Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Good Riddance Popeye

A couple weeks ago, we talked about why The Flintstones seem to be disappearing from the national consciousness. I pointed out that this struck me as strange because The Flintstones seemed rather iconic. Another iconic character is disappearing as well, if he isn't already gone, and this time I say good riddance: Popeye. Here's the difference in my book.

Unlike The Flintstones, who deal with a great many universal themes which are true generation after generation, Popeye doesn't. When you watch Fred and Wilma, you are getting a comedic look at the classic nuclear family, an arrangement that has existed long before the nuclear age and, barring a dystopic future, will likely continue forever. Humans just seem prone to coupling and they tend to want to raise their kids in families. The Flintstones speak to that in an entertaining way. They are also deeply "middle class," in the sense that Fred "works for a living," i.e. he does not invest or run his own business or live on welfare. They aren't social outliers either and they don't advocate crazy ideologies or religions. They are society's bedrock... pardon the pun.

Popeye is not that.

Popeye no longer resonates with modern audiences because he doesn’t project values modern audiences share. For one thing, Popeye is low class. In fact, he comes across pretty much as a drifter. He doesn't work. He doesn't raise a family. He's not capable of leadership. He doesn't contribute to society in any meaningful way. He has no sense of real responsibility. And he finds his courage in a can... sure, it's "spinach" (wink wink). Those aren't great values. To the contrary, those are the values average American look down upon.

Moreover, Popeye comes from a time when America had an inferiority complex and wanted to prove to the world that what we lacked in stale sophistication or in spiffy fascist uniforms, we made up for in being scrappy. Indeed, Popeye is a dated "ethnic" stereotype: the tough Brooklynite with little man syndrome who was inserted into every war film made in the 1940s, i.e. the unshaven thug who may or may not have a heart of gold somewhere inside, but who has no problem-solving skills and who wants to impress us with his "moxie" as he repeatedly uses violence to stand up to people we're suppose to dislike.

These characters were everywhere in the films of the 1940s/1950s. Indeed, Popeye was no different than Animal from Stalag 17 or Cagney in The Fighting 69th. Echoes of him can even be seen as late as Popeye Doyle from The French Connection in the 1970s, who responded to any insult with violence. But this isn’t someone who appeals to us anymore.

Modern action heroes use violence as a last resort after trying to fix the problem in some other way. Only when the villain refuses to change and then continues to use violence will the hero use violence himself. In effect, they fight reluctantly and when they do, they fight in self-defense and for justice. Popeye, by comparison, uses violence when he reaches the end of his patience, not because it's the only solution. That difference is key because it represents a fundamental shift in how our society views the acceptability of violence, and Popeye simply doesn’t fit in today’s society.

And the reason society has changed, I think, is because we’ve met too many people like Popeye in bars or at sports events, and we’ve seen them on Cops. These people think they are heroes and that people love how they “put bullies in their place,” but the reality is they are more often than not just belligerent a-holes. They get into fights over “points of honor” like disrespectful looks or “stolen” parking spaces or their kid’s playing time, and they engage in domestic violence when they get spinached-up. Even worse, they think “everyone” fights over those things and those who don't are somehow losers. They are a menace. Those are the values Popeye projects when translated to real life, and that’s not something people view favorably anymore.

This is why I think Popeye is vanishing from the landscape, because Americans no longer relate to or like the person his is. This is why he's different than hard-working Mickey Mouse or family-man Fred Flintstone.


Backthrow said...


Wrong. Popeye (at least the Fleischer-era version, and the original newspaper comic strip) was funny and unique. THE FLINTSTONES were a bland derivative of (the vastly superior) THE HONEYMOONERS (crossed with the Fleischer's own series 'Stone Age' cartoon shorts of the early 1940s and Tex Avery's THE FIRST BAD MAN short, when he was Hanna-Barbera's rival cartoon unit at MGM in the 1950s, prior to their entry into television) and were rarely funny, but were even-more-heavily-marketed than Popeye, and were a full-fledged color TV show (rather than 3 or 4 assorted shorts strung together to make a half-hour, or new, neutered TV versions made by H-B themselves in the 1970s/1980s, after they had cut every possible creative and budgetary corner from their cartoon output), and rerun endlessly, like BEWITCHED, GILLIGAN'S ISLAND and THE BRADY BUNCH.

Like pretty much all Hanna-Barbera TV product, the Flinstones' 'iconic' status was due to strong visual character design, voice work, and little else. The animation was limited, the gags were rote and less cartoony than any Popeye cartoon made between 1933 and 1954 (even the bad entries, during that latter period, when the makers ground them out with little care, other than fluid animation), and the 'family man' plots had already been done to death on OZZIE & HARRIET, LIFE OF RILEY, LEAVE IT TO BEAVER, FATHER KNOWS BEST, MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY, THE DONNA REED SHOW and a score of others.

Popeye was no loafer (that would be the hamburger-loving Wimpy). Since he wasn't in a sitcom, he didn't have to have a regular, punch-the-time-clock job. Ostensibly, prior to WWII, he was Merchant Marine, like his Pappy before him, but has been a blacksmith, lumberjack, construction worker, train engineer, small business owner, or whatever a self-contained cartoon plot could be built around, just like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny. He was a family man, looking after both Swee' Pea and his 4 (later 3) identical nephews with as much care as if they were his own flesh and blood. Only in a couple of very early shorts did he start fights; he was routinely honest, good-natured and kind, and only resorted to violence when provoked by truly-belligerent individuals (usually Bluto) or forces beyond his ability to reason with (wild beasts, geology, the weather, rampaging machinery), the spinach used only as a last resort (like the A-bomb).

Also, as The Flintstones fade away from the landscape, Sony and Genndy Tartakovsky (POWERPUFF GIRLS, SAMURAI JACK, STAR WARS) are working on their big animated Popeye feature film, for release in 2015.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, If your point is that Popeye is alive and relevant in the culture, then you are mistaken. He’s never on television. There have only been a couple of films or television shows and most of those are ancient. He doesn’t get used to sell products. People don’t quote his catch phrase. He is little used on the internet. The IMDB shows that his cartoon has received only 2700 votes. By comparison, the Flintstones have close to 16,000 votes on their main cartoon. The Simpsons have 156,000... almost 60 times as many. The Flintstones’ specials and spinoffs fill pages at the IMDB, Popeye doesn’t. Until recently, The Flintstones pimped many products and still pimp some like vitamins. They are on lunch boxes, backpacks and greeting cards. You can still find toys and dolls related to them. They are often points of reference in the culture like when people talk about nonworking cars. None of that is true with Popeye. He is forgotten outside of hardcore fans.

