Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Stereotyping of the Japanese Male, Pt. 1

Our next Popeye cartoon is... hoh boy.  I should probably find this more personally offensive than I do, because a few of my close relatives ended up going to an internment camp in Arkansas, so I'll only give this a short review.  It's not one of the classic Popeye cartoons anyway.  It departs from the formula ever so slightly, as Popeye eats his spinach at about the midway point.  Well, this isn't Bluto he's beating up, after all.  This is WWII he's fighting!  Tactics must be altered.
Popeye runs afoul of a small Japanese fishing boat in international waters, apparently.  The Japanese are portrayed as sneaky and conniving, of course, with buck teeth and glasses.  But they do have quick reflexes!  The one Japanese guy holds up a peace treaty first, then a bouquet of flowers with a lobster hidden in it awfully fast.
A mighty chase ensues around the tiny fishing boat.  The two Japanese aboard it hide, after one of them blows a horn.  This signals a giant battleship underneath it to rise up out of the water.  The Japanese may be grotesque stereotypes, but they're still a force to be reckoned with.  The giant battleship sounds like busy traffic, I guess to make it more grotesque.  They quickly blow Popeye's tiny ship out of the water and send Popeye to the bottom of the ocean.  Spinach time.  Popeye's arm muscles are especially spherical now, and his whole arm turns into a giant neon 'V' for victory.
I'm a little confused by the quick fade to black at 4:13.  The music doesn't change, so that must've been deliberate.  I don't think it was done later, as they say on the DVD that these cartoons were preserved as they were.  Anyway, Popeye quickly defeats the crew of the boat, dodging all size of missiles and bullets in the process.  I hate myself for finding the epithet "Ja-pansies" funny, but what can I say?  I got caught up in the jingoism of it all.  I would never use it myself, of course.  The ship half-crumbles, and Popeye quickly crumbles a part that says "Made in Japan" in his hand.  How things have changed.
The ship's still intact enough for Popeye to defeat one last enemy.  This part's a little strange to me, but it was probably included on purpose.  Popeye hears the captain of the Japanese ship down below.  I'm just assuming it's the captain.  The captain decides to commit suicide to "save face."  He does so by ingesting a big thing of gasoline and a thread of what appear to be tiny firecrackers.  Daffy Duck did a similar act on stage... the problem was that you could only do it once.  His ghost said so as it was floating to Cartoon Heaven!  Strange; you'd think he'd be sinking to the other place.  Alas, for the Japanese officer, the firecrackers don't provide enough of a kick to blow him completely up, but he ends up popping and kicking his way up to Popeye.  Popeye tries to look down the guy's throat with a match, smells the gas, and takes off for safer waters.  So the message is: the Japanese are not only the bad guys, but they're crazy as well. 
The Japanese ship blows up and ends up sinking in the ocean... to the sound of a flushing toilet.  Some might think that that's a little bit tasteless, but audiences at the time must've eaten it up, especially after Pearl Harbor and all.  Again, not one of the timeless Popeye cartoons.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

No comments: