Thursday, February 25, 2010

Speedy Gonzales: The Movie

From the "movies that will suck but will be fascinating to watch develop" department comes this gem, courtesy Hollywood Reporter's "Heat Vision" blog: The remnants of New Line Cinema are doing a live-action/CGI "Speedy Gonzales" movie, scripted by the writers of "Garfield" and with George Lopez voicing the title character: http://www.heatvisionblog.com/2010/02/speedy-gonzales-george-lopez-film-new-line-jerry-weintraub.html

Yegh. No es bueno.

The big question hovering over this property was always going to be how they'd deal with the "delicate" matter of ethnic stereotyping. As it turns out, New Line's solution is to take "delicate" completely out of the equation. Ann Lopez speaks of "George's "Latino seal of approval.", which sounds like a flat-out admission that George Lopez is mainly on board as a "firewall" against innevitable criticism. I mean, let's be real here... Lopez has demonstrated almost no range, no notable skill for voices not his own (and he doesn't sound like Speedy), has no real following and isn't all that funny; so why WOULD they hire him but not for the "cred?"

Ann Lopez goes on to say that "We wanted to make sure that it was not the Speedy of the 1950s -- the racist Speedy," which probably tells all that needs be told about how this is being approached. One must, of course, be sensitive to Latino concerns about Hollywood bigotry... but I've got to ask if in this case it's A.) possible and B.) necessary to do anything about this.


The problem with the Speedy cartoons is that they weren't generally trading in ethnic-caricature in a big, showy, obvious way: The Mexican mice were the good guys, played as happy and wholly functional until bad guys - usually non-Mexican cats, Daffy or Sylvester - showed up to cause trouble. Plus, Speedy himself was a kind of a superhero, who thwarted villains and saved people/mice. The lone running "race joke" is of the ironic-reverse variety: Mexicans are "supposed to be" slow and lazy, so it's "funny" that the guy who runs fast and has all this energy is Mexican.

Here's the thing: Do people still "get" that that's what's supposed to funny about this character? What I mean is, is this one of those cartoon-caricatures that the march of culture has rendered no longer as "blunt" as it was originally intended? Audiences in the 1950s likely laughed along with the wink-wink-nudge-nudge "irony" of Speedy's supposed race/behavior dissonance... but did the 'gag' still hold in the 60s, 70s and 80s, or did Speedy just become "guy who runs fast, happens to be Mexican?"

My generation grew up watching "DuckTales," just for one example, and I doubt that any great percentage of us were especially cogniscent that Uncle Scrooge McDuck was a dated racial-caricature of a cheapskate Scotsman. Is this where Speedy is, or is there still genuine offense to be had? I suppose I should ask: Latino readers, IS there a "consensus" on Speedy Gonzales in Latino culture? Is it positive? Negative?

In any case, I doubt the movie version will have any room for Speedy's cousin, Slowpoke Rodriguez...

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Heh, I thought I was the only one who remembered Slowpoke Rodriguez. He pack a gun!

Anyhoo, I lived in central Mexico for five years (1995-1999), and nobody there is the least bit offended by Speedy Gonzalez. He IS just a "guy who runs fast, happens to be Mexican" in the eyes of the Mexican populace, as far as I could tell.

In fact, I believe that it was the Latino populace that saved Speedy's cartoons from perma-censure, back when Warner Bros. was cleaing up their roster of anything un-PC...

Michael Savage said...

"As it turns out, New Line's solution is to take "delicate" completely out of the equation."


Lol, I knew this as soon as I read the question
"how they'd deal with the "delicate" matter of ethnic stereotyping."

George Lopez is the Tyler Perry of mexicans.

Hope this garbage makes the bottom 100 on imdb or whatever number it is......

seigi ac said...

As a mexican I wouldn't say I find it offensive. I think this is mainly because the concept of racism is very different to the one I see in the american culture.

I think mexicans see Speedy as any other cartoon character. I am not even sure if mexicans are aware of speedy being mexican. Maybe this is similar to what I see in Taco Bell or whatever the majority of americans think mexican food is. I don't think this kind of food, like Taco Bell's, even resemble real mexican food. I even like it sometimes, but I am fully aware it is 100% american food, just like speedy is very american.

Racism in Mexico exists, but in a way that is hard to explain to non-mexicans. There is a general idea that "indian" people is ignorant and/or dirty and that white people (people with predominant white spaniard heritage) are better looking and welthier. But we have had very important people in our history with indigenous background since very early in our history.

Regardless, maybe if there's a big fuzz about the racist issue with this movie some latin people will look at it, but I would say that that will be mainly from the latin community in the the US.

I personally find Speedy funny.

underthepale said...