As for the upcoming movie, a single movie which appears to be a pet project and has been moved back (a bad sign), does not make him culturally relevant. Any number of lost properties like Josie and the Pussy Cats get films that come and quickly go but fail to spark any interest.

Also, my article isn’t about the artistic merits of the two, though I would dispute that Popeye has much artistic to offer - he is crudely drawn and his television cartoon was intensely repetitive. My point is about the values the show projects. In that regard, The Flintstones are quintessential middle class (as for the other sitcoms, originality is not required to project values or to catch a cultural wave as The Flintstones did). Popeye is not middle class. He has no home. He is NOT a family man: he has no wife and no children of his own... he is little more than a babysitter for his relatives when a particular plot calls for it, and he is a bad one at that. He has no steady job. He does odd jobs -- he's basically a day laborer who was once a sailor but doesn't have a ship. That sold during the Great Depression, but it doesn't connect with middle-class-aspiring America.

And you miss my point on the violence. Yes, he's provoked, but he's not provoked in a way that modern American culture considers justified. He is a character who fights once he gets fed up. That was acceptable in the 1950s, but is no longer acceptable today. That's the problem. Today, we see this type of person as the guy who gets into bar fights and spends his weekends in jail. He's the shirtless drunk on Cops who accuses the cops of harassing him. That's not something Americans embrace.

Gleichman said...

Yeah, I'm going with Backthrow on this one Andrew, you've completely missed the point on poor Popeye.

You're right that he's no longer relevant in today's culture, but not because his violence was unjustified- but because today's culture has bought into the idea that violence is never justified. Not because he was low class, but because the middle class type he represented (sailor, construction worker, etc.) are no longer well considered.

It's interesting to see that even you have brought into what is in effect the modern reluctant hero and all his flaws. Check out this article: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/354701/needed-tragic-hero-victor-davis-hanson

Jason said...

The last time I remember Popeye making a mark on pop culture was with those Instant Quaker Oatmeal ads. “Can the spinach, I wants me Quaker Oatmeal!”

Also, in a little-known 1984 CBS animated show, “Popeye and Son,” he and Olive Oyl are finally married and have a son, Popeye, Jr.

Kit said...

I remember watching him a good deal as a kid. But I think that was largely because Mom and Dad were trying to get me to eat spinach and other vegetables.

KRS said...

I didn't like Popeye much because Olive was a bowser, Wimpy was a loser and my mom used Popeye in repeated failed attempts to get me to eat my spinach.

I think Andrew's right that Popeye's method is no longer accepted in our culture, but it's because, as Gleichman points out, we've evolved to the point where the only acceptable hero is the reluctant one. "The Greatest American Hero" had a lot of fun with this trope, but I think it was all unintentional.

The Woodstocker principle is make love, not war. But there's no price to making love that measures up against the sacrifice made in war. It is very difficult to make a powerful, inspiring story about any of the peaceniks, but war hero stories abounded, so the Woodstockers had to "take down" their generational nemises as "baby killers" and "dope heads" and "psychotics."

However, as they aged, Vietnam's relevance diminished and Woodstockers found that mocking and alienating war heros led to their own degradation in the eyes of their countrymen, so they have embrace the reluctant hero trope. First do everything thing you can peacefully, including getting your ass kicked, until the bad guy pops little Sally Bobby Mae Jones's balloon and THEN you can rip his face off with your bare hands.

In school, my children are directed that they are not allowed to use violence even to protect themselves when attacked. I tell them, when that bully comes after you, go ahead and throw that first punch.

Anonymous said...

This is a great site! An article about Popeye on cartoon Tuesday leads to an article by Victor Davis Hanson on the reluctant hero. Bravo!
Andrew, I get the point yo're making, but I think you're being a little too hard on Popeye. I haven't watched him in a long time, but my recollection is that he essentially just wanted to go through life minding his business and courting Olive Oyl. He seemed good natured and rather shy.Then Bluto would show up and attempt to take unacceptable liberties with Olive,Popeye would attempt to intervene, and Bluto would kick his ass. Popeye would reach for the spinach, Hulk up, and save the day.
The fact that Popeye wasn't,and didn't aspire to be, a member of the middle class doesn't bother me. He always had money for flowers and dates with Olive(i.e. the things he wanted in life) and if that doesn't seem terribly ambitious so what? As long as he didn't support himself by hurting or leeching off of others(drug sales,stealing,welfare etc) so what? You don't have to be a member of the middle class to be honorable.I get the point you're making, but Pops was self sufficient and Bluto was such an over the top bad guy that Popeye was never really left with much choice. I get your point about white trash fighting at the drop of a hat because violence is their only source of self esteem. But by always threatening Olive Bluto never left Popeye much choice.
Besides,the whole reason kids watched it was to see Popeye give Bluto his comeuppance.
Just some thoughts.

Anonymous said...

I understand that this article was not about the artistic merits of the two cartons but just to get it off my chest and on the record - I hate the Flintstones. Bad frame by frame animation,a cheap and obvious knockoff of The Honeymooners, the word "Rock" added to everything to make it fit caveman times and to top it all off,Fred crashing and lumbering through every episode with an IQ somewhwere around 70.
There! I said it!

Individualist said...

Popeye resorted to violence when he lost his patience and that violence took the form of popping someone in the nose.

In Grand Theft Auto the main character shoots hookers cause it's Tuesday and he has no other plans.......but if you say a mean word while doing it that is when they come after you for doing something wrong.

I think I'll go with Popeye over our current Politically Correct Anti-bullying Gang Banger Hip Hop Miley Cyrus Self fondling culture. But that's just me.....

Mike said...

I went back to school a few years ago and had to take a Interpersonal Communications class; one lesson was on how people perceive others of various body types. The teacher used Olive Oyl, Popeye and Bluto as examples of an ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph. The teacher and most of the folks in my class were my age or thereabouts, but there were a few younger ones just out of h.s. Of course, the older ones understood the comparison, but there was one young lady who tentatively raised her hand and asked "Who are these people?"

