Washington Post PC Note Response

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The following appeared in the Washington Post on June 8, 1996. The citation is Jones, Garry (1996-06-08). 'Quest' for political correctness. The Washington Post: A, p. A13.

'Quest' for Political Correctness

I could hardly believe that the original episodes of "Jonny Quest" could be branded not only politically incorrect but racially stereotypical as well ["The Real Villains of 'Jonny Quest,' " Style, May 29]. One look at the depiction of Dr. Zin from the original show and the trailer for "Jonny Quest vs. the Cyber Insects" proves which era is purposely perpetuating ugly, politically incorrect stereotypes. The new Dr. Zin is pockmarked and sallow -- hideously bright-yellow and nearly inhuman in appearance. The original Dr. Zin is portrayed with a sense of style and dignity worthy of the perfect foil for Dr. Quest and his team. Maybe the "digital restoration" of the classic Quest videos resulted in Dr. Zin's very brown colorization.

While "the bad guys" may be little more than obstacles for the Quest team to prevail against, exactly how politically correct and three-dimensional are the villains of other animated series of that era or any other? An example of real villainy is the two Australian poachers from "Attack of the Tree People," who wanted ransom for the safe return of Jonny and Hadji.

It is interesting that the essayist chose the "signature trailer shot for classic 'Jonny Quest' episodes" to illustrate her point that Africans are always depicted as villains. I watched a lot of Jonny Quest hoping to see the episode that this vignette was taken from (if there is one), but I never saw it. And I never assumed that the Africans were villains, ignorant, or savages.

Jonny Quest is remarkable for a number of reasons that should not be overlooked: (1) the animation's attention to detail; (2) the fusion of the five lead characters and plot; (3) the incorporation of nature and wildlife; and (4) the international scope of the adventures. The high quality of the original episodes is evidenced from the start of each show. From the sleek, graceful panther bounding into the jungle to the alligator slipping into the water to the guy running through the jungle to the diving, screeching purple Taru the Terrible, you can tell that the animators took their job seriously.

Jonny Quest has an eclectic assortment of foes. "The Invisible Monster" and "Curse of the Mummy" -- two of my favorites -- are what I consider truly classic and could have replaced a couple of the episodes chosen in the current videos.

I doubt if an update of Jonny Quest for the 1990s will result in anything more than the exploitation of another popular American icon. Unfortunately, such merchandising and commercialization is what truly constitutes being "politically correct" in this day and age.

While today's animation can make explosions flashier, that doesn't mean that the adventures will be better. It will take a lot of skill to match -- let alone surpass -- the best "Jonny Quests."

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