The pickaninny caricature cameabout in history in the late 1800s into the twentieth century It is one of manycaricatures that came about that contributed to the ideologies, characteristicsand beliefs about the average African American person. The characteristics thatpickaninnies are widely known for having include bulging eyes, wide, red lips, andunkempt hair (Padgett, n.d.). Pickaninniestypically represented black children as being poorly dressed, ragged, dirty andsometimes nude. These pickaninny caricatures were commonly seen being chased byalligators.
Most of the time, this caricature could be seen on postcards,posters, advertisements, and more, most commonly being chased or eaten by saidalligators (Dr. David Pilgrim, 2000). This is one of the manystereotypes that was regularly seen during the minstrel era which continues tomake appearances in today’s culture and media, including films and TV shows.One example of a particularcharacter that resembles the pickaninny caricature is Suzanne “Crazy Eyes”Warren from the hit TV show Orange Is theNew Black. Suzanne Warren’s character represents the pickaninny in a numberof ways. Although Suzanne is no longer a child and highly intelligent, shetakes on many physical characteristics of the pickaninny such as bulging eyes(which is where she gets the nickname in the show as “Crazy eyes”), a wide mouth,and unkempt and unruly hair. Along with these characteristics, she also hassome mental issues that give her a child-like perspective of everything in herlife throughout the show and makes her be seen as unintelligent or dumb,whether it was showing her during her childhood itself or the time that she’sin prison.
Pickaninnies are also seen as being overly sexual for their age and Suzanneexpresses this in a very naïve and child-like way as she obsesses over anotherfellow inmate, Piper, and her whiteness which through her eyes was her way of aromantic fetish. Suzanne called Piper “Dandelion” as an endearment for thisromantic connection she thought they had. Another example of how Suzanne resembles apickaninny is that she is targeted by a lot of the other inmates in the prisonthat she resides for the way she looks, acts, and because of her personality ,much like the alligators target the original pickaninny caricatures.OrangeIs the New Blackhappens to include a lot of characters that resemble and fulfill the roles ofvarious stereotypes when it comes to various caricatures and black women as a whole.This show demonizes black women as well as bringing the racism surrounding whitemedia and colorful minstrels to light. There is also an instance Anotherexample of a caricature within Orange Isthe New Black, not necessarily pertaining to the pickaninny caricature, isthe character “Vee” who can be seen as a mean, harsh, and abusive mammy whoabuses and takes advantage of her children. Her character supported thestereotype that most, if not all, black families were broken and sometimesfatherless (Householder, 2016).
Overall, this showand the characters within it bring many racial stereotypes to the attention ofthe public eye once again.Another example of a character thatportrays the image and characteristics of this caricature would be Prissy fromthe 1939 film Gone With the Wind. Theone characteristic about Prissy that draws the most attention and representsher as being a pickaninny is her broken language and unrecognizable dialect (Eckford, 2010). She’s extremelyhard to understand when it comes to her speaking in the film and thishighlights the idea that she’s a pickaninny, or in other words seen as anuneducated child and African American. Throughout our nation’s history,African Americans have always been followed by the stereotypes and beliefsregarding their relation to violence, crime, and the Brute caricature.