Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Speedy Gonzales

So every once in a while I decide to revisit my youth and watch some good ol' fashioned cartoons. Only this time I saw them in a new light. It's not a new discovery to say that Speedy Gonzales is representative of mexican stereotypes but last night while I was watching "1001 Rabbit Tales" on my netflix account it became newly apparent to me. This particular clip I found on youtube begins with a group of traditionally mexican mice (wearing the sombrero) speaking in what seems like very confused spanish on one side of a fence while the "gringo pussy cat" is on the other blocking their entrance. To me, it immediately resembled a type of crossing the border scene. The mexican mice wanting to get to the other side to get their cheese and the gringo pussy cat keeping them from doing so. Once they see him they immediately scurry away, representing a typical immigration stereotype.

In order to get the cheese they decide to find Speedy Gonzales, "the fastest mouse in all Mexico". The head mouse says that he is a "friend of [his] sister" which also resembled what we had been talking about with how the family is portrayed in mexico. Everybody knows everybody through family. The way they speak is particularly interesting. The spanish is very jumbled and according to the youtube comments (I don't speak spanish) it doesn't make sense. Their english is also shabby. One mouse says "anybody got it an idea?" seemingly commenting on the inability for mexicans to learn english. But anyways, just found this interesting.


  1. Love the post! It made think about what I watched growing up. Lets not forget about the effects of popular culture on generations younger than ourselves. Aside from popular children's television, is children's film. Disney has managed to monopolize this market for children in popular culture. Growing up as an avid Disney animated movie viewer it never occurred me that I did not see people that looked me in the movies. Maybe that was just me, but as I got a little older, I recognized it. If I felt that way, what does Latino/Latina youth feel or any ethnic youth?

    Disney's diverse ethnic representation is not the best, yet not the worst. There is Princess Jasmine, Mulan, Cinderella, Esmeralda, and their recent ethnic edition; the Frog Princess. But what about a Latino/Latina animated character that is recognized as the heroine, the villain, or simply recognized across the Disney culture. Recalling my Disney animations I was only able to find three references to Latin@ Disney animation.

    The first is Disney's 1944 animated film The "Three Caballeros". It follows three characters, two of which I have no idea what their names are and Donald Duck, across Latin American countries. A very colorful animation and sound to say the least, explores Latin foods, dance, music, clothing, and even sexuality. In the background you hear lots of Latin horns and beats. In one scene, the young woman singing the song, "Quindin de yaya" there is a beautiful young woman with dark hair and curves, almost playfully flirting with the animated characters. This film did a very uncommon practice of keeping the Spanish in film. No subtitles and few translations, the Spanish was able to be empowered without being entirely subdued by English. Today you do not see alot of the intermingling of English and Spanish in media unless it specified for one particular audience. A film like this today would be great for children from every culture.

    The second film is "Oliver and Company" of 1988. It tells the story of an orphaned kitten in New York that gets help from his street smart dog buddies. In this film the Latin character is a Chihuahua named Tito. Very macho, the Spanish speaker accent when speaking English. In this scene, Tito is nominated to hot wire a car as he is the only one who knows how. It is funny, but what message is being sent or read?
    (Sorry for the poor sound quality)

    The third film is Toy Story 3, released in 2010. In this movie Buzz has a "Spanish Mode". Buzz is very excessive in movements and has this Don Juan lover interests with Jessie. Unlike the "Three Caballeros", where Spanish stood alone without the aid of English subtitles, every time Buzz opens his mouth in Spanish mode it is translated into English. And unlike the other two films, this "Spanish Buzz" is a temporary character. Not marketed as Spanish or remembered as a Spanish speaking character, it was for a minutes in time. I suppose Disney/Pixar is making an effort to incorporate Latin@ cultures in its main stream films yet it is still holding because it did not allow for an Latin@ character to stand on their own throughout the film.
    (First 2 minutes only)

    Overall I believe Disney's best efforts, not perfect outcome, were in the "Three Caballeros" film. It explored some Latin@ cultures more extensively, allowed the language to stand along side domineering English, and gave Latin@ characters full, starring roles. Disney should try harder to recreate this in today's popular culture for children.

  2. I wrote my essay about this, but I took a different stance on the whole "knows my sister" thing. I took as a sexual reference...that EVERYBODY's sister knows Speedy Gonzales because he gets around. Thats what I took from it, especially since all the other mice in the gang start to laugh in that macho way.

  3. Speedy Gonzales looks like Frito El Bandito!

    It's great to go back to cartoons and shows we watched as kids and look at them in a new light. It becomes easier to notice details we hadn't before and realize what it really was that we were watching. Once again, an example of how media feeds into stereotypes.