Tom and Jerry is facing criticism after a scene resurfaced over the weekend showing several of the characters in blackface. Pulled from the short "The Milky Waif," which initially debuted in 1946, the clip shows Jerry and another character covering their faces in shoe polish as a disguise. The clip made its way to Twitter on Friday and was quickly met with scrutiny.
The short film follows Jerry after he finds himself in charge of fellow mouse Nibbles, who is eager to steal milk from Tom’s bowl. His attempts to do so lead to a cat and mouse chase, with Jerry and Nibbles eventually finding themselves hiding in a closet. They decide to use deception to sneak past Jerry, using shoe polish to disguise themselves in blackface and dressing themselves in headscarves.
The scene, seen here, sparked outrage among social media users, with the original poster expressing their disbelief when writing, "do u know how obsessed with black people u gotta be to hate them so much that u got mice doing blackface?" Responding to the clip, another person wrote, "this is so wrong," with another person asking, "[The f—] is wrong@with some people." Somebody else wrote that it "hurts finding out as an adult that so many movies and cartoons were racist [as f—] and we had no clue because we were innocent children," with the tweet thread filling with numerous other examples of racist depictions in cartoons.
The scene causing the outcry has been removed "from almost all television showings," according to a fandom page, this includes Cartoon Network's airings of the short. Instead, the short now moves directly from Nibbles spitting the milk at Tom to Tom running into Jerry's pan.
This is not the first time the cartoon has faced criticism for depictions of racism, and in 2014, a disclaimer was added to collections of Tom and Jerry warning of "ethnic and racial prejudices." The full disclaimer read, "Tom and Jerry shorts may depict some ethnic and racial prejudices that were once commonplace in American society. Such depictions were wrong then and are wrong today," according to a report from BBC at the time. A similar disclaimer accompanied some collections of the cartoon on DVD informing viewers that some of the cartoons show racial and gender stereotypes.
According to The Wrap, the DVD also contained an introduction from Whoopi Goldberg explaining that "the Tom and Jerry episodes included in this collection comes to us from a time when racial and ethnic differences were caricatured in the name of entertainment. These prejudices were wrong then and they're wrong today." Goldberg also addressed controversy surrounding the cartoon’s depiction of black maid Mammy Two Shoes, with Goldberg explaining that removing the character "would be the same as pretending she never existed. The same is true for the other images and jokes that we wouldn’t normally include in a mainstream cartoon today."