AndrewPrice said...


I'm not sure how you can watch virtually any modern film or video game and think that "today's culture has bought into the idea that violence is never justified." Violence is the preferred solution of most films and books and almost all video games. Hollywood practically sells violence as the only solution.

As for Popeye's jobs being "middle class jobs that are not well considered," what he does are not middle class jobs anymore. They are jobs handled by illegals and immigrants under work permits. What's more, he doesn't actually hold any of these jobs for more than an episode. He truly is transient.

Also, if I'm right that the public no longer relates to him because they're all pacifists now somehow and I'm right that they no longer relate to him because they look down upon his jobs... then how is my article wrong?

Here's the link: LINK

tryanmax said...

Andrew, Popeye never resonated with me, but I think it's just the repetitiveness of it all. In the 1930s--the early days of animation--it was common for each major studio's main character to repeat the same melodrama again and again across countless shorts, changing little more than the location and costumes. By the 1940s and certainly by the 50s, most cornerstone characters had varied their narrative offerings, expanded their supporting casts, and had generally more fleshed-out personalities. Not so much with Popeye.

I have to disagree slightly with your analysis--and by extension, some of the pushback. In many of the earlier Popeye shorts, the Sailorman is beaten to a pulp before he opens up his can of spinach. In those shorts, he is very much the reluctant hero, putting the lie to the idea that this is not a long-standing American ideal.

However, I would agree that as time went by--especially after WWII--Popeye started reaching for his spinach sooner. It wasn't until the Cold War that a philosophy of preemption (instigation) entered into American military thinking--and Popeye's behavior. As such, I don't think Popeye is flawed as much by his earlier inferiority complex, which was remarkably checked compared to his later superiority complex. Perhaps Popeye is a reflection of changing American political attitudes at that time?

All-in-all, I think strength combined with restraint is a much more established American ideal. (Walk softly and carry a big stick.) Popeye may never have fit that mold perfectly, but he fit it better early on than as time passed.

In closing, I leave you with this disturbing image: LINK

AndrewPrice said...

Jason, Every once in a while, you'll see Popeye used by something on the Cartoon Network. He was used in the background in a South Park episode a few years back. But I honestly can't recall the last time I saw him mentioned in the broader culture. He just doesn't resonate anymore.

Interestingly though, he did as late as the 1970s. I still recall the cartoon being on television right before "Mighty Mouse" and there were kids with Popeye t-shirts or lunch boxes. Then you had the Robin Williams film, which bombed. But that's around the time he started to fade and I don't recall him really making much of cultural impact after that.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, LOL! Parents are crazy like that.

AndrewPrice said...

KRS, I don't think that's correct.

People are misunderstanding the idea of the reluctant hero as a justification for violence. There are only two types of literary heroes who use violence. There are the reluctant heroes and there are the adventurers. A guy like Hercules is an adventurer: he has been given a quest and he goes out to take care of it by destroying all who would stand in his way (who are presumed to be bad guys by the simple fact that they stand in his way). But he's a myth and his type of behavior doesn't play well in the modern world.

Indeed, if you think about it, you'll see why: we frown upon people using violence to take what they want or impose ideology. In fact, that is what we've struggled against in each of our wars (with the exception of the Spanish American War) and that's why we have police, to stop people from doing that.

That leaves the reluctant hero as the standard hero and that's been the type of hero America has worshiped from the beginning. Even our revolutionary story is all about being forced to fight.

What has changed over time is what level of provocation will be considered as justifying the use of violence. Back in the day of dueling, a verbal insult was enough to justify murder. But we've moved on from that. And as we have, we've reached a point of proportionality. Basically, you can use violence to stop violence or prevent violence. But there are two additions to this. First, you need to make sure your use of violence is proportional to the threat. Thus, for example, you can't blow away a five year old for threatening to punch you. Secondly, we require legitimate attempts to solve the problem short of violence. This means, for example, that a person who starts throwing punches at the first sign of trouble is not considered justified.

We can disagree about what considered justified and what is considered proportional, but doubt very many people disagree with the formulation. Indeed, that is the formulation used by our culture, it's the one ensconced in law, and it's the one people go to subconsciously when deciding who is who is not a hero.

The difference comes in what people think justifies violence. And in that, Popeye's problem is that he's quick to anger, violence is essentially his only solution, and he's constantly in trouble. Those things project him as belligerent, not justified. And that doesn't fly anymore.

So the issue isn't that Americans don't accept violence as a solution anymore (indeed one look at our culture shows that's not true), the issue is that Popeye's violence no longer feels justified because if you project him into real life, he's the kind of guy you end up seeing on Cops who is constantly in jail for drunk and disorderly.

Gleichman said...

Ah, Andrew...

Your article is not wrong in how modern culture no longer relates to Popeye. You're wrong in the "Good Riddance" and approval you have of that fact. Should we look down on his professions? Should we automatically assume that because one fights back against a bully they are worthy of being the bad guys on COPS?

Clearly you think we should. Clearly others here don't agree.

As to Hollywood/Gaming selling nothing but violence- I think you should take a look at the context of the sale don't you?

The rise of the anti-hero and worship of the straight up villain makes up a huge percentage the product. What's left is the Reluctant Hero who's trademarks is "that's not my problem", until someone finally kills his family and torches his dog.

John Carter (2012) is a good example of the reluctant hero trope replacing the traditional hero. Where the original pulp hero leap to the defense of Deja Thoris without thought because it was the right thing to do- our 2012 John Carter spends most of the movie whining and denying the call to action multiple times, allowing things to spiral more out control until he finally decides to something.

Why does he act this way? Because those who make Hollywood movies these days truly believe that violence is never justified. But it does still sell and they want to make money. The reluctant hero is their answer- they get to pay lip service to their own beliefs, and then after Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen are badly smoked jerky- they can finally justify Luke taking up the light saber.

You understand part of this, you did write this after all.

Odd that now your saying good riddance instead of "save our heroes"... because you don't like his blue collar jobs?

Kit said...


I'm going to back Tyranmax here on the point about some of the early cartoons where I clearly remember him only fighting back after he was beaten to a pulp. Now, as for the later, 1950s cartoons. I can't say, but I do remember watching some of the old cartoons on TV.

tryanmax said...

Is it worth pointing out that John Carter was a bomb?

The problem with "heroes" like John Carter is that they do everything they can to avoid any involvement and then they suddenly snap to violence. They never try or even consider any alternatives. That actually undermines the reluctant hero concept.

What the writers of such "heroes" are actually espousing is an avoidance of responsibility. They aren't even paying lip service because:
(a) the protagonist usually starts as an irresponsible jerk,
(b) he avoids involvement even as bad things are happening around him,
(c) he is not held accountable for that choice despite an obvious ability to do something,
(d) neither is he held accountable for the larger than necessary destruction that results from his delayed involvement, and
(e) he usually jets off immediately, not bothering with the aftermath but somehow with the understanding that he now "gets it" and is actually responsible.
(f) You can almost always count on the sequel to undo this last point so the same formula can be repeated.

Kit said...

As for the rest of this debate on reluctant heroes, tragic heroes, and the rest. Still thinking on this before I post.

AndrewPrice said...

GypsyTyger, It is pretty interesting where we end up sometimes, isn't it? :)

I do agree about Bluto. He was drawn as a way-over-the-top violence machine who had it in for Popeye. So in that regard, yes, he's justified. And from a criminal law perspective, I can't really fault Popeye for anything he does because he never does throw the first punch, if I remember correctly.

But my point is more about why he doesn't relate to modern America. And in that regard, I think the core problem is that he's seen as a brawler. He's a guy who may always be justified but will find himself in fight after fight after fight throughout his life. And as a society, we've come to see these people as a menace... even if they always manage to somehow be technically justified each time.

Not to raise this again, but George Zimmerman is a great example of a modern Popeye. Was he justified in killing Martin? Well, legally, absolutely. Morally, probably, though I think even his supporters agree that he pushed the bounds of what he should have been doing, e.g. he was very aggressive in a situation where society prefers you to back off. So why is he like Popeye? Because Popeye does the same thing -- he ignores other avenues to solve problems and instead responds in aggressive ways that ratchet up the likelihood of violence. And, like Popeye, this isn't the first time. In fact, Zimmerman is constantly in trouble with the law for a series of incidents where he found himself arrested for pushing things too far -- he just got arrested again by the way. In each case, he can probably claim that he was within his rights, but there comes a point where you say, "this happens so much that this guy must be causing this," especially when you see that he was needlessly aggressive in the Martin case. That's the Popeye problem. He may be justified in each instance, but there's a lack of judgment. He has a very short fuse. His conduct makes the violence more likely. And the result is that he's constantly ending up in fights. I think modern society no longer sees this type of character as someone they like.

On being low class, I don't think being low class is a problem. I think the problem is a combination of "relatability" (modern kids don't want to be day laborers, nor do they know any) and the "white trash" mixture of no-steady job and prone to violence... especially if you see through the spinach as being a metaphor for alcohol.

AndrewPrice said...

GypsyTyger, I'm not a fan of The Flintstones either, but I understand the appeal.

Kit said...


So, basically, Americans prefer to be Samwise Gamgee rather than Conan the Barbarian?

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I think you need to remember that our culture is always in flux and different people push different agendas. So the culture can differ in different places. The anti-bullying thing is the new PC cause du jour, but I suspect it's a pretty confused dead end. Things like Grand Theft Auto are modern "male culture."

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, Actually, think about it. Conan is a reluctant hero for the most part as well. He doesn't just go around slaying bad guys. He's a petty thief who gets drawn into being a hero when the bad guys kill people who matter to him... at least on film.

Gleichman said...


In all the reviews I saw, none mention that John Carter's failure was due to the reluctant hero trope. And it exemplifies it, not undermines it. When one is reluctant, one is by definition dodging responsibility.

There rest of your points are a natural outgrowth of the reluctant hero. He considers, he delays, and Rome burns. When the smoke gets thick enough (or personal enough), he finally acts.

Between anti-heroes, reluctant heroes, slacker heroes (using Andrew's definition) and vengeance heroes- one is hard pressed indeed to find an example of a traditional America hero in today's entertainment.

Kit said...

I was thinking of the literary Conan. Never seen the movie.

AndrewPrice said...

Mike, I'm not surprised. I've run into the same thing with younger people. In fact, there are many things that seemed pretty common cultural knowledge when I grew up that just aren't there anymore. I keep wondering, for example, if anyone but me remembers Gomer Pyle? Mighty Mouse? Heckle and Jeckle? And it makes me wonder what will be left two or three generations down the road?

Gleichman said...


Not Samwise. He was never reluctant, he was loyal and went to support his friend Frodo through whatever came.

I'd have to think more deeply, but I'm coming up empty on reluctant heroes in Lord of the Rings. Not even Bilbo from the Hobbit works, for while he needed convincing- he didn't wait until something dire happened before throwing in.

But then again those works were written during the era that produced Popeye. So I wouldn't expect to see the modern reluctant hero.

Here in the states, that became more the rage with the arrival of Star Wars and the love affair with the Hero's Journey (although it started before then). Previously much of America myth had a rather different character and very rarely had a 'refusal the call' element.

Contrast Captain America (40s original or even the last movie) with original Spiderman (60s). Rogers does everything he can to join the fight upfront, while Parker requires the death of his Uncle to get him moving.

tryanmax said...

Gleichman, I don't know how I am expected to account for the lack of critical analysis ability of other reviewers. Perhaps I am in the wrong line of work? ;-)

Others can call Carter a reluctant hero all they want, but he more aptly fits Andrew's description of a slacker hero.

In a way it's encouraging that a singular example of The American Hero cannot be easily found, or at least agreed upon. It means that we as Americans don't believe that a lone individual can solve all of our problems.

tryanmax said...

P.S. for Gleichman, I just saw your comment regarding LORT/Hobbit. I think your definition of "reluctant hero" is unreasonably narrow. Most people would consider Bilbo and Frodo both excellent examples of reluctant heroes.

Kit said...

And, in defense of Peter Parker. That is sort of the point. The death of his uncle is a direct result of his refusing to do what is right.
He is Andrew Price's "Slacker Hero" forced to be a hero.

Kit said...

Gleichmann, Andrew,

Refusal of the Call: Jonah, Moses, Abraham, Peter, etc.Hamlet spends an entire play avoiding having to kill his uncle. He even spends an entire monologue bemoaning in the 4th scene of Act 4 bemoaning the fact tha he has done nothing:
Here is the scene from Kenneth Brannagh's Hamlet: LINK

"How all occasions do inform against me,
And spur my dull revenge! What is a man
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more.
Sure, he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and godlike reason
To fust in us unused. Now, whether it be
Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
Of thinking too precisely on th' event—
A thought which, quartered, hath but one part wisdom
And ever three parts coward—I do not know
Why yet I live to say “This thing’s to do,”
Sith I have cause and will and strength and means
To do ’t. Examples gross as earth exhort me.
Witness this army of such mass and charge
Led by a delicate and tender prince,
Whose spirit with divine ambition puffed
Makes mouths at the invisible event,
Exposing what is mortal and unsure
To all that fortune, death, and danger dare,
Even for an eggshell. Rightly to be great
Is not to stir without great argument,
But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
When honor’s at the stake. How stand I then,
That have a father killed, a mother stained,
Excitements of my reason and my blood,
And let all sleep
—while, to my shame, I see
The imminent death of twenty thousand men,
That for a fantasy and trick of fame
Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
Which is not tomb enough and continent
To hide the slain? Oh, from this time forth,
My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!

And he still does not do anything.

Gleichman said...


Reluctant Hero/Slacker Hero, they are very similar. The only difference might be how much help they need once they finally start moving.

"it's encouraging that a singular example of The American Hero cannot be easily found", really?

So all those guys who fought in WWII with a strong opinion of what a America Hero was where so caught up in their heroic fantasies that they failed completely to stop Nazi Germany? I guess that explains my last name...

One should be careful when trying to move concepts like this from and to the wider culture. Not because it can't be done, but because the move may not support your point. Do you really want to contrast the Generation of John Wayne, Popeye, Golden Age Superman, etc with Generations of the 60s and later? I think you might end up on the short end of that stick unless you think a string of failures starting with Vietnam and continuing on is your idea of success. If it is, then perhaps it is encouraging- for you if not for me.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Interesting points!

First, I agree about the repetition. That made the cartoon unpleasant to watch.

There is also a distinct lack of cleverness. Take the comparison to Bugs Bunny. On the surface, Bugs and Popeye appear similar -- they are both the Brooklyn brawler stereotype who initially at least act like they want to be left alone. Then they are both attacked. But that's where they differ. Bugs never loses his cool. Bugs's goal is to make the other guy lose his cool and then trip him up when he starts making mistakes because his anger has made him irrational. That is what makes him so compelling is that he makes the bad look like a fool and the bad guy eventually foils himself. It also gives the show its interest factor to see how Bugs makes the guy trip himself up. Popeye, on the other hand, always loses his cool and always resorts to violence... same old, same old.

On preemption, you may well be right. I think that one of the problems with Popeye is that while he never does throw the first punch, he really comes across as someone who is looking for a fight. Maybe this wasn't true in the earliest incarnations, but it certainly was later on. And that could be a response to changes in the US mindset. There is a dramatic shift that occurs in the 1940s from quasi-isolationism to "world cop."

On reluctant heroes, our heroes have always been reluctant heroes, with only a few controversial exceptions. The idea that we only fight when bad people push us is deeply enshrined in American mythology and culture. Look at the Revolution, for example, "we were pushed into it" seems to be the common theme, and even then the claim is that the British fired the first shots. Each of our early wars right up through WWII involved claims that the other guys shot first after pushing us to our limits. And our cinema has used the reluctant hero pretty much from day one all the way through the present. There are very few non-reluctant heroes in our cinema, and even those tend to try to justify their behavior by claiming oppression.

All-in-all, I think strength combined with restraint is a much more established American ideal. (Walk softly and carry a big stick.) Popeye may never have fit that mold perfectly, but he fit it better early on than as time passed.

I would suggest that Popeye actually runs directly counter to that. He walks aggressively but appears to be weak. It's not until he takes his spinach that he transforms into a big stick.

Individualist said...


It is not just "male" culture. Fact of the matter is you could say that the person being emulated is now Bluto and not Popeye.

On O'Reilly they are showing the "knock out" game where kids sneak up on innocent bystanders and try to knock them out and then video tape it and put it on the internet.

The Motorcylist mob that terrorized a guy in with a two year old child ... driving recklessly to scare someone then chasing them down when the accident they were asking for happens.

Yet let any one of these individuals say a "wrong" word be that an actual racial epithet or one that the "powers that be" imagine to be a racial epithet and then the media will descend to destroy someone's lives.

It's as if the old saying is now...

"Names will scar my Psyche for Life but Sticks and Stones will only hurt me physically."

To me it is screwed up...... I'd rather someone call me a Dago than hit me with a 2x4 .....

Kit said...

I should note that with regards to cartoons characters, just about all of them except Bugs Bunny and Daffy (who were perpetually unemployed, on account of being a rabbit and a duck*) would have a different job in each cartoon. Largely so the writers could vary the situation up a bit. One episode might have Mickey Mouse working on a steamboat another might have him on a farm. Basically, their job of the short was based in whatever the writers thought would be funny. Let's make Donald a Bellhop in this cartoon!

Even in modern shorts they do that.

*Anti-Animal discrimination!!!

Individualist said...

I think I want to amend what you have to say Andrew.

Popeye is a morality tale for children. His Spinach represents the courage one needs to face a bully. Popeye comes from a time when the kid running to the PE coach tattling on the boys picking on him would be told to ball his fists and stand up to the bully.

Popeye without Spinach is the kid afraid to walk home because the bully will pick on him. Popeye with his Spinach is the kid that finally has enough and stands up to the bully backing it up with his fists if he has too.

Bluto is the bully. The big thug who picks on the little kids but cries like a coward when one of them finally stands up to him and lets him have it.

I am thinking the reason Popeye does not resonate is the PC Police of today that tell kids to never stand up to the bully but to go to the teacher so that they can have a "arbitration" meeting where they resolve the issues. I saw that on Danza'a reality show where he is a teacher in California

I guess it is just me but I am thinking the Popeye method is better for the kids than the new way to do it. the only thing the arbitration does is to allow the bullies to find new ways to torture the kids and they falsely claim victim status. Arbitration won't give the bully what he really needs "a pop in the nose".

