Tuesday, April 8, 2014

N...n...nuance

It’s funny to me how liberals like to think that they understand nuance. In my experience, you can hit a liberal over the head with a whale or a hammer and they couldn’t tell the difference. Conservatives (most at least) actually tend to be the ones who grasp nuance. And one area where this is clear is in older cartoon.

You probably realize this, but it bears pointing out: cartoons thrive on disabilities. Every single cartoon character of note from the birth of the toon age until the 1970s had a disability of some sort. Elmer Fudd has a speech impediment, plus he rode the short bus. Daffy, Donald and Porky also had speech impediments. Daffy had syphilis too, but that’s not widely known. Droopy Dog suffered from extreme depression and maniacal pessimism. Bluto and Grape Ape suffered from gigantism, also known as Andre the Giant’s Disease. The Tasmanian Devil was the first reported case of ADHD. Popeye was a meth addict, as was Speedy Gonzalez. Wimpy was addicted to hamburger. Olive Oil was anorexic. Yosemite Sam was a dwarf. Goofy was a functional retard. The Roadrunner is mute. And so on.

Of course, liberals took offense to these things and they whined about it for decades: how dare you insult retarded kids or midgets or anorexics!! Sadly, Hollywood tends to take the path of least resistance... and most obnoxiousness, so they responded by making modern cartoon characters rather bland and physically perfect.

But is this right?

Well, let’s start with the obvious. Did any kid ever see Daffy Duck and think, “I need to go make fun of some kid with a syphilis-induced speech impediment!” Hardly. Kids, who are generally smarter than liberals, saw the nuance. They weren’t laughing at kids with speech impediments, they were laughing at Daffy’s funny mannerisms... all of them. They were laughing at Daffy for being a fool, an arrogant duck who caused himself a world of hurt because he was a jerk. They may also have made fun of the kids who were different, but it wasn’t because they saw Daffy as giving them permission to do so.

In fact, it’s not even like only the villains had these flaws... all cartoon characters have flaws! Popeye mumbles, Mickey Mouse sounds like he’s been hitting the helium... or lost his testicles in ‘nam. Scooby never once spoke clearly, and Shaggy spoke hippy. Speed Buggy spoke with a stutter and smoker’s cough. Half the heroes were dumber than rocks too.

The point is this: the funny voices, the speech impediments, the crazy shapes and bizarre traits were never meant to be taken as insults to anyone. They were meant as a way to make these characters unique... something Hollywood no longer knows anything about.

This is what liberals don’t get. Just because you point something out does not mean you are making a point about it. If my villain is fat, it’s because a fat guy looks cool in the suit, not because I’m making some statement about people with Type 2 diabetes being evil. If my villain stutters or smokes or has only one hand, it’s just a way to make the villain stand out. It’s not an attempt to offend people, and if people are offended by the simple inclusion of such a thing, then they are fools. Would you rather live in a world where you fit into any film or a world where you become the dirty secret the human race pretends doesn’t exist?

What liberals need to learn (and a few conservatives at places like BH), is when that line gets crossed and something becomes a statement. Where does something go from incidental flavoring to political statement? Well, that all depends on the behavior. Behavior is what matters. Are these traits simply part of the character or do you mock them for those traits? Do you suggest those traits make them inferior? Do you suggest that those traits are things to be ridiculed? Do you treat them as second class citizen, by perhaps acting that they are so hypersensitive that they can’t see their traits portrayed on film?

People need to learn the difference between a statement for/against something and the simple inclusion of something to add depth and interest.

Thoughts?

29 comments:

tryanmax said...

There is high irony in the sort of "diversity" they put on TV an in movies these days. On one hand, every possible hue of melanin, from champagne pink to dark chocolate, must be represented. But beyond that, everyone is a department store mannequin--with the exception of the ugly old white guy villain. It's even to the point where no one has accents anymore. Sun Li, Dhinesh, Natalya, Pablo, and Tyrone all speak in the same flat midwest dialect as Gregory.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Very true. They also push the same old idea of exclusion, only this time it's not good looking white kids excluding the ugly, the fat and the minorities (assuming such exclusion was ever allowed on film -- I don't see any evidence for it except in filmmakers who are revisionists)... this time it's everyone excluding the rich white kids. How does that really help? It creates the same dynamic.

