Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Are OTR enthusiasts racist?

If you are even half as enthusiastic as I am about OTR, every month you probably hear the words, "Jap" or "Kraut" or "Negro."   There are other words we hear but more rarely: "nip" being one.

During World War II it was "acceptable" to be racist - even though an anti-race message is many times being brought forward in the same program (for instance, in The Adventures of Superman, there are conflicting racial tides all over the place during the war and a little bit even after the war.)

The US Goverment itself put out "racist" messages in propaganda, in the US and over in Europe - not to mention Japan.

Is it morally wrong to listen to Amos 'n' Andy? Is this something you ever think about?  Are different races being made "fun" of in that show or is it any different that say, Duffy's Tavern, where everyone on the show is presented with a below-average intellegence?

Chester Riley (Life of Riley) is no different than the Kingfish on Amos 'n' Andy: he's always trying to get a fast buck.  Same goes for characters throughout television history: Ralph Kramden and Fred Flintstone, for examples.

I'm not presenting a case one way or another.  It's just something I often think about.


  1. Interesting topic. I listen to Amos & Andy and just plain enjoy the humor. I do not think about the racial stuff and just enjoy the show. To not listen to it, is robbing people of the enjoyment of the show. When you listen to Lum and Abner do you think it is putting down whites? It is the humor!

    Japs and Huns are often used in the war years. But at the same time, right after the war there were many shows addressing CARE and helping out the countries that had been hit hardest by the war.

    I wish your other readers would express their concerns about this topic. It would be interesting to hear others opinions.

  2. Thanks for the comments BB. I mentioned Superman... as someone who is going through the entire series (and you know there are more than 1000 programs) I am hearing both sides of the issue for sure. For one thing, TAoS was an especially cutting edge show, politcally. As a matter of fact, other than straight out news shows or commentary, TAoS is probably the #1 political show of OTR.

    During the war, TAoS message was clea: The Nazis and the Japanese were crazy, evil lunatics.

    As you (sort of) mentioned, after the war, TAoS was doing shows about racism in America (cross burnings, for example - in 2 different 15+ show episodes.) And as you mentioned, helping starving kids in Germany, Japan and all over Europe. Even their sponsor (Kellogg's) promoted [paraphrasing here]: "Eat all of your cereal gang, so we can provide more cereal to those who need it overseas."

    Personally, I think some of it was racist but more along the Japanese route than Amos 'n' Andy (Amos 'n; Andy was the best-loved shows by blacks during that time period.)

    The Japanese thing went a little too far - at least when looked at through a 70-year-old telescope. The teeth, the eyes, the accents.. But after pearl Harbor, they kind of "had that coming", didn't they?

    OTR is one of the more special things out there and only the OTR enthusiast seems to know it. It's a day to day or week to week time machine. You can't find that in old movies or even old newspapers. You can only find it in OTR.

    And that was life then. That's just the way it was. We can't change it. We are "historians." Funny or not funny, enjoyable or not enjoyable, it exists and it's history.

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