"Who was that masked cracker?"

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The Supreme Court of Canada is being asked to hear arguments on whether the word "kemosabe" is racist to native people. Last February, a human rights board of inquiry … spent one day looking at old Lone Ranger shows, eventually concluding that the term was never used in a derogatory way and that the Lone Ranger and Tonto treated each other with respect. – cbcnews.com, Dec. 22, 2004

February 2004
Mission Statement

To protect Canadian citizens of all backgrounds from emotional distress, specifically by combing the annals of vintage TV for terminology that could be construed as offensive if employed in today's gentler, more enlightened climate.


The board logged 274 man-hours viewing representative episodes of various classic programs, monitoring them for possibly objectionable references. The results have been broken out in a series-by-series format for easy study.

The Lone Ranger – The program that spurred our research, LR was found to be a morally spotless exercise in racially sensitive adventuring. Though Tonto's copious repetition of the obscure epithet "kemosabe" had raised some red flags, careful viewing revealed that the term was never used in a derogatory way, and that the Lone Ranger and his sidekick always treated each other with respect. Our deliberations uncovered a far greater amount of unease over the term "red flag," which some of us saw as an obvious swipe at Native American peoples. We recommend the hiring of a semaphore specialist to settle the matter once and for all.

I Love Lucy – TV's first mixed marriage held plenty of potential for anti-Cuban-American sentiment, but the DVDs we scoured showed zany redhead Lucille Ball and her real-life husband, Ricky Ricardo, keeping their domestic squabbling relievedly race-neutral. While the "outtakes" section of the DVD revealed that Lucy had a troubling habit of angrily referring to Ricardo as a "rafter," "refugee" and "two-bit banana-boat captain who'd be nothing without [me]," every one of these accusations was uttered in between takes and not as part of the show proper, placing them beyond the purview of our inquiry.

Batman – You wouldn't expect anything other than squeaky-clean discourse from the congenitally upstanding Caped Crusader – unless you're aware that Canada's courts have recently identified the term "arch fiend" as an actionable slur against the criminally insane. Further, tagging partner Robin as "old chum" may have constituted an affront to the sensibilities of hammerhead sharks, in ways that only a publicly funded field trip to the Vancouver Aquarium will be able to verify.

Lost in Space – The testy Dr. Smith was prone to assail the friendly Robinson family robot as a "bubble-headed booby," among other corporeo-centric sentiments. However, protecting the emotional health and well-being of machines is a task the Canadian government has postponed until all remaining neighborhoods in Bala Muskoka can be outfitted with electric power. Word has reached our offices that one of Smith's other sobriquets, "you cowardly clump," may have upset certain medical patients who are experiencing rapid hair fallout due to advanced alopecia areata. We place no stock in these rumors.

Leave It to Beaver – One of the main elements of our assignment was to investigate reports that this TV perennial was rife with mentions of patriarch Ward Cleaver "going a little too hard on the Beaver" – a mandate that was accompanied by much snickering on the part of the Minister for Mass Culture. Our verdict: One of Canada's cutest and most industrious animals is being slandered unreservedly. Reruns must cease posthaste.

Happy Days – Initially thought to be an innocuous statement of peer-group impotence, the loaded term "nerd," we've learned, is actually a hateful label with roots in the absolute nadir of human conduct. In the Denmark of the early 1400s, a "nerd" was any uneducated immigrant laborer – often one afflicted with mild retardation – who was perceived as inherently subhuman by the landed aristocracy. That virulently bigoted mindset caused the poor nerds to suffer all manner of unprovoked injustice, including verbal humiliation, the spontaneous seizure of property and (in some extreme cases) burning at the stake. Scandinavian settlers brought the concept of nerd-dom with them to Milwaukee in the mid-19th century, but by the 1950s, it had been drained of its original meaning, and was now applied to anybody who wore cardigans on a consistent basis. Export to Canada was both inevitable and unfortunate.

Welcome Back, Kotter – You'd think that a classroom packed with students of such diverse extraction would be a breeding ground for hostile utterances, and you'd be right: Calling someone a "sweathog" carries nasty implications that are easily perceived by farm families and problem-perspiration cases alike. Fewer audience members know that a "Barbarino" is a disparaging Italian term for any female child born with a thicker mustache than her daddy's.

In Living Color – We studied every episode of this early-'90s nugget, and we found it to be 100 percent problem-free viewing for crazy white bitches everywhere.

All in the Family – Supposedly, Norman Lear's seminal blue-collar comedy was the most colloquially provocative of all American sitcoms. But unless an enormous amount of information is getting lost in translation, we just don't see it. In every episode we had the pleasure of scanning, working-class hero Archie Bunker took pains to pay respectful tribute to the many proud, hard-working ethnic groups that have made his country great – like the Hebes, the Micks and the Moulenjams. (Hope we spelled all of those correctly. Finding them in the Ottawa University Guide to U.S. Races was frankly impossible!) If we absolutely had to find a fault in this eternally enchanting series, you could probably get us to admit that Archie's use of the affectionate pet name "meathead" might not sit well with any vegans gathered in front of the tube. Oh, well. Never let it be said that we Canadians are a humorless bunch. We're willing to take some light ribbing of the non-carnivores among us, if that's the price we have to pay for our imported yuks. Nobody likes a good laugh better than the members of the Human Rights Board of Inquiry, and we want our neighbors to the south to know it. After watching 274 hours of their finest TV, we can safely say that they're our new bestest kemosabes.

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