ScottDS said...

Yeah, but what about at BH where --

Oh, you beat me to it this time. Well played, sir. :-)

Stuff like this is why it's hard to judge TV shows. "Oh my God, Girls is promoting promiscuity!" Well, the characters are all in their 20s, they're all miserable, and it's a TV show so the characters might grow out of it.

I'm just using Girls as an example - I don't watch the show but considering the frequency with which it comes up, you'd think Lena Dunham was the president of the United States!

Not to go off-topic, but speaking of diversity, y'all know I'm pretty liberal with gay rights, but I had to laugh when I saw the Dartmouth "Freedom Budget" put forth by some students. I support harsh penalties for rapists and things like that... but most of the items on their list, even I would be forced to tell them to f--- off!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Had to mention BH because they really don't get nuance!

That's the truth behind "diversity." It's not about accepting more things, it's about opposing a different values. It's just a power play.

tryanmax said...

That Freedom Budget is just obnoxious. Anyone who uses the term "ableism" is a pretentious jerk. These are people who think that paraplegia is the only handicap there is. Most of the accessibility modifications actually make the world more dangerous for my autistic child. Thanks, cripples!

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, These people are idiots with no real world grasp.

Jason said...

You forgot that Pluto suffers from clinical lycanthropy. Everyone knows that in the Disney universe, dogs are supposed to stand upright and talk, like Goofy. Pluto is under a delusion that he’s supposed to be on all fours, not wear clothes, and bark.

John Jameson said...

Speaking of the ugly old rich white guy villain, one stereotype that continues to thrive in Hollywood is that this evil terrorist mastermind will invariably have a European ancent, usually English English (certainly not Scottish, Welsh or Irish English) or some form of Germanic English.

Somehow the PC nutters don't seem to mind that one.

AndrewPrice said...

Jason, LOL! Poor Goofy. We should take up a collection to help him!

AndrewPrice said...

John, Excellent point! In movie after movie now the villain speaks with a very proper English accent or a clean German accent.

Jaguar actually points this out in their most recent commercial. It's a good ad, but I have to wonder how people would react if this were "Why do they always cast Mexicans to play drug lords?" Probably wouldn't go over too well. Here's the ad. It's worth seeing: LINK

John Jameson said...

Thanks for the link Andrew - interesting to note that it refers to "British" villains, whereas the stereotype is almost exclusively English and aristocratic (and similarly the Germanic/Nordic version is a specific archetype). The Mexican analogy is quite telling, isn't it?

On the other hand, it takes a really extreme PC nutter to see Roadrunner's muteness as an offensive stereotype. Do such people really exist?

AndrewPrice said...

John, In truth, I've never heard anyone complain specifically about the Roadrunner, but I do hear constant attacks on all of "Looney Tunes" (and early Disney) as mocking people with disabilities (particularly speech impediments) and teaching kids violence. I actually did get into an argument with a woman once who said, "That stupid Roadrunner is going to survive being thrown of a cliff, but my kids won't." It never occurred to her that her job as a mother was to teach her kids not to throw each other off cliffs in the first place.

On the British v. English thing, it could well be that the commercial was just aimed at Americans. We tend to equate British with English. We see tend to see the Scots and Irish as something else, and we don't really know about the rest.

John Jameson said...

In this respect, Sean Connery (aka Bond, James Bond) is of course British (or even English), whereas the Scots are portrayed by Australian or French actors, just to be sure they are not confused with the British!

John Jameson said...

Roadrunner, on the other hand, is a blatant attack on big industry (ACME) and naive consumerism (the Coyote). Not to mention the laws of physics...

AndrewPrice said...

Yeah, ironically, Connery is almost always presented as British... except in Highlander where he was Egyptian pretending to be Spanish while speaking with a British accent. I don't know that I've ever seen him play a Scot and I'm not sure if he would sound Scottish or not in real life.

