The Censored Eleven, Part Three: Clean Pastures (1937)

“The Censored Eleven” are the unofficial eleven animated shorts that have been banned, censored, or edited from public consumption and haven’t been seen by most in America. While some of the shorts have been released with a commentary about its social and political context, most are strictly taboo. In this limited series, we’ll review the censored eleven and figure out why these titles are still very volatile.

Clean Pastures (1937)
I. Freleng

Merrie Melodies

Friz Freleng really did have a mean streak of ignorance and racism in him. I’m shocked anything about his inherent racist animation streaks would stick, but lo and behold: Speedy Gonzalez. “Clean Pastures” is apparently a lampooning of the racist film “Clean Pastures” where a predominantly black cast tell the story of the bible. Along with painful stereotypes. “Clean Pastures” at first seems like its mocking the conventions of the film. But really, it’s really just piling on when you take a step back. The main character of the piece is a black angel in the Stepin Fetchit variety, who can barely play his angel trumpet and sits in a corner on the clouds speaking to his superior in the long drawls.

The premise for the cartoon involves the Stepin Fetchit angel looking upon his people who love to dance, gamble, and party, and intends to get them in to heaven. He’s unsuccessful since Black people are normally sinning people who care for nothing but than partying and slacking off. That is until his boss comes in and decides to start leading them in to heaven. The short implies that heaven is inhabited by African Americans, and run by them as well.

Which allegedly did not go over well with censors. Black people? In heaven? With white people? That’s absurd. Joking aside, “Clean Pastures” is cringe inducing and unfunny, presenting key Hollywood celebrities in black face, while the Stepin Fetchit angel is horrendous and impossible to root for. This is definitely a mean spirited portrayal of the African American race, and one that really should only be watched by folks who can endure its horrendously offensive shtick.