Propaganda: information and opinions (esp. prejudiced ones) spread to influence people in favour of or against some doctrine or idea. Americans used this in a variety of methods to provide a black and white view of different countries with half-truths or misleading information. Some of the most effective methods that they used to bring the message out were cartoons, movies, posters, and the type of colours. One of the ways of showing how bad the Germans or the Japanese were was through cartoons. They would show this with a stamp engraved with either the swastika or the sun (symbol of the Japanese) coming out of the air and marking a country.
Then, black and white ink would move out across the map to represent all the countries that these evil leaders had taken over. 1 This was very important because it was factual and had a big impact about what was happening around world through some simple animations. Another one of the ways to show discrimination against the Japanese and the Germans was to purposefully draw them in a very unflattering or mocking way. For example, Japanese people had the small buckteeth, glasses, and insect-like features. They tended not be quite exactly human and they were more of a sub-species than anything else.
Germans, on the other hand looked more like humans and the artists like to poke fun of them by making their noses and chins larger than usual. Germans usually had their noses and chins pointed towards the sky because they wanted to give the impression that Germans were very egoistic about themselves and their country. Hitler was an epic character and the animators made fun of him by having people throw tomatoes at him or else make him look insane by just rambling on and on in a language that nobody understands while making silly hand and body gestures. 2
During that period of time, 90 million people went to see a movie at least once a week because they were so cheap. They were usually back-to-back films and there was usually a short clip in between two shows to keep the audiences interested. 3 Cartoons were one of the many kinds of short clips that they would show at this time because cartoons weren’t made for just kids or adults, but for everybody to enjoy. Because of its simplicity, humor and straightforward points, audiences loved watching it. Cartoons was more cost effective for companies to make it, and it was more interesting for audiences to watch.
People didn’t really want to know about reality and what might happen to you in the war. They wanted a fantasy that would give a “sense of patriotism” and a chance to release their built-up energy and laugh. Donald Duck was very popular in Disney wartime movies because he was so quick-tempered and you could take him a lot further than you could have with Mickey Mouse. In the Warner Brothers Studios, Bugs Bunny became a big hit and they actually surpassed Disney with the number of audiences. Later on, some pilots that were going into the war would have a drawing of one of these characters on their planes.
Using posters and advertising it all around the city streets and magazines was also a really effective way of getting the word around. The posters were thoughtfully made with certain kinds of contrasting bold colours and a captivating phrase. Since America’s national colours are red, white and blue, these colours would always be used to support patriotism. Darker colours such as black, brown and grey were used to show the characteristics of the enemy side and how dark and heartless they were to the rest of the world.
Deep, bold red would symbolize the blood or anger that has happened in the war. They made the posters in such a way that only people form the enemy country would be holding their guns, which is usually aimed at an American soldier or somebody that looks very innocent. On the other hand, the Americans would only carry their guns on their backs for use only if needed or in self-defence. Never, would an American be caught using such a deadly weapon because, in their own minds, they aren’t that kind of people.
I feel that the methods that the Americans used to influence its citizens worked effectively even though most of the information that they used were either quite unmoral and most of the time, quite misleading. It lifted people’s spirits and influenced more people to get involved with the war. I just did not like the fact that there was so much racism and prejudice against every other nationality. But then again, most of the people weren’t as well mannered or well educated about other societies as they are today. After the war, all the World War Two movies and posters were put back onto the shelf or else thrown out.
The society had changed by then and racism was not as acceptable anymore. It was really quite embarrassing to show any of those films to anybody. Some of the animators say that looking back now, they feel horrible to do such things to the Japanese and the Germans. But at that time, it was necessary to have these animations produced because that’s what the people wanted to see. 5 American propaganda hasn’t disappeared form today’s society but it has changed from discriminating other people to putting themselves at a higher level compared to others.