The Betty Boop Talkartoons series was known for it's risque behaviour. Betty Boop's best appearances are considered to be in her first three years due to her "Jazz Baby" character and innocent sexuality, which was aimed at adults. However, the content of her films was affected by the National Legion of Decency and the Production Code of 1934. The Production Code of 1934 imposed guidelines on the Motion Picture Industry and placed specific restrictions on the content films could reference with sexual innuendos. This greatly affected the Betty Boop cartoons.
The Breen Office ordered the removal of the suggestive introduction, which had started the cartoons because Betty Boop's winks and shaking hips were deemed "suggestive of immorality." While these cartoons were tame compared to her earlier appearances, their self-conscious wholesomeness was aimed at a more juvenile audience, which contributed to the decline of the series. Much of the decline was due to the lessening of Betty's role in the cartoons in favor of her co-stars.
The Betty Boop character started out as a anthropomorthic caricature of 1920's singer Helen Kane. The character's age was classed as irrelevant from 1930-1931 due to the fact that she was a French Poodle. From 1932 her canine features were morphed into human ones. In a 1932 Interview Max Fleischer claimed that Betty Boop was officially 16 years old. Although in Betty Boop's Birthday which was released in 1933, Betty only had 14 candles on her cake which suggested she was actually 13 years old. According to Max Fleischer, he couldn't decide on an age for the character. The character was underage in most of her cartoons from 1932-1934, from 1934-onwards she is shown to be alot older and is seen as the house-wife type, which is probably the outcome of The Motion Picture Production Code of 1934.
Betty's age according to Betty Boop in a 1937 promo:
I made my first movie eight years ago ("Stopping the Show") when i was sixteen.
I am still sixteen and will always stay sixteen!
Ain't that something!!
Rumor has it that in September 1938 Max Fleischer, as a thank you to all artists who moved to his new animation studio in Florida, animated a graphic sexual encounter between his two stars Betty Boop and Popeye. Reports on this supposed film, known as “Welcome to Miami,” range from it being 30 seconds of pencil drawings to a full-color short film.
Betty's Sexual Status today
According to King Features and The Fleischer Studios of this generation, " We have always had to push the envelope a little without stepping over the line". For example, Betty Boop has always been sexy, but without being sexual. What our culture considered sexy in 1930 is not exactly what we consider sexy today."
The Fate of Bimbo
Bimbo was originally the Fleischer Studios mascot and appeared in most of the cartoons from 1929-1933 until the creation of Betty Boop who was initially designed to look like an anthropomorphized version of a dog with a poodle-esque appearance. Her general look, attitude and voice were based in large part on singer and occasional actress Helen Kane. Animator Grim Natwick used Kane's wide eyes, bow-shaped mouth, her curly hair, and head as reference points in crafting the character. Betty retained her canine features until 1932, when she was redesigned to be more overtly human. Which signaled the death for Bimbo. Betty and Bimbo maintained a romantic relationship for a short while but he was retired in 1933 as it was considered unseemly for a human girl to be in love with a dog, in 1934 Betty had a new human boyfriend dubbed Fearless Fred, who later was also removed from the series. In the 1980's when Betty was rediscovered, Bimbo returned but instead of boyfriend, he returned as best friend and in some media "as boyfriend".
Grim Natwick and Betty's Sexuality
Grim Natwick once said "Although Betty was never vulgar or obscene, Betty was a suggestion you could spell in three letters: S-E-X." Indeed every aspect of the character is designed to entice, from those Kewpie-doll features to her short low-cut dresses and garters. And yet there is an innocence to Betty that is encapsulated in her breathy, squeaky, baby-talk voice, brought to life most memorably by voice-over artist Mae Questel who also provided the voice for Fleischer's other popular leading lady, Popeye's paramour Olive Oyl. This makes for a character who is a potent combination of girl and woman, protecting her chasity from wolves and scoundrels while punctuating every song with an alluring wink and a smile. There is a darkness to many earlier Boop shorts, which reference controversial themes such as rape, sexual harassment and even ephebophilia, tied to these darker themes is an inescapable atmosphere of innuendo and risque imagery.
