October 22nd, 2007

The Zombie

The Most Forbidden WOMP Character

October 21 -  Well, my friends, the time has come for me to expose one of my greatest shames.  Seriously.  In the following entry, I will discuss my most embarrassing, most disagreeable, most utterly disgraceful childhood creation.  I'd like to say that this character, created when I was about eleven, was merely reflective of the times in which I lived, but those "times" would have been around 1976, not 1876.  I hope you won't think less of me as you read about the Forbidden WOMP Character of The Day - Bingo-Bongo Lingo-Longo Zingo-Zongo Dingo-Franklin.  Back on the 16th, I told you about how influential old Warner Brothers cartoons were for me when I was a kid.  Unfortunately, part of that influence came from the occasional racial stereotypes that cropped up in about half of them (those particular cartoons are no longer shown, but Warner was by no means the only animation studio to use such ethnic characters).  Yes, Bingo was an offensive stereotype of an "African native."  It's just so...inexplicable.  Even though I grew up in a small, predominantly white community, I knew people of color.  As a little kid, I even hung out primarily around African-American students when visiting Campion Jesuit High School, where my Mom was the School Nurse.  Still, I won't try to justify myself by listing "my black friends."  That would be...I don't know, just wrong...but I can tell you categorically that I never, never, never made the connection back then that Bingo might be offensive to them, or to just about anyone else who might see him.  He wasn't even my only character of African heritage.  Powerhouse, created during that same period, was an African American architect who was "infected" with a military battlesuit that then took the form of various architectural elements.  So, how could I come up with Bingo?  I guess that I was just that ignorant and impressionable.  After all, I saw similar characters on TV all the time.  Bingo wasn't meant to be insulting or shocking.  He was just another stock character that I lifted from someone else.  I thought that if Bob Clampett did it, then I could too.  Even so, it wasn't long before I realized the seriousness of what I'd done.  Wracked with preteen guilt, I literally erased Bingo from everything in which he'd appeared....almost.  Unfortunately, one single drawing of Bingo survives, illustrating his Encyclopidia of John Mundt's Cartoon Characters and Names entry.  Yep, there he is, on the same page as Birilla.  In his face I see...well, I see all sorts of things.  He is depicted smiling slightly, eyes wide with amazement, as if to ask me "Really?  Are you really drawing me as some sort of minstrel-show character?  You know it's the 1970's, right?"  Still, I guess the lesson was learned eventually.  That says something about me, I guess.  Even though I was a kid, I saw the error of my ways, and tried to take appropriate actions to rectify the problem (and, frankly, to hide any evidence that Bingo had ever existed in the first place).  For contrast, I should point out that it would be several more years before the old cartoons with offensive ethnic stereotypes ceased airing on TV.  Still, I really, really feel like I have to say this; what I did back then is unforgivable, but, for it, I am so very sorry.  To everyone, especially those of African ancestry, I offer my most sincere, heartfelt apologies.  Also, I hope that I haven't offended anyone just by talking about this.  Such discussions are emotionally charged, yes, but can also be useful or even important, don't you think?  I'm definitely not proud of having created Bingo, but, if telling his story helps someone else deal with a similar situation, then my embarrassment was worth it.