Ironically enough it is a teachable moment for the bully as well.

Gleichman said...

Kit ... "And, in defense of Peter Parker."

He's worth a bit of a defense as he did give up the mantle of reluctant hero after that. But he still makes a good contrast with Golden Age heroes like Superman or Captain America because he did 'refuse the call" and things did get worse before he acted.

If one wanted to play devil's advocate on the matter, one could assert that his entire hero career is thereafter driven by guilt, not heroism. But I'm not sure I want to do that as it would be very difficult to determine if that was true, or if he actually "learned it the hard way". I'd like to think the latter.


Reluctant Hero to my mind is not simply a guy who says "I need to think about this", "I'm not sure I can do this", or "are there other options?". That is just giving a problem due consideration. Rather it's the guy who's been given clear reason to act, knows he could act, and yet still refuses.

Any other definition is nearly meaningless as it would encompass nearly everyone. Even Gandalf told the Balrog to back off and allowed the first swing before throwing down- and calling him a reluctant hero as a result is a real reach.

Backthrow said...


Values, schmalues... the only reason anyone watched either Popeye or The Flintstones (or The Simpsons) was for cheap laughs, and because that was what was on at the time, in lieu of something else. I doubt any kid aspired to be --or act like-- (apart from a catch phrase) Fred or Barney (some might aspire to be Bart).

Apart from being middle-class, how relevant is Fred today? How many husbands are the sole breadwinner in their household? How many attend lodge meetings? How many go bowling? Since he works at a quarry, specifically operating an earth-moving dinosaur/vehicle (apparently, he has no other work duties), rather than an office job or running his own business, he's not much more than the day-laborer that Popeye is.

Besides bringing in a steady paycheck, and not cheating on his wife, what values did Fred bring to the table? Like his template, Ralph Kramden, 99% of the time he was a loudmouth know-it-all wimp who was constantly getting himself into trouble. He lied to Alice --er, Wilma, a lot (albeit usually over trivial things). He was easily duped, blundered his way into trouble, and was often looking for the easy way to a life of luxury. And though level-headed most of the time, Wilma was often a shrew and basically a nanny to a man-child. Hmmm, maybe that does make The Flintstones more relevant these days, adhering to the dumb-man/smart woman paradigm so valued by sitcom writers and ad agencies today. Fred also treated Norton --er, Barney, ostensibly his best friend, with mild contempt a good amount of the time.

What values does Popeye represent? Bravery, honesty and fair play. Exploration; whether visiting uncharted islands, or treasure-hunting. Readily taking on hard work without complaint. Serving your country during wartime. Defending your steady girl from the unwanted advances of (and usually, kidnapping attempts by) someone a good deal bigger and stronger than her. Finding beauty and grace in a woman that most others wouldn't. Putting his life on the line to save an infant from harm, or to keep his wayward dad on the straight-and-narrow path.

Say, did Fred Flintstone ever do anything this nice and thoughtful? Nope. How about this? Pretty unlikely, I think.


Backthrow said...

The Flintstones have a bunch of specials and spinoffs (which was H-B's general modus operandi, quantity over quality), but those are all ancient history, too, and how many in the population harbor much love for THE PEBBLES & BAM-BAM SHOW or THE FLINTSTONE KIDS? That's sort of 'apples and oranges' with the Popeye output. They (two studios, Fleischer, then the less innovative and ambitious Famous Studios) produced a steady run of Popeye shorts, of varying quality, for the better part of 3 decades straight, and then others made a few lousy Saturday morning shows (POPEYE & SON, etc) in the early 1960s, then again in late-1970s/1980s. The Flintstones have three feature films, one animated, two live-action. Popeye had a live-action feature, a direct-to-video animated feature, and three double-length lavish color shorts (mid-late 1930s, which where sometimes issued as as a compilation feature).

Since, like Mickey Mouse at Disney, THE FLINSTONES and all the animated spin-offs were all done under one roof, it also has the advantages of being centralized and consistent. The animated Popeye has been hobbled by both being an existing, licensed property (a comic strip owned by a newspaper syndicate) not wholly owned by its animation studios, and by the fact it has changed hands, animation-wise, many times over the years. The color cartoons of the 1940s and 1950s had some of the same staff as the earlier years, but the home studio (Fleischer), over-extended themselves with some non-Popeye projects that failed, so the cartoon factory got absorbed by a larger studio that was less hands-on interested in it, and things got stale fast. Then various others licensed Popeye for animation, each effort lousier than the last. Very inconsistent, and hard to present, in the long run, as one program to syndicate and market. That later affects how viable the character is in contemporary merchandising, unlike in-house stuff like Disney or Looney Tunes. Still, there's this... and this... and this... and this.


Backthrow said...

Your IMDB vote comparison is flawed. THE FLINTSTONES gets an advantage there, since what everybody thinks of is the 1960-1966 sitcom, spin-offs aside. It's easy to list and to vote on, since it's one entry.

The example you used, THE POPEYE SHOW, which gets 2724 votes, wasn't a compilation of all the Popeye cartoons made up to that time, it was a specific, early-1960s program of (then) new made-for-TV cartoons, that hasn't been on the air for three decades, at least. It was basically a spin-off, like the latter-day Flintstones stuff. Some people may have voted for it on the basis of that particular show, some may have used it to vote generically for Popeye. We have no way of knowing.

All the Popeye cartoons of the 1930s-1950s have individual IMDB entries, since they never had a national show of their own (ala THE BUGS BUNNEY/ROADRUNNER SHOW on network TV), just locally-produced TV compilations, and The Popeye Show that ran in the 1990s/2000s on Cartoon Network (which doesn't have an IMDB entry). Can we cobble together the votes for all the individual shorts (where all the good stuff is), the Robin Williams movie, or the direct-to-video film? No, because we have no way of knowing who voted for what; were they unique voters each time, or mostly the same fans voting for multiple titles?

