Her Name was Lola

As all my readers know, I’m a Looney Tunes freak. Key word: freak.  I know this about myself. And of course, I’m old school Looney Tunes.

There is a new Looney Tunes Show with new animation techniques that I don’t like and voices that try to sound like Mel Blanc but don’t, so I just shunned it altogether.

Now, I thought it’d be okay for today’s generation of kids. If you’ve never heard the “real” voices of these characters – as brought to life by Mel Blanc – could you really tell the difference?

So, one day I walked into the living room to find my daughter watching the show, and I decided what the heck, I’d give it a try.

I admit, I got hooked on the characters.  This modern-day Looney Tunes is more of a soap opera than what us “old folks” are used to, but still, it was okay. Not as bad as I thought and certainly more enjoyable than I thought possible once you got used to the animation and the voices.

But then, Lola Bunny came on the scene and my jaw just dropped with shock. Admittedly, I was forewarned by my daughter about Lola’s character, but I was still surprised by how awful her character was. Awful. Let me explain.

Lola Bunny was first introduced as a love interest for Bugs Bunny in the 1996 movie Space Jam (you know the one, where Michael Jordan is transported into the animated world of the Looney Tunes, and has to help the “Tune Squad” play basketball against the “villainous monstars”).

Let me quote Wikipedia about Lola’s character: “She is a tough talking, no-nonsense woman who is extremely independent and self-reliant. She is highly athletic while also incredibly seductive in her behavior.” Okay, so we can do without the seductive part, but the rest was a pretty good role model for kids watching the movie.

Next was a show called Baby Looney Tunes. In this cartoon Lola – like all the other characters, portrayed as a baby – is still intelligent and somewhat of a tomboy.

Now, contrast that with her characterization in the new Looney Tunes Show.

All of a sudden, she has become this complete and utter airhead who exemplifies the “blonde” jokes that are so often bandied about…and then some.

Let me quote Wikipedia again (because, you know, you may think it’s just me over-analyzing these cartoons, but it’s not! Anyone who watches the new Looney Tunes Show can see the complete destruction of her character):  “As opposed to her personality in Space Jam, she is portrayed as a scatterbrained, indecisive, gabby young woman who tends to obsess over Bugs, whom she refers to as “Bun-Bun.” She is very dedicated to achieving goals but oftentimes tends to forget what she was doing. She’s unable to settle on a decision, even for something as simple as what she wants to drink.  …she is overly talkative to the point of irritation.

WTFWhat happened?

All of a sudden Lola has been reduced from a strong female character to the “comic relief,” and not even good comic relief. At least being demoted for the purpose of decent comic relief would be somewhat acceptable. Yes, I get it, it’s the Looney Tunes Show, but she’s not LOONEY. She doesn’t have Bugs’ obnoxious charm or Daffy’s egotistical flair. She doesn’t even have Taz’s glorious rage. Instead, she’s just a stereotypical dimwitted, airhead female character (cause that’s just what we need more of on t.v.) – and just what is she telling the young boys and girls that are watching this show?

She’s telling girls that it’s okay, even expected, to be dim and uninformed about the world around you and to natter on, chattering about absolutely nothing of importance, because you’re a girl, and if boys like you they’ll put up with it. And they’re teaching boys that girls have nothing whatsoever important to say, so just kind of humor them because, after all, they’re just girls and what more should you expect?

And why is this funny?  Someone, tell me – why is this funny?

 

FROM THIS

FROM THIS

 

TO THIS

TO THIS

Cartoon Role Models, Or Not

As all of you know, I love cartoons!

I’m not talking about animated TV shows like King of the Hill or The Simpsons, or even that stuff on Adult Swim. Those are shows intended for adults. I don’t like to adult.

When I was a kid, more years ago than I care to count, the only cartoons available were on Saturday. In fact, “Saturday morning cartoons” were quite the tradition. It’s a tradition that has died out – now that we have cable and satellite, there are channels every day that show classic cartoons – the Disney Channel, the Cartoon Channel, and so on.

