The Life and Times of Betty Boop: The 100-Year History of an Animated Icon

Applause. Nov. 2023. 240p. ISBN 9781493064281. pap. $19.95. POP CULTURE
Betty Boop is an instantly recognizable cartoon character, known as much for her distinctive looks and style as her signature voice and “boop-oop-a-doop” catchphrase. Remarkably, Benjaminson (Super Freak: The Life of Rick James) tells Betty Boop’s complete story for the first time. But this is not just her story; it’s also the tale of everyone involved in her creation, including Lillian Friedman, the first woman to draw Betty and the first American woman studio animator. The author also pays attention to the instances of racial and cultural stereotypes that are an undeniable part of the cartoons featuring the character in her early days during the 1930s. His research is meticulous and engaging throughout, and a chapter dealing with how Betty endured the restrictions of the Hays Code is timely. Furthermore, the “Who Booped First?” chapter provides a valuable cultural record of the legal challenges faced by Betty’s creators, who modeled her after real-life performers.
VERDICT The author more than makes the case that Betty Boop maintains long-lasting appeal and popularity, thanks to her indelible charm and independence. A fascinating read that explores every facet of the animated icon.
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