References in the Betty Boop Cartoons
Below are some of the references from various cartoons, Betty was known to lose her clothes in most of the episodes she appeared in, the trait most likely came from Clara Bow the It Girl. Sexual advances were always made by a male antagonist's in the earlier series from 1932-1933. For example male characters such as Ringmaster, Big Boss. The Old Man of The Mountain. Bimbo was known to lust after Betty in the series, her relationship with Bimbo was classed as Beastality. In most of the episodes Betty's garterbelt is shown to slip down, she is always seen quickly pulling it back up. When Betty wore her garterbelt it was classed as being sexy, in the beggining she wore two garters on both legs, until it was moved to her left leg. The garterbelt is usually fastened around Betty's left leg, and is used to keep up her stockings as seen in "She Wronged him Right". Betty's garter was never removed from the series it was just moved further up her leg. The Betty Boop cartoons also have alot of Ethnic and Homosexual references in them, which made many Betty Boop cartoons banned in the early 80's & 90's re-releases but most of the cartoons are restored up to date.
Betty Boop Homosexual References
In Betty Boop for President (1932) Betty gives a fearsome con the electric chair which turns out to be a beauty treatment from which he emerges lustrous and queeny. In Dizzy Red Riding Hood Betty is pleased to come across a pansy because as a limp wristed tree stump observes "The fairies like them too!" then both Betty and Bimbo run away from the tree. In Betty Boop's Penthouse Betty runs across another pansy and later goes after the intruder with a spray can turning him into a flitting ballet dancer. There was even a reference in a Boop cartoon to a man with the red necktie to a coded piece of gay appearel.
Betty Boop Ethnic References
The Fleischers and their star Betty Boop, firmly located in New York's Yiddish-speaking community while playing the film to audiences all over the United States, are the emodiment of the paradigm. Clear references to Yiddishkeit found in the cartoons reveal a degree of comfort with their cinematic image enjoyed by the Jews whose success provided some distance from the typical anti-semitic stereotypes. The cartoons however are not as kind to other ethnic groups and the stereotypically racist depcitions found in cartoons such as Mask-A-Raid which spoofs Italian and Chinese immigrants, emphasizes the long lasting effects of these widely distributed and frequently repeated caricatures. In Making Stars the vaudeville set up with performing babies features "The Colorful Three". Three performing stereotyped African American babies who chant Cab Calloway's most famous scat lyric "Hi-De-Ho" the safety pin is like a daisy chained shackle for cotton pickers whilst performing behind a curtain with scenery depicting a cotton field, all three are lured off stage by Watermelons.
Banned Betty Boop Cartoons
Many Betty Boop cartoons were banned from TV for being too sexual or racist. On Youtube in the early 2000's if a Betty Boop cartoon were uploaded it would sometimes have been taken down by Youtube for being too sexual, one in mind that was constantly removed if uploaded was Betty Boop's Penthouse. Early DVD releases were edited and all the content was removed but in new DVD releases, everything has been restored as the Ethnic references in the Betty Boop series did not go overboard as other studios such as Warner Bros. Below are some of the Betty Boop cartoons which feature a few stereotypes.
- Popeye the Sailor
- Making Stars
- Zula Hula
- Out of the Inkwell
- Dizzy Red Riding Hood
- Betty Boop's Penthouse
In Dizzy Dishes when Betty say's that she wants to make "whoopie/whoopee" a 1920's phrase meaning "to have a good time" and often used as "make whoopee" for "sex" Betty's skirt lifts up in the air to reveal she's wearing no underwear, Bimbo's body also morphs into an erected state. In Mysterious Mose Betty's nightgown lifts up and down while she is in her bed, a picture on her wall tells her to take them off. In Barnacle Bill Betty's skirt flys up and down while she's on the sofa with Bimbo, the film climaxes with a sudden cut to the outside of Betty’s window as the window-shade is suddenly pulled down and two cats emerge (Gossiping Cat Neighbors) from the neighbouring windows with the usual gossip combination: disparaging looks and calls for everyone else to come and see (a cutely unconvincing joke has Bimbo and Betty playing checkers when the window-shade rises.
