Thursday, November 26, 2015

Chicanonautica: Guajolete Con Go Go Gophers

I could just wish you a feliz Día de los Guajoletes and save myself a lot of work, but there are some important things that should be addressed about this pre-Black Friday kick-off to the winter seasonal capitalist consumer orgy. Something should be said about Native Americans and their part in the Thanksgiving mythos. And what about Chicanos? Latinos? And all the Nican Tlaca?

I mulled it over, then I was reminded of the Go Go Gophers.

Watch out, that theme song can be a real earworm.

The Go Go Gophers have been called racist and politically incorrect. But, cartoons from earlier decades were a lot worse.

An unpopular truth about cartooning is that it's all about stereotypes. That is, simplifications of our complex reality that allow us to learn to deal with it all. But then, the point is to learn to deal with it, after a while you are supposed to be able to look beyond the stereotypes and deal with reality. People and cultures outgrow stereotypes, hopefully.

Also, racist cartoons were considered “normal” in their time. They provide a documentation of ugly truths of the past. They should not be forgotten, and we need to be aware of them, otherwise we distort history. Do I have to repeat that cliché about how those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it?

And if you really want to blow minds, twist the stereotypes around until they become the opposite of they originally meant.

I consider the Go Go Gophers to be the most subversive Saturday morning cartoon of the 1960s. Really. 

Colonel Kit Coyote and Sergeant Okey Homa are out to drive Chief Running Board and Ruffled Feathers out of their homeland, though the theme song says “Colonel he vow they will soon disappear.” Ah, the old Vanishing Americans myth that our schools manage to transmit to most of our children! The Indians were in the way, then mysteriously -- and conveniently – disappeared.

But here in Arizona, I see Indians every day. Some of my fellow Americans wonder what happened to the Maya, and speculate about mystical teleportation while not realizing that Maya are vacuuming their floors and cutting their lawns. There are none so blind . . .

The last two Gopher Indians aren't about to cooperate in their disappearance. In the trickster tradition -- that has roots in Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and the ancient mythologies of the world, including a powerful Native connection -- they thwart the Colonel's plans. Usually, Ruffled Feathers, finds out about the plans, tells them to Running Board in his oopa-doopa-doopa gibberish, Running Board translates for the audience, Ruffled Feathers oopa-doops his own plan, to which Running Board replies, “Oopy-doopy, you um genius!”

The social roles are reversed. The chief takes orders from the brave. And the guy who doesn't speak English is the smart one.

The results are slapstick mayhem. Also good advice for surviving oppression with guerrilla/trickster tactics. Though in real life you have to a lot sneakier.

I didn't find a Thanksgiving Go Go Gophers cartoon, but The Big Pow Wow can be considered an anti-Thanksgiving piece:

And Don't Fence Me In shows the folly of building the fence to keep the “aliens” out. Donald Trump and his fans should take note:

So, enjoy that guajolete, carnales!

And, P.S.: To Hell with the Puritan tradition!

Ernest Hogan's work has appeared in Amazing, Analog, and Aztlán, and has not been officially classified as a psychotropic drug – yet. Meanwhile, some of his cartoony drawings will be soon be on display at Harold Washington College in Chicago.


Mario Acevedo said...

Nice post. Didn't I prompt this earlier this week? On viewing the cartoon, it is incredibly subversive. Besides being a lampoon on the Vietnam War, it bites hard against the present war on terror and of course, the current presidential campaign. Also, the hapless sergeant plays the military's role of having to follow the idiot jingoist's orders despite the sergeant's better judgement.


Yes, Mario, it was your mentioning of Colonel Kit Coyote on Facebook that got me to thinking about the Go Go Gophers. I thank you. These cartoons were originally aired during the height of the Vietnam War, which is incredible consider what goes on in them. I do like how Sergeant Okey Homa is a likable character, stuck in an awful situation, doing his job, but with a sense of humor, and usually getting the last word. My dad was a sergeant in Korea, and I recognize the attitude. Now I suppose some of my friends in academia will read this, and the Go Go Gophers will be studied and analyzed, maybe even viewed in classrooms.

msedano said...

That is my very first viewing, or knowledge of, Go Go Gophers. I must have been overseas at the time, and for some reason AFKN didn't televise this show. It sounds a bit like Edward Everett Horton's narration for Rocky&Bullwinkle cartoons from high school days. Those last of the Mohicans characters are my kind of tricksters. Subversive, it goes with the territory.

Stefan Jones said...

Oh, man. Blast from the past. As I recall, these were made by the same outfit as "Underdog."

I remember being really annoyed by the Colonel, and feeling sorry for the Sergeant.

These cartoons saw a lot of play when I was a kid, and were repeated a lot in later years. Many of its contemporaries were quickly swept under the carpet, and the clips I've seen on YouTube show why. Lots of awful, lazy-humor racist stuff, like "Dick Tracy's" Mexican and Chinese helpers.


Ah, yes! Like Dick Tracy's Go Go (!) Gomez, who was basically a human version of Speedy Gonzalez.

Unknown said...

And don't forget the biggest cartoon racist of them all Walt Disney!

Anonymous said...

Sheesh.....can you be any more of a PC Baby Boomer? I agree about the subversive part, but the rest of this is bullshit.


You think I'm PC? You have some serious gaps in your education, whoever you are.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I know this is late, just saw it. But it occurs to me if you are going to be all Chicano and such, your Spanish should be more accurate; it's "guajolote", not "guajolete". That aside, i also think you are on to something with that "subversive" biz, and it is jarring to look back at some of those old cartoons now.

Anonymous said...

Go Go Gopher seems, in one way, less racist than Disney's Pocahontas.