The 6 Most Ridiculously Racist Old-Timey Comics
There was a time when you couldn't get a job in the comic book industry unless you knew how to draw at least half a dozen hilarious racial stereotypes, and could depict in detail what each looked like when getting punched in the face by a marine. This was the same for the advertisers in said comics, who knew that nothing could get 1940s America reaching for its wallet like brazen ignorance of anyone who existed outside the master race.
Fortunately for us, racism plus time equals hilarity.
Wheaties vs the Japanese
To be fair to Wheaties and their awesome racism, this ad came out during a a point in our nation's history where it was patriotic to use racial slurs. Like Ford Motor Company's 1951 campaign, "So simple to drive, a Korean woman could do it -- if her people didn't have flippers." Or the campaign from the late forties, "Italians fuck their sisters for money; use Colgate."
True story: Years ago, I was selected by Knight Rider to defend the planet Knight Rider. So obviously, my extensive military background makes it difficult to look at combat tactics from the same point of view as racist Wheaties marketing civilians. That being said, this trap seems really fucking stupid, even for a comic book ad. A box of cereal in the middle of the trail? And Wheaties is saying that this, leaving a cereal box out, is a big step up for Japanese military intelligence. What was their trap before, just leaving a cupcake out on a landmine?
The illustrator may have forgotten to draw the rest of the soldiers, but it's more likely that during the noisy cereal discussion, the rest of the squad was taken out by enemy snipers.
That's what I take issue with; despite their brilliance in quickly identifying the booby trap, no one thinks there's anything wrong with giving a 10 minute soliloquy about all the wonders of its bait. When Knight Rider and I were racing through the Rocket Cosmos and we came across a bag of pasta wired to a thermal astrobomb, I did not turn to him and exclaim, "If only the fiends hadn't booby trapped that macaroni! Why, Knight Rider, it's loaded with nutrition and with some trusty know-how and an old timey paste pot, we could make our dames wigstands they'd flip for! Why, they'd be so fancy, those space Chinamen might forget all about this crazy old war, boy oh boy!" That's a good way to get killed by your own talking car.
Wheaties vs the Japanese II
It's too bad for that soldier that "wheaties" is Japanese slang for "child boy whore." And actually, if you move the accent to the first syllable, it means "a trick child boy whore" that looks like a can of peanuts but actually shoots poisonous snakes when you open him. Man, how did we ever win that war? Oh yeah...
Great, now nothing's funny anymore. Thanks a lot, nuclear holocaust!
What's Your BQ?
To get a glimpse at just how bad things were back in the racism boom years, you have to see the public service announcements trying to address the problem. What's your B.Q.?
Question A is brilliant because the races are mixed in with everyday things like spiders and "long hair music" to trick you into being honest. "Cabbage... UGH! DISLIKE. Spiders... NO THOUGHT! VACANT. Hey I'm on a roll! Jews... UGH! DIS--whoa, you almost got me, B.Q. Test!"
I feel like there should be an answer key. I mean, how do I know if I'm right for giving Baptists an UGH, but giving Negroes an UM? And I have a question about the author of this quiz - how is the enlightened non-racist quiz maker and the guy who refers to "long-hair music" the same person?
One thing I do know, the illustrator clearly wasn't on board. At least three of the world's races are depicted as being stoned out of their goddamned skulls:
Instant Cereal vs the Japanese
Deadly chlorine gas and a promise of sexual assault by bright yellow seamen are two of the leading things that make me unhungry for Instant Ralston.
But this was the 1940s; glorious combat death was their Count Chocula. Check out the redhead when Tom says they're all about to die slowly from battery fumes:"YEAH!" Maybe he took "dying slowly from battery fumes" to mean "we've been locked up with supergroup Bon Jovi!"
Actually, he's already realizing that death is nothing to fear as long as you know you're taking dozens of filthy Japs with you:
That's the last panel. Hopefully the war ended before they were ever able to produce another episode of this, so for countless kids, Tom Mix's story ended with his lungs being slowly eaten by acidic battery gas. Or maybe part two is eighty half-melted corpses being picked apart by sharks: "Try new Ralston Seafood Pie! Also, unrelated to food products, here's a cat shitting in a cup of pudding! Ralston gives young America cowboy energy!"
Buzzy vs The Deaf Haters
We have here another of the well-meaning but misguided attempts at tolerance, with this powerful rebuke of those who would see the deaf hung from lamp posts.
The fact that Wolfie seems genuinely upset that a deaf person somewhere might be happy isn't quite as strange as Buzzy's response being anything other than, "Wolfie, are you reading out loud from the I'm The Devil Phrase Book?" What were people like back in the sixties that we needed ads like this? "Dizzy Duckling is here to remind you that sometimes you don't HAVE to kill one of your women to teach the others a lesson!"
It's a powerful moment when Wolfie realizes that hating someone for losing their hearing might not be the greatest party trick. "Hey everyone! Watch me get pissed off about how deaf this guy is! And I'm wearing this lampshade!!! Wait wait, I'm about to get really grumpy about how the Jewish guy likes the dip! Let's... PARTY!"
Their entire message is undermined by the ending of course. You'll notice that in the first three panels there are floating notes to indicate music is playing. Notice what's missing from Johnny's performance:
That's right. The piano doesn't work, he's sitting there quietly clicking at the dead keys but nobody tells him because they think it's fucking hilarious.
Rub the Buddha!
See? Old-timey comics were all about discovering the religions and traditions of our Asian brothers. Why, here's an ad for a little Buddha you can keep in your own home, with a concise description of the tenets of the Buddhist faith:
"When you want to pay off debts, simply rub The BUDDHA. When you want to buy a house, simply rub The BUDDHA. When you want to go on a long-overdue vacation, simply rub The BUDDHA. When you want to buy a new car, TV, boat or whatever you wish, simply rub The BUDDHA!... The BUDDHA miraculously puts fist-loads of cash right in your pocket!"
This is the greatest miracle of economics and theology that has ever been. If you're still not convinced of the sanity of the president of The BUDDHA's research and distribution departments, read this excerpt from the eighth paragraph: "First, let me assure you of this. I know exactly what I'm doing." Suck on that, naysayers.
The only thing I'm concerned about is that there's an option you can check on the mail-in coupon to get TWO of these things. Now I'm not an economist, so I can't predict the long-term economic effects of everyone having all the free money they want, AND THEN DOUBLE THAT, so to be safe, please only order one The BUDDHA.