I grew up with the cartoon shorts of Tom and Jerry. They were fun, silly cartoons about a frustrating cat getting the upper hand on a mouse. Their stick was meant to be purely fun, but was there something more going on? The new live-action and CG animated film, Tom and Jerry, not only earned poor reviews but brought up an interesting topic that never came to my mind. Tom and Jerry are black characters disguised as animals. Kids of all ages wouldn't recognize this revelation at first, but there is some good evidence to support it.
The music choice used in Tom and Jerry's shorts suggests Tom and Jerry's black identities. In the earlier shorts, jazz music can be heard and sometimes played in the background. A famous short of Tom and Jerry is where Tom is playing a big base to a female cat underneath her balcony. He is singing "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby" by Louis Jordan and the Tympany Five. Tom is also a pianist in a few shorts. Tom and Jerry (2021) also feature Black hip-hop music including a song called "Come and Talk to Me" from Jodeci.
Since Tom and Jerry's early history, they used 1940s AAVE in their speech and mannerisms. Tom and Jerry never talk at all, but Tom would sing, shout, and scream on occasion. While we do see them running around chasing and fighting each other, they do perform slapstick antics to make the viewers laugh. It could be related to their mannerisms or not. One of the smallest details in Tom and Jerry is with Jerry's name. His full name is actually revealed to be Jerome.
Despite its music choice and other implicit racial messages, Tom and Jerry's cartoons are guilty of using racist stereotypes. Tom's owner, Mammy Two Shoes, is the most controversial character in the cartoons. The viewers never see her face. They could only see her legs and feet, but it is clear through her voice that she is meant to represent the angry black woman. Her name even ties back to the servant character, Mammy, in Gone with the Wind. Modern executives recognized the racism elements in the old Tom and Jerry cartoons. They decided to add disclaimers before being watched by audiences.
Old Tom and Jerry cartoons can still be enjoyed for what they were. They have can rely on a sense of nonverbal humor that can be enjoyable for everyone. While Tom and Jerry (2021) disappointed so many viewers, it's important to remember that the franchise is not ruined by this one film. There is so much content of Tom and Jerry from shorts to animated films. Regardless of who Tom and Jerry are outside of their animal appearance, we still love them for their chaotic hijinks.