Comic Book Legends Revealed #439
COMIC LEGEND: A Rugrats character was banned from the Rugrats comic strip because of complaints by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League.
Rugrats, a long-running Nickelodeon show about a group of precocious young kids, was notable for its time for how much the show embraced the Jewish heritage of the main characters, the Pickles (their young son, Tommy, is the star of the series).
There was even a special Rugrats Chanukah episode in 1996…
So for the most part, Jewish organizations were quite pleased with Rugrats. However, one exception happened with regards to the characters of Boris, Tommy’s grandfather…
For a while in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Rugrats had its own comic strip. One of the strips in 1998 had Boris and Tommy at a synagogue with Boris reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish.
Here was the problem. If you knew the show in question, you would know that EVERYbody on the show was drawn in exaggerated fashion. But people reading their local Sunday funnies would not necessarily be people who knew the show, so to some people, Boris looked like a grotesque parody of what a Jewish person looked like.
To that extent, the Jewish Anti-Defamation League issued a statement saying as much and that they were offended that he was, in effect, ruining the solemnity of the prayer by having this grotesque parody recite it.
Herb Scannell, president of Nickelodeon (who produced the strip), apologized and banned the character of Grandpa Boris from ever appearing in the strip again, although he continued to appear on the TV series (and its sequel, where the kids grow up a bit) until it ended.
This is an interesting story of how context is key for a whole lot of things, including whether something is offensive. Former Nickelodeon president Albie Hecht was shocked and dismayed at how anyone could take offense to the character, but I think it is fair to note that if you know the character just from the cartoon it is a whole other context.
Check out some classic Comic Book Legends Revealed ALSO involving controversial comic strips!
Was the very first daily comic strip really canceled because William Randolph Hearst found it obscene?
On the next page, did Doctor Doom’s mask debut before Doctor Doom?