I'm not a Mexican, but never really saw Speedy Gonzales as anything but a really hyped-up racial caricature. Not really offensive, per se, just really bombastic and strange. Certainly I didn't "get the joke" back then.

Then again, I knew all about the Scottish nature of Scrooge McDuck (What can I say? I had very, er, "progressive" parents...), but felt that Duck Tales did more with the character than just reinforce racial stereotypes. There was more to Scrooge than just a one-note racist jab. They made being a cheap bastard a part of his character, as opposed to the whole of it. (Besides, there was always Flintheart Glomgold, who showed us how cheap you could REALLY be...)

I suppose therein lies the "real" answer to the question: Speedy Gonzales should be taken beyond his roots as a racial joke, and raised into something more.

Obviously, unless something changes very quickly, that's not what we're getting at all. No, no me gusta.

Puddle Jumper said...

I've never in my life heard anyone complain about Speedy Gonzales legitly. Meaning, without them being complete and utter idiots.
I guess it's like the Eskimo/Innuit business. Nobody cares but the politicians that want to use it for their own benefits. Which is then also rallied behind by the angry housewives and the "good" citizens ...

Anonymous said...

Most Latinos view him with general indifference. Just an odd cartoon character who happens to be Mexican.

Mark said...

I come from a family that is pretty Latino and our opinion of speedy is...nothing really.it never actually occurred to me that speedy was racist and none of my family seems very mad when he comes on(if he does).Really he is just the loony tune we don't really care about.we just never found him as funny as bugs or daffy.does that count as negative consensus bob?

Mykal said...

Weird never knew that about Scrooge McDuck. Though he was just a characterization of a rich guy. Anyways thought Speedy was fast because he was a fast mouse that protected the slow or weak ones. Just like Mighty Mouse did. Though don't see how they could make it into a full movie since he was esentally the Road Runner with a voice.

Though I do agree with you Lopez is not a good role for the part, though ironically enough I do think he could do Slowpoke. He has at times used a voice pretty similar to what I remember of Slowpoke when he uses voices what he would say as a kid.

Oscar said...

I'm Argentinean and never found Speedy Gonzalez particularly offensive. But then again, I'm Argentinean, not Mexican.

Which brings me to my real question: What does "Latino" mean? Are they descendants from Latin American folks that are currently living in the USA? Are they any people from below the Rio Bravo? Is it a matter of race and, thus, any Latin American that has no mixed blood with some aboriginal bloodline should not be considered "latino"? Am I latino? Should I be offended?

Speedy Gonzalez (and more certainly Slowpoke Rodriguez) have a racist background, but I think part of that background got lost somewhere in time. And Speedy is heroic and positive figure, so it might end up being a good example of "getting crap past the radar" (sorry for the tvtropes abuse), a thing that Looney Toons and their successors already did. What I mean is that Speedy doesn't play the role to the negative stereotype (like, for example, Pepe Le Peu), but plays with the role, subverts it. Of course, there is no possible subversion without acknowledging the stereotype itself, but that's its way of playing it safe. Anyways, who are we kidding, like any other of the live action looney toons movie was any good.

This whole discussion kinda reminds me of that scene from Clerks 2, where Randal is completely oblivious about the meaning of the term "porch monkey" (as, honestly, was I, not being American).

By the way, sorry if this comment got too long.

tyra menendez said...

I'd never heard the term porch monkey, either, and I am American.

My understanding of Speedy was that they tried to take it off the air for being racist, and Hispanic groups protested the removal of the only Hispanic character in the Looney Tunes cannon. At least that's what I heard.

Regardless, George Lopez is on TBS: 'nuff said.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick note, Daffy is a duck, not a cat.

Anonymous said...

As a latino I always thought Speedy Gonzales to be very funny and not in the least racist... I WAS quite young at the time so I prolly wouldn't have noticed it. But seriously, do we really need all of this P.C.?

Anonymous said...

The reason why nobody, Latino or otherwise, finds Speedy Gonzales racist is because the stereotype they're making fun of is so outdated and unrealistic that no one gets it. So the joke, like Bob explained, is that "Mexicans are "supposed to be" slow and lazy, so it's "funny" that the guy who runs fast and has all this energy is Mexican." end quote
Which means that some of the hardest working people I've met are slow and lazy, yeah...right. Makes you wonder if Speedy's creators ever met a Mexican in their lifetime.

Anonymous said...

Why go through all the trouble of making Speedy Gonzales "politically correct"? He's been the way he was for 60 years and nobody's complained about it. If anything, I think people would be uncomfortable with the CHANGES themselves. I, along with pretty much everybody I know, grew up watching Speedy Gonzales as he's always been. I don't think anybody's gonna take these changes that well.