In many cartoons, particularly Disney ones (ex: Dumbo) crows represented black people and thus their bad portrayal is a form of racism. The term “Jim Crow” laws were segregation laws enacted in the late 1800s, early 1900s seperating blacks and whites. This is another reason why crows are often representative of black people. In Disney’s Dumbo, made in the 1940s, the crows had obvious black sterotypes that they acted out and were considered very racially offensive.
Another reason for crows bad reputation is simply for their ominous represenation. The crow, in addition to the raven, is considered a sign of death and destruction (ex: the poem “The Raven) and thus crows in a cartoon represent impending doom.
Crows are natural scavengers so they get their association honestly. In addition, crows are actually quite intelligent so it makes good sense that they would use their intelligence to take them to the places where they are most likely to find scraps and remains of any kind, human or otherwise. Apparently after the Hiroshima bombings, the greatest number of visitors was the flock of crows that descended upon what was left of the city. Stories like this is what draws cartoonists to make the negative associations in movies.
They are loud and to some unsightly in both sound and appearance. In addition, crow has been associated with other things throughout history including war and famine, but they are also messengers, and then there’s J. Crow.
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