In Silly Scandals Betty's dress slips down to reveal her frilly bra.Bimbo's Initation a cartoon referencing freemasonry includes sodomite references throught the whole cartoon."We are the members of Do It Or Die D-I-D-I-D-I" Watch us make Bimbo as easy as pie D-I-D-I-D-I We are succubus filled with college pep Bring him on we cry "D-I-D-I-D-I B-I-M-B-O BIMBO". “We are succubus.” A succubus is a demonic entity that rapes men during the night, which may be in a female form or in a male form for sodomy. Bimbo can also be seen riding a bike that is a butt spanking machine, self abuse. His butt is set on fire. The bike then takes him into the room of the lodge or temple with masonry walls and the standard Masonic checkerboard floor. Betty Boop who had been wearing a Mason disguise. It's really a Mason, who now appears to him as Betty Boop, which is to say a desirable sex object. She does a sleazy little dance for Bimbo and spanks her own butt repeatedly, so we get the point that this now sexually attractive Lodge member is his new sodomite sex partner. The programming has transformed Bimbo. Wanna be a member? Bimbo says yes. The curtain goes up and we see the audience, the gallery of secret society members. They all pull off their brotherhood suits and become Betty Boop Clones, dancing like dance hall girls. All now appear as potential sex partners to Bimbo. First, she is a hybrid, a chimera, Nephilim. Second, she is part dog, which is known to be a reference to a sodomite or male prostitute. Bimbo was a dog. This is the dirty little secret behind the Bimbo and Betty Boop identities. Betty was a secret transvestite or a hermaphrodite. In The Bum Bandit Betty Boop stars as Dangerous Nan McGrew, while Betty's singing the hold up rag her skirt fly's in the air in front of the engineer. Betty eventually throws Bimbo into the locomotive, as they drive off she pulls down the blinds their underwear then emerge on the line attached to the smoke stack, suggesting they are having sex.
In Boop-Oop-a-Doop after performing Do Something on the tightrope, Betty Boop returns to her dressing room. The Ringmaster enters her room and tell's Betty that she will lose her job if she continues to refuse his sexual advances. The Ringmaster then feels betty's legs and whispers something in her ear to which she replies "You Mean?" He then behings to whisper in her ear a second time to which she states "No!" she responds by slapping him in the face, he then begins to choke her and states "There will be no more Boop-Oop-a-Doop outta you!" Betty escapes his clutches and begins to sing Don't Take My Boop-Oop-A-Doop Away. After Betty finishes singing she is grabbed by the Ringmaster, until Koko the Clown saves the day, Betty responds with "He couldn't take my Boop-Oop-a-Doop Away!" Bimbo can also be heard referencing Peanuts and Penis to Betty's brother Billy Boop who reply's "No!" while Bimbo is working as a Peanut Vendor, he even points at his crotch area. Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle contains a tan-skinned (dark-skinned) topless Betty Boop, wearing only a lei and a grass skirt. In Betty Boop's Up's and Down's Betty's skirt lifts up while she's walking in the air. In Any Rags Betty's Skirt slips to reveal she's wearing a frilly bra. In S.O.S, Sink or Swim, Betty's skirt lifts into the air while she's singing on the raft, when she's taken captive by pirates the captain quotes "Leave the Damsel to me" he then turns into a snake to which Betty replys "You mean?" which is the same quote she used in Boop-Oop-a-Doop. In A Hunting We Will Go Betty allow's Bimbo and Koko the Clown to feel her legs up and down. In Betty Boop's Ker-Choo, Betty quickly flashes her Bra to her boss and can also be seen gripping her bosom and groin area, while singing, in a few scenes Betty's groin area of her jumpsuit is detailed which was done deliberate by the animators who worked on the cartoons.
In Betty Boop's Big Boss Betty flashes while standing on the table, According to Leslie Cabarga in one scene the boss can be seen rubbing her breast. In Betty Boop's Penthouse Bimbo and Koko watch Betty take a shower on her roof, when she dry's herself off her towel continues to rub her rear area until she move's it up to her back. In Popeye the Sailor Betty wears the same topless costume she wore in Betty's Bamboo Isle. In Is My Palm Read Betty is invited to have her fortune told by Bimbo when she enters Bimbo turns off the lights, which show allows them to see through Betty's dress. Betty is then hypnotized into remembering the naked truth of her baby days you then see a flashback of a nude Baby Boop taking a bath. In I Heard Betty goes down an elevator but the elevator brakes and she ends up falling on Bimbo who then ends up wearing her clothes leaving Betty in her underwear, and is the first and only cartoon where Bimbo is seen crossdressing. In Betty Boop's Birthday Party when Bimbo congratulates Betty, she quickly flashes her underwear to him.
