Monday, December 21, 2009

Mickey Mouse, Gay Basher

Jeet Heer tours the history of homosexuality in early-20th century comic strips, starting with Disney's high-pitched rodent:
What could be more wholesome than Mickey Mouse, the big-eared emblem of the Disney empire? Yet a Mickey Mouse comic strip from January 22, 1931 shows the little rodent meeting a big cat who displays all the markers stereotypically given to gay characters during that period: a lisp, a limp handshake, and a general effeminacy of manner (in this case, batting eyelashes). Revealing himself to be not just homophobic but a violent gay-basher, Mickey attacks the big cat.
Most of the comic strips Heer presents were published during the "Pansy Craze," a period in the late-twenties/early-thirties, where effeminate men and butch women were finding underground popularity.

The strips are fascinating, first for how openly homosexuality was presented in a medium like comic strips, but mostly as a reminder of how far culture (and Disney) has advanced in eighty years.

(HT Jesse Walker at Hit & Run)