This isn't to claim that a centralized Popeye cartoon entry at IMDB would necessarily garner more votes than The Flintstones, just that the two properties are operating on different platforms. If the episodes that made up THE FLINTSTONES had instead been made as a series of short subjects over a couple of decades, by various different studios, some in black & white and some in color, and then released to TV in a generic mix subject to the whims of local TV programmers, and then were revived as a new cheap, badly-made direct-to-syndication TV series, I think the number of IMDB votes it'd get would be similarly, and substantially, lower. How many people out of the general population bother to vote at IMDB, anyway?

The most recent Popeye spin-off (which was crap) was made and released nine years ago --four years after the most recent Flintstones effort (the live-action VIVA ROCK VEGAS, which no one cared about). Maybe the upcoming Popeye movie has production problems, or maybe it just takes longer to make a big animated film (or both are true, in this situation, who knows), it's still more than what The Flintstones have going on presently, whether the final product manages to connect with audiences or not.

Gleichman said...

Andrew: "On reluctant heroes, our heroes have always been reluctant heroes, with only a few controversial exceptions."

I think you're both using too wide a definition of reluctant hero (making identical to just simple 'Hero' and thus redundant) and being too selective in your history.

Look over the link I gave at the beginning full of references to heroes many America, do you call those examples reluctant heroes? If so, I think you are gravely mistaken.

Backthrow said...

Oops, I missed inserting a link in the first of my trio of replies, so here 'tis:

"Say, did Fred Flintstone ever do anything this nice and thoughtful? Nope. How about this? Pretty unlikely, I think."

KRS said...

I kinda feel like we got into some sort of quagmire with the traditional hero (whatever that is), reluctant hero, slacker hero business. I'm probably calling reluctant what Andrew calls slacker. That said, I think we're all on a beam that the trend in movies is towards piling up ever more abuse upon the 'hero' before letting him/her go off on the bad guy. And, frankly, while it works for the drama, it's often pretty annoying.

I'm not comfortable drawing the comparison with video games and the like. I really consider those violence porn. When we indulge in those things, we're pretty much doing something we shouldn't. When we put that crap on the screen, it feels degrading. I was entirely put off by the opening scene in "Saving Private Ryan," and it made the rest of the movie feel flatter and cynical. My dad, a veteran of four invasions, was impressed until he saw the rest of the movie where the soldiers, in Dad's eyes, acted more like they were in Vietnam than in France.

Porn is taking something important and pushing it over the top to overwhelm the sense, be it sexual or violent fantasies. We still try to separate it on screen for sexual porn, but we're having a much harder time accompishing the separation with violence porn and on that issue, I think Andrew owns this topic.

Gleichman said...

As a side note, I was never a fan of either the Flintstones (which I saw as the dismantlement of Fatherhood and the male role model) nor Popeye (which rather bored me).

Bugs Bunny I liked.

Tom and Jerry I hated. All to often Tom was just protecting his or his owners property, why was that thief Jerry the hero? Looking back I have to wonder if it was lying the groundwork for socialism...

AndrewPrice said...

Gleichman, I have no problems with all kinds of heroes. Heroes are great. But heroes need to be morally justified or else they are just thugs. Superman didn't throw a punch until the bad guys knew they were outmatched but decided to keep on fighting anyway. Batman did his best just to snare people in ropes or traps and leave them for the cops. Luke Skywalker spent half a movie trying to talk Vader back onto the good side. Bugs Bunny never threw a punch, he let the other guy hurt himself. Dirty Harry always gave people multiple chances to surrender. Western film heroes never shot anyone outside a fair fight and even then warned the guy off.

Or how about real world examples: The cops talk first, subdue second, and shoot as a last resort. The military gives massive amounts of warnings. They even tell enemy troops how to surrender. They are constantly working on nonlethal weapons and strategies.

Why? Because we realize that violence should be a last resort and we want our heroes to recognize that. Sure, sometimes you get a real piece of sh*t "hero" who uses violence as his primary tool, but even in those instances, the film is very, very careful to (1) make sure the bad guys are seen as brutal killers who cannot be stopped by normal people (i.e. the hero and his methods are necessary), and (2) the "hero" is shown to have a heart of gold to send the message that he wouldn't be this violent if he hadn't been provoked, i.e. to make him a reluctant hero. Why? Because morally there is no justification for using violence as a means to settle disputes unless the other guy's means are violent or life threatening.

The problem with Popeye, and why I won't miss him at all, is that he doesn't get any of this. To him, violence is the only problem solving tool he knows, and his actions only appear justified in light of the extreme provocation of Bluto, a provocation he meets with violence only. But take Bluto away and his actions don't really change -- he's still trigger happy and angry, he still only knows violence, and his aggressive behavior lands him in trouble time and again.

In fact, here's the thing. If we actually decided to ban Popeye and all "heroes" who are like him, I can't think of another hero would vanish... because Popeye is not a heroic character.

Gleichman said...

Andrew This has become surreal.

Let's just take one:

"Western film heroes never shot anyone outside a fair fight": you were given the example of "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" in the second post. To that I'd add "El Dorado" where the villain actually calls Wayne out on it. In True Grit he ambushes Ned Pepper's gang without warning killing two, in...

You know what, never mind. I could play twenty examples on each point without end, especially with the real world given that that real world includes drone strikes and gunning down unarmed mothers in DC, but its clear that you're not interested and not paying attention.

I'll put this down as just a irrational hatred of Popeye and bow out.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I dislike John Carter (film version) for precisely the reasons you outline. While he engages in heroic acts, he's kind of an ass who only engages in those acts because the plot requires it. Real heroes seem to have a code which forces them to be incapable of not helping people who need it... no matter how much they may tell themselves they don't want to. That's why you like them. But Carter doesn't have that. He seems to fight because... well, because.

That's a huge flaw in that film which I think, more than anything, explains why it failed to connect with audiences.

tryanmax said...

KRS, I don't think there are any official definitions of the types of heroes, but maybe this will help.

TV Tropes redirects "Reluctant Hero" to the "I Just Want to Be Normal" page. [LINK]

What Andrew calls a "slacker hero," TV Tropes would probably call "Heroic Neutral." [LINK]

As I said before, most people who nerd out on this stuff would agree that Bilbo Baggins and Frodo are prime examples of reluctant heroes. Actually, the whole LOTR saga is replete with reluctant heroes. I would even say Gandalf is reluctant in his way.