In Red Hot Mama as Betty passes in front of flaming pits, her nightie turns see through. In Betty Boop's Rise to Fame there is a frame showing a naked breast. In Betty Boop's Trial Betty lifts her skirt in the air one last time when she twirls around, which reveals her underwear. In Poor Cinderella while Betty's in the carriage a horse starts to sing "They call her Poor Cinderella", the top part of her dress slips she quickly lifts it up and states "But i'll be a princess someday." In She Wronged Him Right, when held captive underwater by Heeza Rat Betty quickly flashes her underwear.
In Pudgy and the Watchman Betty Boop is tricked into hiring Al. E. Katz. He uses a fake mouse to scare Betty out of her home, when she jumps over him he takes a quick look up her dress. This is the only known sexual reference in the Betty Boop series from 1938. In Buzzy Boop when the train stops Betty's skirt flips one last time to reveal her garter and underware. In The Swing School when Betty enters the classroom she quickly flashes her garter, which had been hidden due to the fact that her dresses were made longer due to the Hays Code.
The Romance of Betty Boop (1985)
In the Romance of Betty Boop the creators of the 1985 special slipped in a nude scene which can only be seen in the cel. It was homage to the Fleischers original Betty Boop cartoons. Which indicates that the rumor of Betty Boop being drawn fully nude underneath her outfit was not in Who Framed Roger Rabbit but in fact in The Romance of Betty Boop but In the actual cartoon the nude scene is cropped out.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
According to sources Betty Boop had appeared topless when adjusting her garter in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) as a reference to her old cartoon series. When Eddie Valiant and Betty have their brief meet-up in the Ink and Paint Club there was a moment in the scene where, just for a single frame the strapless dress that this classic cartoon character slipped off of her breast and thus revealed her bare nipples. According to the new DVD release the statement was that her dress was made too small and that it had looked as if she were topless, which might be untrue due to the risque nature of the original Betty Boop cartoon series. The scene has been removed from all future DVD releases. Disney employees had to collect individual single frames of the (top-less Betty) and return them to the studio, where Disney attorneys then determined which frames had come from which specific print and what theatre, before officials ordered the frames to be destroyed.
- According to a source the only reason the animators who worked on Who Framed Roger Rabbit had slipped in a topless scene of Betty Boop was to pay tribute to the people who worked on the original Betty Boop series.
- There is a breif nudity from Jessica Rabbit in the film & Baby Herman can be seen putting his finger up a woman's dress.
- This scene could also be a reference to why some people reference Betty Boop as "Betty Boob".
- The images could be photoshopped, but Betty Boop was known to do these things in the original series, when she stopped doing these things from 1934-1939 her cartoons series plummeted.
- According to a source Betty Boop was classed as being drawn fully nude under her clothes in the film, although there is no proof to back this claim.
Betty Boop's Hollywood Mystery (1989)
In Betty Boop's Hollywood Mystery Betty can be vaguely seen in a few tounge-in-cheek scenes. When serving the customers at Diner Dan’s her dress gets caught in the dishes which reveals her underware. While performing Mysterious Rhythm Betty flashes her underware a few times. Betty also reprises her famous topless hula dance which she did in Betty Boop’s Bamboo Isle. Before Betty performs in the Mask-A-Raid ball she can be seen getting ready in her dressing room and can be seen in her undergarments. Betty states "This is your big chance Betty Boop so don't blow it!" Suddenly Sam Slade bursts out of the grandfather clock in which Betty replies "Yikes!" indicating she did not know anyone else was in the room while she was getting changed. Betty can be seen buttoning up her costume while stating "Sammy... you’re so alarming!".
Betty Boop Dance Card (2014)
In the opening of Betty Boop Dance Card Betty Boop can briefly be seen getting dressed.