Mickey Mouse Is An Ode To Minstrel Shows
What do Mario, Bugs Bunny, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Mickey Mouse have in common, aside from wasting countless hours of our Saturday mornings? The answer: They all wear white gloves, as do most cartoon characters you can name. But ... why? It doesn't make sense for Italian plumbers and coked-up hedgehogs to share the same fashion sense. As it turns out, it's all a big shout-out to incredibly racist minstrel shows.
Minstrel shows were a once-popular form of American entertainment wherein white performers would black up their faces to do silly sketches and sing songs while wearing tuxedos, top hats, and yes, those white gloves. They're mostly remembered today as a tragic byproduct of more racist times -- the central conceit was "Those silly black people are all so happy and ignorant!" But back in the day, it was high comedy. So when early cartoonists like Disney were designing their characters, they paid a little homage ...
Walt Disney, Warner Bros.
M-I-C K-E-Y, W-T-F?
Mickey Mouse is probably the worst offender. While Bugs and the gang kept their racist odes to unfortunate accessories, Mickey's whole look was modeled on blackface singers: The black body and head, large white eyeballs, white area around the mouth ...
That doesn't sound anything like a mouse, but it does sound a lot like one of the more embarrassing trends in American history.