Our Gang’s Little Rascals, Racial Stereotypes, and Kids Just Having Fun

Mrs. Allotherpersons loves this video clip, and she insists that I put it on my blog. It’s from the Our Gang/Little Rascals series. I think it’s OK… here it is, take a look and let me add some comments.

As a child, one of my favorite shows was The Little Rascals, also known as Our Gang. As described by Wikipedia,

Our Gang/The Little Rascals… was a series of American comedy short films about the adventures of a group of poor neighborhood children. Created by comedy producer Hal Roach, Our Gang was produced… starting in 1922 as a silent short subject series. Roach changed distributors… in 1927, went to sound in 1929 and continued production until 1938, when he sold the series to MGM. MGM in turn continued producing the comedies until 1944. In the mid-1950s, the 80 Roach-produced shorts with sound were syndicated for television under the title The Little Rascals.

I started watching TV in the early 1960s. The fact that my viewing included Little Rascals shows which were made in the 1930s and 1940s is a testement to the fact that back in the ’60s, there wasn’t a lot of content on network television. (That may be why I never cease to be amazed by the hundreds of TV channels we get today on cable or satellite.)

So I watched The Little Rascals, in all their black and white glory. And I’m not just talking about the film color. The Rascals was unique, in that it featured an integrated cast, and, the black characters were not treated as ridiculous stereotypres.

My favorite character on the show who was a black kid named Stymie. He got a lot of lines, he had good comedic timing, he was a master of facial expressions even as a youngster, and he was something of a leader among his cast of characters. He was funny without being ridiculously silly. (Now Alfalfa-a white character on the show-he was ridiculously silly.)

But The Rascals did sometimes reflect the stereotypes of the day (see the above video), and that’s gotten it in trouble with people who look at the show with today’s sensibilities. As mentioned in Wikipedia,

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Check It Out: ‘Treme,’ the Successor to ‘The Wire’

Actor Wendell Pierce talks about the upcoming TV series Treme.

Let’s get this straight: nothing will ever “succeed” The Wire. For my money, The Wire captured the complexity, diversity, and pathology of the black community better than any series we’ve seen on the small screen.

But if The Wire can’t be topped, perhaps its brilliance can be repeated.

That’s the hope for the upcoming series Treme. This new TV series comes from David Simon, The Wire’s creator, producer, and primary author. Treme will be based in New Orleans, and will look at the lives of musicians in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. (Treme is a neighborhood in New Orleans where many musicians live.)

Wendell Pierce, who is from New Orleans and played police detective Bunk Moreland on The Wire, will have a lead role in the new series. He shares his thoughts with the New Orleans weekly The Gambit. Clearly, he is overjoyed with the idea of doing a show that focuses on his hometown.

Wendell Pierce

The show is expected to debut in 2010. I’m looking forward to it.