The Day Mussolini Banned Mickey Mouse & Popeye

The day the world began to end was when Popeye and Mickey Mouse were banned for being too subversive.  In late 1938, Italy’s fascist government, led by the Duce himself Benito Mussolini, ordered the Ministry of Culture to ban anything that wasn’t ‘exclusively Italian’ as it would lead their children of the day away from a life of a soldier.  As such Hollywood movies, Popeye and Mickey Mouse were singled out for banning leading to one of the first, if not the first, mass banning of comic books anywhere in the world.  Italy’s banning of comics, movies and books was proof positive of the old adage that a nation prepared to ban and burn literature is also prepared to ban and burn people.

Mussolini’s ban didn’t have much of an impact upon either The Mouse or Popeye – both went from strength to strength.  The Fleischer Studios made a few cartoons showing Popeye beating the living suitcase out of various Italians and Germans, not to mention a few Japanese along the way.  Conversely Mickey Mouse was too much of a wimp to get involved and I doubt that even a four year old kid reared on Disney would have bought The Mouse engaging in either a duel of wits or fisticuffs with Sgt Schultz, let alone a full blown Nazi.  However Popeye was just as violent as Andy Capp was in his day, only Popeye didn’t beat the crap out of Olive Oyl, unlike Andy who’d routinely kick the daylights out of his wife, Flo, the rent man, sundry neighbours, anyone who looked at him funny or when he played soccer.  But then both Popeye and Andy Capp smoked like chimneys, and where Popeye’s drug of choice was spinach, Andy Capp loved nothing more than to go down to the pub, get pissed, crack onto some tart for some casual sex and then wander home to give Flo one to think about.

I’ve always wondered what Mussolini would have thought about Andy Capp.  He’d probably have died of shock, instead of being shot, beaten and then strung upside down for the people of Italy to throw fruit, vegetables and assorted stones at his head. Still, it wouldn’t be all that long after this that both America and Australia would lead the way in the banning and burning of comic books.  The only difference is that the comics were banned in the USA and Australia to protect the youth from being corrupted…hang on, that’s why Mussolini banned them.  Oh dear.

The West Australian, 14th November, 1938


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