As a free speech guy, as the founder of The Truth About Cars, Guns and Watches, I’m no fan of cancel culture. Putting the kibosh on Dr. Seuss, for example, is insane. His book The Sneetches was a crusade against anti-semitism and racism. But there are creations that cross the line. Pepe Le Pew is, indeed, a poster boy for sexual harassment. Just as the Bamford Popeye Watch is an inadvertent celebration of sexism . . .
The 40-year-old Popeye cartoon series, still a staple of children’s prime time viewing, is probably the most sexist and misogynist of the lot. The cartoon’s central theme is the struggle between two macho male figures, Popeye and Brutus. What do they struggle over? Olive Oyl, the passive, mindless, screeching “love interest” of the cartoon’ s protagonist, Popeye.
Olive is the prize for which the two male characters compete. Some scenes show Popeye and Brutus literally playing tug of war with Olive’s body. Other equally violent scenes show Olive being inadvertently tossed around and knocked down as she becomes caught up in the brawl between her two “suitors.”
Other cartoons offer similarly negative images of women as cute, coy animals being pursued by love-struck male characters or as helpless victims of some evildoer, waiting to be rescued and swept away by some masculine Anglo superhero.
Let me be clear: there’s nothing wrong with being physically strong or, in some cases, violent. A caveat that applies to both men and women. But violence was the answer to all of Popeye’s predicaments, which almost always involved “winning” Olive Oyl through a display of naked aggression.
Need I mention the cartoon series’ underlying [admittedly pro-vegetable] pro-drug message? Or the depiction of the Japanese in the WWII wartime short above? Probably not.
As for the 40mm Popeye Watch featuring the cartoon character, it’s Mr. Bamford’s second go.
This time out, Mr. Bamford’s hawking a $2k GMT timepiece running off a pedestrian if perfectly practical Sellita SW330-2 movement (ETA 2893-2 clone). The London-based re-packager’s limiting production to 50 pieces – which the endlessly obsequious watch press is busy lauding as a “heap [of] fun.”
I’m not a big Bamford guy, but I have no reason to believe he’s sexist. The modder’s love of Snoopy (“It brings you back to happiness”) has blinded him to the fact that nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.
While we don’t want to throw Swee’Pea out with the bathwater, we need to be careful about celebrating cultural icons that represent unacceptable values – avoiding the temptation to ignore positive attributes in the name of a relatively minor, forgivable flaw (given context).
Even a cursory look at Popeye The Sailor Man’s cartoons reveals a character built entirely on society’s objectification/disrespect for women (albeit in the name of prizing women). As such, it’s time to let Popeye fade into the mists of time, rather than inviting him to keep time on gentlemen’s wrists.