Thursday, October 14, 2010

Carmen Miranda in Cartoons

I am sure some of you are familiar Carmen Miranda, but for those of you who aren't she was a popular Brazilian singer and actress in the 1940s and 1950s. You know, the lady with the fruit hats and dresses. I remember seeing her in all these cartoons when I was young, but lately I came across one of the best I've seen yet. Stewie Griffin (from Family Guy) dancing with a fruit hat. It's very brief, but it's obvious that he is impersonating Carmen Miranda.

This made me look back at some of the old school cartoons she was in and this is what I found. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Tom and Jerry. I didn't want to embed them to keep the post short, but they are all worth checking out. Bugs Bunny is hiding in (and eating) her fruit hat as she performs a song, Daffy Duck is dressed up as her and dancing, and Tom's is being mocked with the song "Mamae Eu Quero" (Mommy I Want). I think it's really interesting how in all these occasions she is being used as a comical figure. She is too excessive, extravagant, and outrageous to be real, so she fits perfectly in these cartoons. Her music was often criticized for not having any significant meaning and being "unintelligent." They consisted of sounds such as "Chica Chica Boom Chic" and "Tico Tico," but the song "Mamae Eu Quero" (the one in the Tom and Jerry video) translates into "Mommy I want to suckle, give me my pacifier so I will not cry," which you can judge for yourself. I mean, Carmen Miranda wasn't taken very seriously during her time, as evidenced by the drag performance of "Mamae Eu Quero" below, but seeing her in all these cartoons makes me think of how often Latin Americans are comically portrayed in other aspects of the media, especially the mocking of their accent, which Miranda was also a victim of.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that Miranda was definitely exploited by the media in her day, especially in as the image of the "Lady with the tutti-frutti hat". I'm adding a link below that directs to a 1947-ish Chiquita Banana commercial titled "Chiquita Banana and the Cannibals"

    In this commercial, a black monkey-like native with an African accent is about to cannibalize a white explorer (note the flagrant racism) but suddenly Chiquita Banana (an imitation of Carmen Miranda) appears and encourages him to eat bananas instead. The cartoon figure of Chiquita Banana is a banana, dressed Carmen Miranda - styled clothing: a revealing red dress and a large red hat. Music plays as she enters the scene, and she sings in a sensuous voice. The swaying of her hips as she walks evokes images of Miranda's samba routines.

    I view the representation of Miranda as a cartoonish half-woman half-banana as sheer exploitation of this popular Latina icon. She was often encouraged by producers to stick tropical fruit in her large hats, as advertisement for products that the United Fruity Company was obtaining overseas in Latin America.