Is Zoot Black?

Racial ambiguity in entertainment is interesting to me, for what might be obvious reasons if you have met me in person….

One of the things that made the characters in Daria (cartoon on MTV and then Noggin) so compelling was their racial diversity, and in some cases their racial ambiguity. Everyone knew Mack and Jodie were black, and Kevin and Brittany were white… but what the heck were Jane Lane and Trent Lane?

White viewers might say “they are white!” – well, sure! Why not? People project themselves into characters, and if the “actor” (in this case cartoon characters) let a larger percentage of the audience see themselves, then the story can be more successful.

Then again, white viewers as well as non-whites might well say “who cares!” or never have thought about it. That the Lane’s race is not a big deal is a good thing, I think. Maybe through pop television we can inch a little closer to a color-blind society. How many high school kids realize that Michelle Branch and Kristen Kreuk are part asian? Or Keanu Reeves? How many care? (Notice White-Asian mixes “pass” a lot easier than other combinations!)

Anyway, I always thought the Lanes were part-Asian (projection ?). They could also credibly be Latino. We actually do see their parents at one point, and both these options are still possibilities.

Almost inevitably, this whole train of thought led me to the Muppets.

If you think I’m going to guess whether Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy had an inter-racial relationship, I will tell you- Of course they did! He was a frog and she was a pig! Are you mental?

No, for some reason this question only seems relevant for the “human” muppets. Kermit the Frog isn’t black, white, east asian, latino, indian or anything else – he’s a FROG.

Dr Teeth, the lead vocalist and keyboardist of The Electric Mayhem, has got to be black. It just makes so much more sense. If he was white, in another age he would be called a Beatnik, whose jazz-inspired jargon definitely came from African-American slang. He’s got the giant gold tooth, and the shaded sunglasses, rings on every finger, and a PIMP HAT. Look at it! Duh!

As for the rest of The Electric Mayhem:

It used to be that Janice, with her airheaded blondeness, would have to be white. She could theoretically be any race nowadays though (airhead “Tiffany” from Daria is Asian)… but she’d probably still be from California. Is she just a vocalist? I guess she plays the tambourine! Her original creators probably designed this lame role for her on purpose… at the time there were a lot of bands with a member or two who did little more than “shake it!” More recently I think The Prodigy had a guy who just was there to dance.

Animal – everyone knows someone kind of like Animal – probably someone who parties a little too hard and seems to be on drugs most of the time. Animal has a habit of chasing the female human co-stars around the stage- if he was black this would be more threatening to the white audience. Black men and white women! Oh no! They want our women!!! etc… it’s not pretty, but it is an attitude that is still around today. So since the Muppets are not supposed to be threatening, perhaps Animal is a scruffy, drug-abusing, white 20 something, vs a scruffy, drug-abusing, black 20 something.

Zoot – pretty much has to be black. He could be a vague stoned white sax player, but come on, he’s a blues guy- it’s more natural if he’s a vague black blues guy. Not “vaguely black,” I mean “a person of color whose brain has been cooked away from years of living a jazz player lifestyle.” Although- if he really is a “zoot” that would make him a snappy dresser from 1940’s-1950’s chicano Los Angeles. In the seventies he would be a burned out jazz player, which could work.

What about Floyd, the guitar player? I sort of saw him as a shaggy white guy. I guess he could be either… it seems like he talks like a burnt-out thirtysomething white musician to me.

“Burnt out” surfaces a lot in this analysis doesn’t it? Maybe I’ve known too many jazz musicians!

3 thoughts on “Is Zoot Black?

  1. …hrmm!
    What about the hyenas in Lion King? The voices were Whoopie Goldberg, and other actors of color.
    Or the lions in Lion King? The voices were Jeremy Iron and Matthew Broderick who were white..but then of course also James Earl Jones (who’s African American)…does that mean Darth Vader was Black (well, literally he was)?

    And if Kermit and Miss Piggy were “inter-racial” (as opposed to inter-spec-ial)…what race did they each represent…?

  2. Ah, I can top that one.

    The Lion King is an evil movie for so many reasons. Firstly, it’s about enforcing a monarchy, and the hyenas are dirty brown people being mobilized in the power games of the white elite.

    And secondly, it is a direct plagiarism of Kimba, the White Lion, which was done by Japanese manga artist Osamu Tezuka, the same guy who did Metropolis and Astro Boy.

    Disney also ripped off Nadia to make Atlantis. But maybe that’s another topic.

  3. So, I just watched the Muppet movie for the first time since I was in Jr. High, and I had no clue how much the Electric Mayhem were druggies!!! I found your site searching for ‘”electric mayhem” drugs’.

    Anyway, as far as Dr. Teeth goes, he’s white. Check out Dr. John, a ‘Nawhlin’s piano player. He’s who Dr. Teeth was modeled after.

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