Walter Lantz was an animator whose chief claim to fame was his Woody Woodpecker cartoons. Less known is the fact that Lantz created a film that is so blatantly racist, so unashamedly degrading to African Americans that... Well... It's actually funny.
"Funny" in the sense that, when confronted with such unrelieved, jaw-dropping ignorance, you can't even waste your energy getting indignant. You just have to laugh at the prima facie absurdity of the thing.
We first came across "Scrub Me Mama" about 20 years ago when it resurfaced, after decades of utter obscurity, on Rhino Home Video's "Weird Cartoons, Volume 2." Watching it, you may be inclined to think that we're much more enlightened these days. And in some sense, you'd be right. Much more disturbing than anything this film can serve up is the era that allowed it to be made -- an era that's long gone.
But while today's mainstream has no tolerance for such depictions of African Americans, other populations still seem to be fair game. Asians, Italians, not to mention the overweight and the mentally ill, are just a few groups that are still regularly subject to harmful stereotyping in our popular entertainment.
That said, Don Raye's title song is a damned catchy one. So if you find the video to be too much for your delicate sensibilities, just minimize the screen and listen to some crazy boogie woogie... Rub-lee-ub-dub!