We see a LOT of Americans play Irish.

AndrewPrice said...

The laws of physics will get you every time... they are biased against the stupid!

I have to say that I really came to sympathize with the Coyote. He did his best time and again and he was always undercut by the defective products of the ACME corporation! Poor guy.

John Jameson said...

What is strange about this is that Connery has quite a strong Scottish (Edinburgh/Fife) accent, and makes no attempt in any of his movies to hide it, even when playing an Egyptian pretending to be Spanish (or indeed a Russian submarine commander or an Italian Friar). However, it is a relatively aristocratic sounding Scottish accent (think "bad Scot" in Braveheart terms) and is partially masked by Connery's distinctive lisp. The Man Who Would Be King is about as close Connery comes to the suggestion that his character might be Scots rather than English, thanks to the contrast with Michael Caine's character.

John Jameson said...

My sympathies are also with the Coyote. Roadrunner is an irritating wind-up merchant with no redeeming features or goals. Yet we accept that Coyote is going to lose every time. This is surely great material for a separate Commentarama post!

Kit said...

Andrew,

Connery played a Soviet submarine captain in The Hunt for Red October, an Arab raider in The Wind and the Lion, and an Irishman in Darby O'Gill and the Little People (pre-Bond and he used an Irish accent).

Dave Olson said...

Well let's be honest about accents: if he isn't an IRA terrorist, could you really accept a villain with an Irish accent? He'd sound like a leprechaun trying to take over the world.

John Jameson said...

Yes, I could: Moriarty in Sherlock, played brilliantly and menacingly by Andrew Scott.

(OTOH, a Welsh terrorist would be a little harder to imagine, but the brilliant Pete Postlethwaite may have been able to pull it off.)

AndrewPrice said...

John, It probably is! Off the top of my head, the Coyote is the only cartoon villain we tend to prefer to the hero. Interesting.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit and John and Dave, I don't think I've heard Connery speak with his real accent. Or at least, the few times I've heard him speak, he sounds like Connery with only a slight Scottish accent.

Another guy like that is Christian Bale. When I've seen him interviewed, he sounds perfectly American. Then I saw him on Graham Norton and I was shocked at what his real accent is like.

John Jameson said...

Andrew, I also have a soft spot for Dick Dastardly and (especially) Muttley. They were way more interesting than Yankee Doodle Pigeon (a role similar to and as irritating as Roadrunner) or Penelope Pitstop (surely unique in being nauseating both to bible-belt fundamentalists and ultra-feminist liberals).

Dick Dastardly knew how to be a good villain, toying with his waxed moustache, and taking out his frustrations on his sidekick while politely cursing his luck. As for Muttley, with his wheezy snicker and incomprehensible swearing, has a psychopathic dog ever been so endearing?

AndrewPrice said...

John, I would agree with that. I really don't like Penelope at all, though the bad guy isn't bad.

tryanmax said...

I put on Mulan for the kids last night and I it made me think of this article again. Because, like, the guy who's leading the army says some stuff that's, like, totally offensive to women. And Mulan is like, right there, but he doesn't know she's a she. But, like, he shouldn't be saying that stuff anyway, y'know? Like, he's so in need of some sensitivity training. You don't even know.

Paul said...

Connery played a Scott in The Avengers movie.

Alex said...

Great article--cartoons are the best.

Let me rephrase that: Old cartoons are the best.

My 20-month-old likes to watch Mickey Mouse Club House and other modern versions of the stuff us thirty-somethings used to watch on Saturday mornings. Everything is so boring! For example, the best thing about Donald Duck was that he was absolutely nuts. Now, he's just another generic, anodyne cartoon thing. I miss the wackiness of old cartoons. But I guess an insane Donald is offensive to the behaviorally challenged or whatever. We all watched old cartoons with the funny voices and nutty character traits and didn't grow up to be racist, sexist bigots.

PikeBishop said...

Actually my roommate in college had a theory that the Road Runner series was nothing more than a crypto-facist metaphor for nuclear war. Two amorphous, androgynous beings waging total warfare in the wasteland with government surplus.

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