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Holy Culturally-Accepted Racism, Batman!

Posted on 2008.04.16 at 16:26
I was in a "Big Lots" store yesterday, and picked up, for a whopping $3.00, a 2-disc DVD set of the 1943 "Batman" movie serial.

So far, I've only seen Episode One, and had a moment of jaw-dropping disbelief, as our villains, having kidnapped a scientist, are returning him to their lair in Little Tokyo, and the Narrator informs us: "Since a wise government rounded up the shifty-eyed Japs this has become a virtual ghost street..."

Wow! It never occured to me thta there was once a spirit of popular belief that the Internment Camps were a good thing! I just naturally assumed that the Americans of that time were as guiltily ashamed of those camps as today's Americans are of Gitmo, or the CIA's "black sites." I'd have been prepared for an on-screen character -- maybe even Batman himself! -- to say such a thing... But the narrator, the voice of knowledge, the voice of the mainstream!?!?!?

I was totally o.O OMGWTF!?!?!?!!?!?!?!

I still think it's worth your three dollars, especially if you're a Batman fan, but I certainly don't endorse that sentiment!


(Anonymous) at 2008-04-16 21:51 (UTC) (Link)
Hmm… I’ll have to look into that. I was there over the weekend and picked up a copy of Blue Thunder, myself.

Back in ’43 the propaganda machine was cranking out what the government wanted the people to think almost as fast as the government thought of it themselves. You should see some of the propaganda cartoons of the day! There are quite a few posted on YouTube in their entirety. One in particular comes to mind having recently watched it again via YouTube. I don’t recall the title, but it was an early Daffy Duck taking on the entire Luftwaffe and even Hitler himself. By comparison the narrator’s comments seem almost mild. Remember, too, that at that point in the war we didn’t know about the horror of the Nazi extermination camps. Certainly not in the detail we do today. The American camps were built for a ‘round ‘em up and keep an eye on ‘em’ policy, not to expedite genocide. And the government propaganda machine spun it as a good thing.

You’re absolutely right. It wouldn’t be tolerated today whether the target population was Japanese, German, illegal immigrant or Muslim. The only group I just mentioned where that might actually be justified would be illegal’s since they are breaking the law merely by there very presence in this country. But even that requires due process of law. The WWII camps merely required looking the part.

In the few interviews I’ve seen with former detainees they didn’t seem to hold any ill will as a result. But I’ve only seen interviews with maybe five individuals. Certainly not a valid statistical sample from a population in the thousands…
herrbgone at 2008-04-16 21:54 (UTC) (Link)


Oh frell! My log-in must have timed out or something. (I couldn’t have forgotten…)

BTW: That ^ were I.
Gummo Bergman's "Silent Strawberries"
marginaliana at 2008-04-16 22:18 (UTC) (Link)
Weeeeeeeeeeeell... I think maybe you're a little naive about "today's Americans." There are plenty of people around today who think that Gitmo and waterboarding and so on are good ideas. Not just good ideas - necessary and essential to the survival of America and Americans. And maybe those people aren't a majority - but the majority is at least indifferent. And I think that's probably how it was back then, too. Most people just didn't care that much because they were "the enemy" and "sometimes you gotta do unpleasant things to keep America free."
Jonathan Andrew Sheen
leviathan0999 at 2008-04-16 23:40 (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, there are lots of pro-torture nutbags in America, but if you see reference to Gitmo or waterboarding in popular culture, it's always shown as shameful, as rankest villainy -- which, of course, it is.

The closest comparison I can think of is in Marvel Comic's recent, company-wide "Civil War" event, where what confirmed that Iron Man's side were the bad guys was that they wee using an alternate universe called "the Negative Zone" as, essentially, Gitmo-for-Superhumans.

Whereas this was the Narrator of Batman freely talking about "rounding up shifty-eyed Japs" to the internment camps.

We still suck quite a lot but we deserve more credit than you're giing us. America has changed for the better.
ashaherazade at 2008-04-19 04:13 (UTC) (Link)
If you haven't read Farewell to Manzanar do so, it is a first person (albeit a youngster's) account of the camps. Was a kid when I came across it myself and I have never been as innocent about politics and expediency since.

On the other hand, unfortunately I have to disagree with you that Marginaliana's assessment is incorrect. The area I & the hubby work in is heavily in favor of the current administration (also very well to do so that explains much I suppose). More than a few times my husband has been informed by customers that we are going too easy on 'the scoundrels' (cannot repeat in polite company the real words used) because "the only thing they understand is physical force" and "the only way to resolve this is to find out what they've planned by whatever means are necessary to protect ourselves & kill the ringleaders".
Seriously there are entire communities that believe this stuff so Gitmo is only one visible symptom. Unfortunately these people believe that the only problem with Abu Ghraib, Gitmo & the secret detention centers is that they became common knowledge.
And FTR I do NOT feel like I fit in well in this neighborhood, but one plants seeds of knowledge/wisdom/hope/... where one is and prays for a crop to flourish even in apparently barren soil. :sigh:
Jonathan Andrew Sheen
leviathan0999 at 2008-04-19 13:14 (UTC) (Link)
Again, I certainly don't deny that there are an awful lot of Americans who are sufficiently stupid/gullible/mean-spirited that Gitmo looks like a great idea to them. After all, Bush got enouogh votes to be re-elected, and even if he didn't get enough to be elected, he got enough to be appointed with some credibility.

I still maintain, though, that while a very large minority exists who would cheer at a movie that said, "A wise government having rounded up all the towel-headed terrorists," our culture has grown to the extent that no-one would make that movie.
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