One of the most common questions I hear about the original 1962-63 run of “The Jetsons” is where are all the people of color?
Scan any crowd shot in the first season of “The Jetsons” and you’d be hard pressed to find any non-white faces. Were the animators at Hanna-Barbera in the 1960s all racists? That seems highly unlikely.
But the show was expressly written as a postwar family living the American Dream — an American Dream that just so happened to be thrust into the mid-21st century. Who then was the American Dream meant for? The uncomfortable truth is that black people were systematically excluded from the postwar institutions that allowed many other white families (like our fictional Jetsons) to achieve that American Dream. And not just in the Jim Crow South.
Black soldiers returning from World War II found that the GI Bill was not colorblind and was, in fact, built on “premises of both legal and de facto inequality.” [pdf]
Until 1960 black performers like Sammy Davis Jr. weren’t even allowed to rent a room in the whites-only Las Vegas hotels where they were performing! For people watching “The Jetsons” in 1962 this wasn’t exactly ancient history.
I don’t think the creators of “The Jetsons” were consciously trying to exclude people of color from their vision of this futuristic American Dream. Institutions throughout the U.S. were systematically doing that job already.