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Mexico issues offensive "Memin Pinguin" stamp

Mexico’s new stamps depicting 60-year-old cartoon character “Memin Pinguin”.

House Blenders: “Radical” Russ is your barista for the next few days while Pam is on vacation for her anniversary.

( The Mexican government has issued postage stamps depicting an exaggerated black cartoon character known as Memin Pinguin, drawing protest from U.S. activists Wednesday just weeks after remarks by President Vicente Fox angered American blacks.

I guess the Mexicans are producing the stamps that “not even blacks” want.

The series of five stamps released Wednesday depicts a hapless boy drawn with exaggerated features, thick lips and wide-open eyes. His appearance, speech and mannerisms are the subject of kidding by white characters in the comic book, which started in the 1940s and is still published in Mexico.

The Mexican government defended the stamps, saying that like Speedy Gonzalez — a cartoon mouse with a Mexican accent that debuted in the United States in 1953 — the Memin Pinguin character shouldn’t be interpreted as a racial slur.

I’m not sure the analogy quite fits. White characters were never kidding Speedy for his mannerisms and speech. Plus, Speedy is a mouse, drawn with no offensive stereotypical features as far as I can see, unless a sombrero and black hair count. (Now, his brother, Slowpoke Gonzalez, he might be a little racist.) Speedy’s accent, voiced by the late great Mel Blanc, was accurate and never derogatory. I’ve read elsewhere that it was racist that a non-Latino was doing that accent, but I find that absurd. Mel Blanc did all those old Looney Tunes voices; was he also insensitive to stutterers (Porky Pig), Southerners (Foghorn Leghorn), the French (Pepe le Pew), and people with speech impediments (Elmer Fudd)?

I don’t know; maybe some Latinos found Speedy to be racist, but I grew up in a Mexican-American neighborhood and me and my Latino friends used to watch all the old Warner Brothers cartoons together and my friends always liked Speedy Gonzalez best. Speedy was always a hero, and apparently some Latinos fought to keep Speedy on the air against other Latino activists who tried to claim it’s racist:

(Wikipedia) Speedy’s cartoons have come under fire in recent years for their alleged stereotypical depictions of Mexicans and Mexican life. Mice in the shorts are usually shown as lazy, womanizing and hard-drinking while Speedy wears a huge sombrero and sometimes plays in a mariachi band (although Speedy’s only real vice is implied to be a weakness for pretty girls). It was this criticism that prompted Cartoon Network to largely shelve Speedy’s films when it gained exclusive rights to broadcast them in 1999. However, fan campaigns to put Speedy back on the air, as well as lobbying by The League of United Latin American Citizens, who argued that Speedy’s cleverness and personality was a positive depiction of Mexicans, turned the tide in his favor, and in 2002, “the fastest mouse in all Mexico” was put back into rotation.

I don’t think the same argument can be made for Memin Pinguin. The context is different when viewed against our history of minstrel shows and Steppin’ Fetchit / Aunt Jemima type characters.

What do you think, House Blenders? As a stereotypical middle-aged overweight straight white guy, the only thing close to offensive to me in the media today is the lineup of bad network sitcoms featuring the stereotypical middle-aged overweight straight white guy as a bumbling buffoon who’d be lost without the wit and cleverness of his impossibly-hot TV wife (Kevin James, Jim Belushi, I’m looking in your direction…) I look at Memin Pinguin and it looks offensive to me, I look at Speedy Gonzalez and don’t find offense.

(Thanks to House Blenders Paul and Holly for the tip)

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