Thursday, October 11, 2018

Chicanonautica: Attack of the Mutating Stereotypes


Stereotype has become a dirty word. After all, they are distortions of reality, often insulting, and are used by those in power to keep the rest of us down. No wonder some gente want them all blasted off the face of the Earth.

But do we really understand what they are?

As a cartoonist who often works in words, I have some insight. My lifelong study of cartooning has shown me that it is essentially a language of stereotypes. Society creates simplified icons that allow for fast communication.

Look through to decade-spanning collections like Cartoon Cavalcade, or The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker, and you find all kinds of stereotypes. Over time they change, but they do not decrease in number. They are merely replaced by new, more up-to-date ones.

In my lifetime, I’ve seen them come and go. Hippies have gone from dirty bums to Christ figures and back. Depictions of racial/ethnic types have undergone adjustments, often embarrassing at the first few attempts. The modern nerd and hipster are recent versions of a hallowed tradition.

I once posted a picture of the Frito Bandito on Facebook. Palo Jasso, creator of the Mexican comic strip El Cerdotado, replied: “WTF? Fried Bandit?”

Yes, that is what the name would translate to in Spanish.

I explained that the Bandito was character the Frito Lay company used to advertise Fritos Corn Chips. And that back in the Seventies, MEChA successfully campaigned to have him banned. Seems people were starting to call Chicano kids Frito Banditos . . .

Jasso shot back an "lol." He thought the Bandito was funny, like Yosemite Sam.

What is an insulting stereotype north of the Border is often just part of the cultural landscape down south. Like the way the Virgin of Guadalupe is a right-wing political icon in Mexico, while here in El Norte, she’s gone leftie.

When I was in high school, my fellow Chicano students were often wanting to ban things that my--and their--grandparents loved. Lalo Guerrero’s “The Ballad of Pancho Lopez” is an example. Does anybody get in significance of parodying a song about Davy Crockett into the story of an undocumented immigrant? What is the difference between a pioneer and an illegal alien?

One of my favorite restaurants in Phoenix is the recombocultural Chino Bandido (the d and t depend on who and where you are). I guess we’re lucky, in theses times when sombreros are considered racist, no one has objected to to the sombrero and ammo belt-wearing, gun toting panda mascot. But then what we may be seeing here is clever cartooning that twists the stereotypes into a new world.

The fact is, everybody uses stereotypes to deal with the avalanche of strangeness that is our world. Even you. We cuddle up to them; then they become obsolete, and start offending.

Some people starting screaming about wanting censorship, which is suicidal. Early in my career, people told me that they were afraid to publish me because of all the “minorities” in my work. “They get offended, you know.”

They were protecting the “minorities” by banning me.

I prefer to use the guerrilla cartoonist/Chino Bandido strategy: Take the stereotypes, turn them inside out, and use them against the oppressive reality.

And if someone offends you, offend them right back!

Ernest Hogan often abuses español, gets Spanglishado, and wears a spaghetti western bandido moustache, because that’s the kind of Chicanonaut he is.

1 comment:

Charles B said...

the only things I miss from living in Phoenix are: Spring Training Baseball; Los Dos Molinos, AND Chino Bandido!