the old man who suffered a heart attack as moral watchdog's were spitting nails at the screen and blood-pressure ratings soared.
The horrors of the Quagmire
Also the shock of the revelation about Dan Quagmire's sex reassignment surgery in May 2010 is still reverbrating around the showbiz circles. Plus the reaction of family dog Brian Griffin in the show with 37 seconds of vomiting marked a new record for a continuous upchuck on TV by either human or animal.
The criticisms continued from organisations such as the Parent Televsion Council and others which have targeted many other shows and movies such as 'Team America' , 'Shrek' , 'American Dad' and the short-lived 'Father of the Pride' amongst many other others that have been acccused of indecency.
Apple and fig-leaf
Of course in this technological age of the inernet and multi-media outlets it is not only in the movies that cartoon nudity has become a hot potato.
In June 2010 Apple censored a webcomic version of James Joyce's classic story 'Ulysses' by cropping a nude picture.
Ironically the original novel was censored in the 1920s so 'Thus spake Zarathrusta' indeed, you might say.
The decision created some anger over the cover-up of several pictures. These included a man's weiner exposed in mid-flight as he dived into the sea and also a woman's breasts which were going to be covered by, of all things, a fig leaf.
Try introducing that into the plot of one of the most difficult reads in 20th century literature. After a week Apple climbed down after having a second, and much closer look at the comic.
Chad Rutkowski of publishers 'Throwaway Horse' commenting on the reviewed decision said:
“The sense that he gave me was that they we're going to try to get it approved and up there as quickly as we can,”
He said this without a trace of irony or any inkling of the new-found enthusiasm behind closed doors about the re-think.
Spreading the Marge
The original decision was seen as a backlash against controversial events such as Marge Simpson's photo spreads in Playboy in 2009. Now supporters of freedom of cartoon expression in Hollywood and elsewhere are delighted that freedom will reign.
The furore over the fact that Marge Simpson featured on the cover of ‘Playboy’ magazine was met with predictable anger by many sections of conservative American society.
The woman who made fashionable the blue bee-hive hairstyle became the pin-up girl for the nation’s red-blooded youth.
An admittedly tasteful shot adorned the cover with Madge sitting to the side in a coquettish pose on a chair with the Playboy bunny logo discreetly positioned to protect her modesty.
However as Editorial Director James Jellinek has admitted the contents inside the magazine were “very, very racy” adding that “she is a stunning example of the female form”.
This had led to concerns amongst campaigners that this was merely another attempt by Hugh Heffner’s empire to gain mainstream notoriety and boost sales. But it represented an historic turning point in the perceptions of nudity and lascivious behaviour in the cartoon world.
Never before had the animated community been subject to such widespread and public scrutiny. I also say this without a trace of irony or an inkling of any new-found enthusiasm behind closed doors.
The Moral Majority backlash
Mabel Bouffant, lead spokeswoman of ‘Mothers Against Everything’ was particularly outraged as usual. Speaking in September 2009, she said:
"This is just typical of the indecent mores of TV and movie celebrities wishing to cash in on their exhibitionist tendencies and pervert the minds of healthy young Americans."
"Isn't it bad enough that we laud this dysfunctional family, we worship their decadent and indolent values at a time when we need true, hard-working citizens to stand up and say enough is enough.
And it's such an insult to the U.S. Postal system, it's enough that we have to suffer them staring out at us from our stamps without this too"
A cure for bad circulation
The Chief Executive of Playboy Enterprises, Scott Flanders (no relation to Ned Flanders) was trying to address falling sales of the magazine as it competed with the internet.
Circulation had fallen dramatically from 3.15 million to 2.6 million since 2006. “It’s never been done” he explained “and we thought it would be kind of hip, cool and unusual”. However, is this anything particularly new or have we all been here before? Are we getting caught up in an exaggerated controversy over nothing?
Veteran cultural historian Harvey Backslider certainly seems to think so. He has studied the impact of cartoon celebrities for many years and does not find anything particularly shocking or surprising about recent events.
“I remember when I was a kid in the 1930’s the uproar caused by Minnie Mouse displaying her bloomers on-screen and Donald Duck’s refusal to wear pants."
"But if that wasn’t enough to ruffle some feathers then the sight of Betty Boop’s legs certainly did. I mean her legs sure were something, especially those great thighs."
"She was specifically targeted by the National Legion of Decency at the time and the Hays Code of 1933 eventually made her cover up at the risk of losing her career."
"My dear mother almost divorced my daddy over that woman and I might never have got here you know. So you got to have a perspective on these things”
A further more detailed exposition of Betty Boop's dalliances with the censor is provided by noted author Carolina Muscle in his classic article 'boop boop a boop' which gives a fuller history and plenty of pictures. And I mean plenty!
A sordid history recalled
And there are many other examples of on-screen deviance throughout the cinematic history of the USA. Arguably they are much more contentious than the recent controversies and hysterical debates.
Certainly the Simpsons scandal paled into insignificance compared to the distaste that greeted Bugs Bunny’s on-screen transvestism as early as the 1940’s which led to calls for his sacking.
We are also reminded of the infamous ‘spaghetti sucking’ scene from ‘Lady and the Tramp’ in 1955 which was almost cut due to its lascivious content. Even Pinocchio's nose caused an uproar. Walt Disney were flabbergasted at the crtiticism.
And most notably there was the 1988 scandal of Jessica Rabbit who was portrayed as actually being married to a hyperactive cottontail. In the conservative atmosphere of that decade in the 1980s anyone condoning inter-species relations was bound to meet furious opposition.
It was the end of her fledgling career and she’s never appeared in a major Hollywood movie again. So perhaps Backslider has a point and the media is getting all this way out of proportion.
Politics laid bare
Not according to radical Republican Congressman Milton Dumpster who perceives a wider picture and deeper implications of a new trend.
“These cartoon characters are just an example of what happens when you elect a Democrat into the White House."
"The moral fibre of our wonderful nation starts to unravel before our eyes.
It’s no coincidence that these events are now happening at the same time that Barack Obama is bringing Socialism and unfettered Liberalism to the USA. It smacks of the degeneracy of the liberal left against the true feelings of God fearing Americans everywhere."
‘Yes we can’ he says.’ Too right’ I say ‘Yes we can do what we goddam like’ is what he’s actually telling us. But what do you expect from a two-dimensional President who's a TV cartoon himself”
But what of another man at the heart of this issue, Homer Simpson himself. Reflecting back, what does he have to say about having his wife splashed across the pages of a soft-porn magazine.
“It was OK with me” , he said, “For the first time in years I got to see her naked”
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