Betty Boop: From a dog to a cartoon sex symbol

We all know the pretty looks of Betty Boop. Created in 1932, she is known for being one of the first female animated characters to be drawn with the shape of a lady. With her short dress and her signature “boop-oop-a-doop” catchphrase, she was a symbol of a more carefree era. Indeed, she is seen as the image of women from the Jazz-age flappers' era. Flappers was a generation of women in the 1920s who wore a short skirt and listened to jazz. They are known for flaunting their disdain for what was called the “acceptable behavior” at that time. Betty Boop was a great portrayal of this time.

From her looks to her job, Betty Boop stood out from the other animated characters of that time. Aiming an adult audience, the cartoon dealt with sexual and psychological elements that had never been dealt with in animated movies before. But Betty Boop has not always been this pretty woman we all know. Let’s look at her evolution.

Betty Boop, the French poodle

Created by Max Fleischer, the very first appearance of the character in a movie was in the short Dizzy Dishes. It was the seventh movie from the Talkartoon series. She appeared in a few different installments from the series as a supporting character.

In this movie, she was an anthropomorphic character. Between a woman and a French poodle, she was performing on the stage of a restaurant. This is where she meets Bimbo, a dog that falls in love with her.

She was already wearing her famous dress and curly hair. But she also had the ears and the nose of a dog. Yet, within a year after her creation, Betty Boop became a complete human female character.

Betty Boop, the first cartoon sex symbol

Betty Boop is largely considered as one of the first sex symbol from an animated movie. She was the first cartoon character with the shape of a lady and the image of a sexual woman. Compared to other characters of that time such as Minnie or Daisy from the Disney universe, she is shown as a more mature woman wearing short skirts, high heels, and a garter.

The design of the character once she was fully a woman was inspired by Clara Bow (an American actress), Helen Kane (an American singer) and Esther Jones (an African American singer). Helen Kane even sued the Fleischer Studios for using her image in Betty Boop without her permission. But she lost because there was proof of her not being the only one inspiration. It was at that time that Betty Boop reaches the peak of her popularity. It even allowed her to be exported all over the world.

Betty Boop, the conservative woman

In 1934, a new Production code was introduced. It was a moral guideline applied to every motion pictures in the United States. The movie featuring Betty Boop changed drastically after the reinforcement of the code in Hollywood. The appearance of the character was the first thing that got affected by it. No more short skirts and garter for Betty. Even the number of her curls had to be reduced. Wearing long dresses and cardigan, the character lost her flapper appearance. Her personality was also impacted. She got quieter and less outspoken. She became a spinster housewife or a carrier woman.Over the years, the story focused more on the supporting roles and Betty Boop lost the interest of the audience.

The Betty Boop cartoon was brought back to life in the 1970s when she found a new audience thanks to the television. Nowadays, she is still considered as the cartoon sex symbol she was at the peak of her success. We like her design and the nostalgia that comes with it. Betty Boop is now easily found on merchandise, such as T-shirt with a vintage feel or lovely cups.

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