200608221122In today’s depressing news, Turner Broadcasting is tinkering with its old toons again, after a complaint about an appearance of smoking in a Tom and Jerry cartoon. As far as we can tell — and we really hope we’re right — the ban applies only in the UK:

“We are going through the entire catalog,” Yinka Akindele, spokeswoman for Turner in Europe said on Monday.

“This is a voluntary step we’ve taken in light of the changing times,” she said, adding that the painstaking review had been prompted by the Ofcom complaint.

[snip]”The licensee has … proposed editing any scenes or references in the series where smoking appeared to be condoned, acceptable, glamorized or where it might encourage imitation,” Ofcom said, adding that “Texas Tom” was one such example.

Akindele said cartoons would only be modified “where smoking could be deemed to be cool or glamorized,” and that scenes where a villain was featured with a cigarette or cigar would not necessarily be cut.

As usual, Mark Evanier has some words of wisdom:

Let me type that again and boldface two words: This, they say, is in response to one complaint about scenes in two cartoons.

But of course, that can’t be true. You don’t start chopping up your old cartoons in response to one complaint about two scenes. You do it because someone high in the company says to someone else high in the company, “You know, one of these days, we may have a problem with this.” For some reason, when they make these decisions, they like to make it sound like they had no choice in the matter; that they gave in to public pressure, even when that pressure was close to non-existent. It’s an excuse to take an action that is probably more economic than idealistic…and to make it sound like an act of social responsibility.


  1. Doesn’t surprise me. This is right in line with the removal of the “Jasper” episodes of Tom & Jerry…remember the ones with the mammy in them? When was the last time ya saw one of those?

    Did you know that the current edition of Disney’s Fantasia that is all over on DVD is edited so that you can’t see “unsavory” characters that were originally in it?

    It saddens me that people are so goddamn sensitive about crap like this these days. Are we to simply clense all of the world’s past simply because it isn’t up to snuff with today’s standards? Heaven forbid we tell future generations WHY things were the way they were in the old days of animation, etc…

  2. I mostly find this silly because very few children would be interested in these cartoons. Most kids today would probably be put to sleep by a Tom & Jerry cartoon.

  3. First they removed that black “mammy” character, then trimmed out the violence, and now they’re getting rid of smoking scenes–these poor cartoons are gonna wind up with a running time of about 15 seconds…

  4. Urm, my son is 11 years old and thinks the Tom & Jerry cartoons are hilarious. He’s loved them since he can remember. My older son, now 23, used to also watch the old Tom & Jerry cartoons since he was 3 years old and he loved them, too.

    Connie Willis wrote a science fiction short story published years ago, in which a near-future school cuts all offending passages out of a Shakespeare play, and maybe two lines are all that remain. We’ve been on that slippery slope for a while now …

  5. “Most kids”, Kat Kan. My own kids love them, but I imagine them (and your kids) to be the exception rather than the rule. Or maybe cartoon violence is more universal than I give it credit for…

  6. When did the parents (who most likely loved this same crap when they were little) grow up and totally fall out of touch though? That is something that boggles my mind. If you enjoyed these same characters as a child why are they so bad for your child?

  7. What we are seeing is a resurgance of the old “hygenics” movement from the 1910s and ’20s, which brought us alcohol prohibition, and had been somewhat discredited by its association with the NAZI movement in the 1930s and ’40s. They’re back now, in force, twiddling with epidemiological science to make “second hand smoke” seem more dangerous than it is (look at the actual data rather than just the summaries and you’ll get a very different picture), and passing public smoking bans hither and yon.

    There will always be those who can’t stand seeing other people enjoying themselves, and this applies just as much to cartoons and other entertainment as it does to the real world.

  8. For stupidity like this the nanny state UK is trying hard to lead the world. Just because there’s no boot stamping on a face doesn’t mean 1984 didn’t come true.

    Things are so pathetic here now even the HSE (Government Health and Safety department) says everything has gone too far.

  9. “As far as we can tell — and we really hope we’re right — the ban applies only in the UK”

    Yeah, it’s alright for you, we get all the squirrel flu and censorship…

  10. I have no problem with this at all. If you’re going to have rules about the content of children’s programmes, it seems perfectly sensible and consistent to say that repeats need to comply too.

  11. Paul, the problem is though…these cartoons (at least in the time that they were made) weren’t made for children. They were played ahead of movies for the most part and were considered artistic achievements, however silly/childish they seem today.

  12. Yes, but the regulatory pressure here comes because they’re showing them as children’s programmes. Nobody would bat an eyelid if it was airing in some sort of history-of-animation showcase. If they want to keep showing them as kids programmes – and they do – then they have to play by today’s rules, and they can’t just say “Oh yeah, but it was fine when it was made.”

  13. Yeah, but does anyone need these things deleted? See, I know what my kids watch on teevee, and I restrict it. I’m a parent, that’s kinda the job. If a child sees smoking on a cartoon- or, god help us, Mamie- what’s it going to do? Kill them? Warp them? Or am I just going to turn off the tube, and talk to them about it? This has happened to me with some of the stuff on “Rocky and Bullwinke”, especially its depiction of Native Americans and Mexicans. I turned it off, explained why, and that was it. We don’t need others to do our jobs for us.

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