M-i-c, k-e-y

Nope: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/mickey-mouse-racial-caricature/


The article you posted says exactly what @beschizza said:

" Nicholas Sammond argued in his book Birth of an Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation that Mickey Mouse (and similar animated characters) wasn’t just like a minstrel — the premier Disney character, according to Sammond, was a cartoon minstrel:"

The article was debunking the specific myth that Mickey Mouse was based on the Jigaboo creation of Michael Ray Charles, which came along nearly 70 years later.


First line of that article:

Mickey Mouse may have a connection to minstrel shows, but he wasn’t based on a racist “Jigaboo” character.

Mickey Mouse and other early anthropomorphic animated characters share certain elements derived from Minstrel shows and similar racial depictions (think Sambo dolls). And it isn’t just in the character designs, but the sort of gags, music, and songs performed in early animation as well. Many of which were drawn direct from the Minstrel milieu. And a lot of early animation of the type, in fact featured Minstrel performers doing to vocal work, or movements were modeled on them. Similarly a lot of early animation relied on African American performers for music and vocal work, and it was one of few avenues for getting up on film screens for many African American performers. Often this work took the shape of stereotype.

Mickey Mouse is rooted in racial caricature, and both the period of animation he comes from. And the sort of humor he was built on, draw as much from Minstrelry as anything else.

All that Snopes article does is debunk the claim that he was adapted from that specific racist image.


Yup. I think almost no one thinks that when they see Mickey now, but originally that’s where that particular cartoon style came from for sure. It’s even more obvious when you see the character Bosko, who is literally supposed to be a black kid. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosko


I really wish that a mouse could just be a mouse.

Oh, and fuck the Gipper.


I’d argue that the original, unsourced statement: “P.S. Mickey Mouse is a minstrel caricature” implies that that is a well known fact based on some type of documented evidence. Someone “arguing” that Mickey is a minstrel character ≠ fact in my mind, but to each their own.

Snopes debunked this one. I think it’s shoddy journalism on the part of this website. There is plenty of real racism in the world without having to make up fake racists to attack. Tilting at windmills.

Snopes did no such thing (it laid out a case that the claim that Mickey Mouse was based on a mid-1990s blackface cartoon character named “Jiggaboo” was false). From Snopes on this topic (emphasis added):

Nicholas Sammond argued in his book Birth of an Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation that Mickey Mouse (and similar animated characters) wasn’t just like a minstrel — the premier Disney character, according to Sammond, was a cartoon minstrel:

American animation, which had its origins and developed many of its enduring conventions on the vaudeville stage, is not merely one more in a succession of textual forms; it is also a performative tradition that is indebted to and imbricated in blackface minstrelsy and vaudeville. Commercial animation in the United States didn’t borrow from blackface minstrelsy, nor was it simply influenced by it. Rather, American animation is actually in many of its most enduring incarnations an integral part of the ongoing iconographic and performative traditions of blackface. Mickey Mouse isn’t like a minstrel; he is a minstrel.


I get very tired of that stupid “America loves its racism so much that Mickey is racist!” trope.


Well I suppose the article only relies on scholarly sources and the comparative analysis therein - they don’t have the original cartoonist saying “Mickey was a minstrel”. Which I guess in this case is the only evidence that could establish the statement “Mickey was a minstrel” as fact.

As Thoreau said, “some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk”.

Anyway, I think it was just to underscore that many people hold Reagan up as a beacon of bipartisanship and integrity, and that those people may have their belief shattered upon seeing smoking evidence that Reagan is a racist too. Much like one might add “by the way, Santa isn’t real either”. It’s meant to mock those people’s ignorance.


Here ya go:

Also - Fuck Reagan.


Have you read any of the replies on this, which point to several articles about this? The point (which is based in historical evidence) was that Mickey Mouse originally was based on a minstrel character. That doesn’t mean that he is a racist character, but that he was based on a popular cultural form that had very racist history. Given when he first appears, it should not be a huge surprise at all. That doesn’t mean that Mickey is racist anymore than anything else, just that he’s a product of his time.


Yes, thank you!

I completely agree. But when that old “Mickey is a minstrel caricature!” trope is trotted out as a part of an article about Reagan calling Africans “monkeys”, it is a clear comparison – there’s no other reason to mention it other than to make a connection to racist caricatures.

Thanks, there was such a thing then. Good to know.

That’s not the idea at all.

Animation and Cinema in the US got its start during a period where the pop culture was fuelled by minstrel entertainment, lost cause ideology and hagiography for the Antebellum South.

This is the same period that lead to Gone With the Wind becoming one a massive best seller as a novel, and one of the most successful films of all time. Minstrel performance was the absolute driver in comedy and musical entertainment. Al Jolson, probably the most famous entertainer in America and the highest paid performer nation wide in the 20’s and early 30s was a straight up black face Minstrel performer. There were fads for various sorts of “Negro Music”, often enough performed by whites.

This was also the era of the 2nd clan, when the bulk of those Confederate “monuments” we’ve all been hearing about were put up, and the formation of the German American Bund. American society was suffused with a resurgent racism, nationalist rage against immigrants, and a nostalgic fascination with the pre-Civil War South.

Disney can’t escape the history or environment of its origins any more than any other company producing such works at the time. While Mickey wasn’t directly drawn from any single minstrel image or character. The tropes he operated in and outline for his design was derived over multiple generations from minstrel imagery. In kids books, and popular art, in earlier animated characters (like Bosco mentioned above). Good Ole Walt wasn’t a particularly original animator. And it wasn’t just Mickey. Dumbo has its Crows, Song of the South was a thing. Disney’s pre WWII history is suffused with this stuff.

And its not a one guy argues sort of thing. This stuff is a major basis for the critical analysis of film of the period. A huge topic in film theory, and a well understood well backed up element. Mickey was built on stuff that built on racist caricature. The mouse isn’t just a mouse because its one or two steps removed.

The interwar period in the US was pretty fucked.


By no means am I saying that minstrel entertainment didn’t inform pretty much all pop culture back then; it definitely did. Sure, one can say that Mickey’s dark ears and light face (based on the style of lots of other cartoons being done at that time-- as you say, his design wasn’t exactly original) was suggested by minstrel shows, though it’s a stretch. And yes, absolutely, there’s lots of callbacks to the popular minstrel shows in their cartoons in the 30s and 40s.

What I found weird was linking the cartoons of the 30s and 40s to Reagan and Nixon’s blatant racism and hatred of black people, as the original post did. I’m glad @orenwolf split this off, because it was not appropriate to that conversation.

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I don’t see what’s incongruous about pointing out 3 beloved American Cartoon characters are rooted in racism.


There’s a big, big difference between “rooted in the popular culture of their heyday which is now rightfully seen as very racist” and “the same thing as Reagan and Nixon actually attacking and trying to degrade Black people in their position as President.”

Minstrel shows had some deeply racist elements at their core and we can’t deny that. No one is saying Mickey is racist now, but in general it’s not like Disney has had a great track record on race (Song of the South was a racist, condescending mess). We can also talk about how racist the Warner Brothers cartoons were (African cannibal stereotypes or Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips come to mind). That doesn’t completely delegitimize either, it just puts their past into context against the back drop of the rest of American history.