Before there was Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up, the role of “humorless woman” was held firmly by Elizabeth Berkely, who played feminist buzzkill Jessie Spano on the stereotype-laden Saved by the Bell. This shows was knee deep in dweebs, pocket protectors, and jocks, but we’d seen many of those before. The Spano character existed solely to remind everyone they should be having less fun, and to keep calling her boyfriend a macho pig, which seems a little harsh.
A character that uptight certainly didn’t need to be taking caffeine pills. In fact, she probably should have unwound with a little weed from Johnny Dakota.
Since The Simpsons has been on for approximately 75 years, they have done a very good job of fleshing out characters that started off as pretty one-dimensional. These days, Apu is a pretty drawn-out character, but at the beginning of the show, he was a pretty well-worn caricature. I love The Simpsons, so I’m not inclined to rag on it unduly, but when they have Apu making a pilgrimage to Kwik-E-Mart headquarters on a Nepalese hilltop, it raises more than a few eyebrows.
After the first few seasons, Apu became a likable and fairly deep character on the show, but before that happened, his presence felt like the laziest on the show. Tied with maybe Chief Wiggum.
Apu wasn’t a bad stereotype. He was hardworking, friendly, and very smart. But he was still a stereotype.
Saturday morning cartoons offered no shortage of half-developed characters that play to stereotypes, probably because they weren’t getting too many letters from Latin-American toddlers objecting to their depiction of Speedy Gonzalez. However, over time, as groups got more vocal, cartoons relied less on affectations and cultural props to embody a character.
Except for Pepe Le Pew.
The damage has been done. Since the age of 5, I’ve been absolutely positive that every Frenchman I come across is trying to steal my girlfriend and rape her. I refuse to go to Paris for this reason.
What do we REALLY know about Pepe? I always figured that he was a skunk to imply that French people are stinky because they didn’t shower. Not exactly an enlightened stance, but whatever. Further, he has a creepy brand of romance for which the French were previously known. OK, they still might have a creepy brand of romance.
But he also defies some stereotypes. For instance, Pepe doesn’t take no for an answer. But if World War II is any indication, the French are oh-so-quick to take no for an answer.
And with that joke, I’m no better than any of the characters on this list.