So, regardless of when kids watch cartoons, they watch them a lot, and so of course a lot of how they behave can be affected by what they watch.

I have to admit that when I’m watching my cartoons (I’m a Looney Tunes kinda gal), I’m always curious to see how male and female characters are presented in other cartoons.

And I’m thinking of the female characters in cartoons aimed at pre-schoolers. The “educational” cartoons. Just what are they teaching young boys and girls about male and female roles?

Well, watch the opening sequence to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse some time.  Each of the characters introduces themselves. The male characters wave or smile, the female characters (Daisy Duck and Minnie Mouse) thrust out a hip and raise a hand in a “come-hither” gesture.  It can’t just be me.

If you watch these shows, you’ll quickly see that Daisy is a flirt, who uses her “feminine wiles” – i.e. sex appeal – to get Donald to do what she wants. What is this teaching little girls about how they should interact with boys to get what they want?

Ever notice the stereotypical girl characters in these educations shows? For example in Rugrats, the girl Angelica is “spoiled and selfish” – and of course, bossy. (When a boy tells his friends what to do, he’s just “a leader,” but let a girl do it, and she’s just a bossy know-it-all.)

Ever notice in those shows with young male protagonists…the protagonist is usually a genius, while their sister is, if not a bossy-know-it-all, then an airhead? In fact, I can’t think of a pre-school cartoon where there is a girl genius.

Of course it’s not all bad news. Sheriff Callie’s Wild West presents an excellent female protagonist. Then there’s Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins.

But take a look at the other female characters in Doc McStuffins. While they’ve had episodes featuring a Bessie Coleman doll (the first African-American female licensed pilot) and a female rescue helicopter named Rhonda, many of the female characters are stereotypical with voices that just grate on my nerves.

There’s Dress Up Daisy, who speaks in a high falsetto and changes her outfit every few minutes. There’s Gloria Gorilla who loves to hug and who also uses a high falsetto voice. Spritzi Mitzi, the same thing.

It’s interesting to see how female characters have changed, but also in many ways remained the same, over the years.

What do you think of today’s cartoons for kids? Which are your favorites, and why?

Looney Life

Imagine how different our daily lives would be if the physics of Looney Tunes were a real thing. I mean, when I was a kid I always thought the world was going to be a lot tougher to navigate, thanks to my favorite Saturday morning cartoon show. I know, I know, I spend way too much time thinking about Looney Tunes. I can’t help it. They’re my late night go-to when I’m too stressed to fall asleep. So sue me.

Anyway.

As things stand, in our Einstein-ian guided laws of space and time, our everyday concerns are pretty reasonable. When we’re driving we watch out for potholes because sometimes roads are old. When we’re walking we look out for gum on the sidewalk because some people are pigs. But if we were in a Looney Tunes life, getting stuck in quicksand or glue traps on the way to work would be more of a concern than they currently are. Oh, and we’d also have to watch out for little supper plate sized black holes people can unfold like napkins and lay on the ground that zip us off  into a void in the universe. Step in one of those and, bam! who knows where you’ll end up. There’s probably not any cell service in one of those either, so don’t bank on posting any funny stuck-in-a-wormhole-again status updates.

News about people being caught under falling anvils and grand pianos don’t normally dominate the front page of the local paper, probably because it doesn’t happen very often (i.e.: never at all). And that’s a good thing. I guess. Living in a Looney Tunes world may look like fun what with the ability to walk through the air until you look down, how you can bounce off walls when you’re really happy, and you can make your eyes really REALLY big when you see something you like a lot.

But let’s not be fooled. It is a dangerous place. Threats to life and limb loom around every corner in the Looney Tunes world. When I was a kid I didn’t quite understand the line between the cartoon universe and this reality and some of that has definitely stuck with me. To this day if I see a random balloon flying by (a stray from a birthday party perhaps), I double-check to make sure it doesn’t have a stick of dynamite attached to the string. Why? Because you just never know! Ahhh…if the world was really like this — sure it’d be more dangerous, but revenge plots would be sooo much more entertaining.

Sneaky Road Runners could not only hurt poor genius Coyotes, they could jam up traffic for hours!

Poor, poor Wile E.

Guilty Pleasures

I like to think that I’m somewhat intelligent. Somewhat being the key word here. The books I read, while plenty entertaining with rich plot and interesting, complex characters, lean a bit more towards the literary than the commercial side.  I have nothing against glittering vampires or convoluted S&M with rich bachelors; they’re just not my thing. I also enjoy movies and shows that require at least some brain activity to understand. If it’s starring Larry the Cable Guy, chances are I won’t be buying a ticket. I’m far from Mensa worthy, but I do need more.

Then again…we all have our guilty pleasures or vices or whatever you want to call them and mine would have to be Looney Tunes cartoons. I love them! Like, love them. Not the new cartoons that are a full half hour and computer generated.  Oh no. I’m a fan of the old school Looney Tunes, the ones that lasted four minutes (six tops), were hand-drawn, and featured all the favorites back when they were all voiced by one guy.

Bugs Bunny playing tricks on Elmer Fudd. Pepe le Pew courting a poor bedraggled female cat unfortunately streaked with paint (I always enjoyed Pepe’s consternation when the tables were turned). Daffy Duck spraying spit everywhere. All brought to hilarious life thanks to the vocal genius Mel Blanc. He was the premier cartoon voice actor and launched all of these characters into legendary status.  Check out Mel Blanc’s biography some time (who knew he voiced Barney Rubble??).  A man of 1,000 voices indeed.  If the character isn’t voiced by him, I’m not interested.

In fact, I hate the new Looney Tunes show.  It shouldn’t even be considered true Looney Tunes. It’s a pale reflection of the original. I cling firmly to the old, majestic pieces that used classical sonatas and overtures to set the tone. Hell, most of what I know and love of classical music and opera today comes straight from watching these cartoons. They’re short nuggets of pure fun and tomfoolery. I love them so much that, thanks to Boomerang, having them on the t.v. is one of my primo weapons against nighttime anxiety on those occasions when I just can’t seem to shut my brain off from the stressful things I was faced with all day.

I must say, though, that I find it heartbreaking that Wile E. Coyote will always be remembered for his failures instead of his true artistic talent and creative brilliance. (Yes, this is how much I’ve analyzed the cartoons.) He truly was an innovative thinker. He painted fake roads, train tracks (so real that even trains were confused), and used tricks of visual perception to make a flat boulder look like a tunnel. Wile E. constantly rebelled against modern convention and thumbed his nose at the laws of physics on numerous occasions. He built rockets for god’s sake and catapults and plucking mechanisms. All for naught, but the genius was there nonetheless. Suuuper genius.

I also find it sad that Marvin the Martian never once got to blow up the Earth. Had he succeeded it would have sucked for us, but imagine his point of view. Never once did he get to reach the one goal he set for himself in life. It’s tragic really.

While all of those characters have a special place in my heart, my absolute favorites are the Goofy Gophers. Remember them? Perhaps a little further down in the Looney Tunes canon, but they had a style all their own. Snobby and pretentious? Yes. But charming, genial, accommodating, and well-mannered to a T, their prissy aristocratic accents capped off what I found to be a hilarious pair. I loved it. “Shall we hit Elmer Fudd on the head with this hammer?”  “Why yes, let’s.”  “Indubitably.” Classic!

Maybe my love of Looney Tunes isn’t a guilty pleasure. Maybe the characters are complex enough and “deep” enough to rationalize my love of them. Or maybe I’m just a grown woman who loves cartoon animals chasing each other with dynamite. You decide.

 

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