A good example of a slacker hero might be Wolverine. He's little more than hired muscle who only sides with the good guys because he wants the bad guys to leave him alone. If saving the world is what it takes so he can hop on his motorcycle and go back to his cabin in the woods, so be it. But you'd better not complain if things get messy, b/c he's gonna do whatever it takes to get the job done. Heroes like Wolverine are oftentimes thought of as anti-heroes b/c, while they fight for the good guys, they are frequently excessive.

Of course, the "Hero's Journey" can take one kind of hero and change him to another. In the course of American literature and cinema, it is this narrative that we seem to be most enamored with as a culture. That makes perfect sense for a country that idealizes coming from any background to make something of oneself. It also makes perfect sense that we wouldn't--in fact couldn't--settle on a singular definition of a hero. Each journey is unique, as is each destination.

As such, the closest we come to a singular definition of a hero in America is someone who realizes the importance of helping others and betters himself to that end. This would naturally give us a preponderance of reluctant heroes to the point where they just seem like regular heroes. As such, it might seem to make sense to start calling the slackers "reluctant" but really, they're just selfish a-holes.

Backthrow said...

The first cartoon I linked to, 'A Date to Skate', wasn't the one I thought it was (I was so embroiled in writing my post(s), I got the title confused with a different short)... and yet, look at it... Popeye takes Olive out roller skating... is jovial... threatens violence against no one, punches nothing, and puts his life on the line to rescue his girlfriend when she rolls into the city streets. Spinach supercharges his skating ability, but only after he tries his best at solving the problem without it.

Anyway, here's the one where I would ask if Fred was ever as nice and thoughtful: 'Let's Celebrake'.

Whoa, what's this? Popeye and Bluto are pals? No belligerence in action or attitude from the one-eyed sailor, nor even jealousy (and no contrived "temporary truce vow" stated)? No violence in the cartoon whatsoever? He doesn't eat the spinach himself? Popeye owns (or has rented) a full tux and top hat, and has taken the group to a ritzy club (which implies gainful, well-paying employment)? Why, that MONSTER! LOL!

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

On one hand, Popeye is one CGI-fest away from a total revival...

...on the other hand, if he was revived, no doubt the character would be somewhat changed to reflect today's sensibilities, thus rendering moot the entire argument.

That's all I've got. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Gleichman, Your test is too narrow. A reluctant hero is someone who doesn't seek to be a hero, but nevertheless engages in heroic conduct. That's a two part test: (1) reluctance and (2) heroic action.

Take the second part first. Heroism implies engaging in some act that is above and beyond the normal call of duty, typically involving some form of self-sacrifice or undertaken at great personal risk to help/save others. (This is the point where liberals are attacking by trying to redefine heroes as anyone who puts up with unpleasant things.)

This is the point where most characters fail the test and should not be considered heroes. Popeye, for example, engages in self defense after arguing with a larger man. That's not heroic. He is not engaged in any conduct anyone else wouldn't do and there's no sense of self-sacrifice for others. A character in a heist film also cannot be seen as heroic because he's just infighting with his fellow thieves.

The second part is reluctance. On reluctance, the level of reluctance can vary greatly, but anyone who isn't trying to be a hero pretty much counts. The one exception is when the character doesn't fight until his own safety is at stake. That's self-defense, which is not heroic because it's not done for the benefit of others. So they are basically reluctant self-defenders, not reluctant heroes.

So looking at examples, Superman is heroic because he risks his life to save the world from incredible dangers, but he's not reluctant. Scooby Doo is technically not reluctant either, despite protestations to the contrary, because he places himself in harms way without question every time. His conduct is heroic because he chooses to face what appears to be a supernatural life-threatening monster to try to help whomever they are helping that week. Frodo is a reluctant hero because his conduct is ultra-heroic and he undertakes it because the duty is thrust upon him, not because he seeks it. In the real world, soldiers who enlist could be considered heroic if their deeds match the meaning of the word, but not reluctant because they are there voluntarily. A draftee could be considered a reluctant hero. Again though, they must exceed the duty expected of them.

AndrewPrice said...

Gleichman, Surreal is right. You should re-read your comments. You're using bizarrely idiosyncratic and arbitrary definitions to support your arguments, you're using the logical fallacy that finding one counter-example disproves a well supported theory of general principles, and I can't imagine why anyone would think that Tom and Jerry would be laying the ground work for socialism.

You've clearly misunderstood Peter Parker. You've misunderstood "The Lord of the Rings." You seem incapable of coming to terms with the fact that the public no longer embraces Popeye and you ascribe the fault the public using obviously false charges like the culture no longer seeing violence as justified. Popeye isn't popular because people think he's an asshole, not because the public has gone soft on the use of violence.

And what in the world is this:

So all those guys who fought in WWII with a strong opinion of what a America Hero was where so caught up in their heroic fantasies that they failed completely to stop Nazi Germany? I guess that explains my last name...

When did tryanmax ever say that?

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I am thinking the reason Popeye does not resonate is the PC Police of today that tell kids to never stand up to the bully but to go to the teacher so that they can have a "arbitration" meeting where they resolve the issues. I saw that on Danza'a reality show where he is a teacher in California

Popeye failed long before the bullying PC movement began.

KRS said...

"Bugs Bunny never threw a punch, he let the other guy hurt himself."

Not exactly. I remember the early Bugs where he would deliberately go out and torment his victim into fighting him. He was really mean at the beginning. Later on, they dialed him down so that he was just outwitting whomever was hunting him or attacking his home.

Here's a 1942 example - I really don't blame Elmer for coming after him.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, Ironically, Bugs and Daffy had jobs at various points. Also, let me point out that you're talking about cartoons from the same era. Starting probably in the 1960s (if not a little earlier), most new cartoon characters either had jobs or a hobby with which they were associated (e,g, being in a band).

And again, project the character into the real world and ask yourself how they would be received. That's the problem.

Kit said...


Good point.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, Values, schmalues... the only reason anyone watched either Popeye or The Flintstones (or The Simpsons) was for cheap laughs.

The issue here isn't values in the sense of "is this something conservatives should support." The values issue here is one of whether or not people will embrace the show. Does it mesh with things the public values. In that, it does not. Popeye's behavior and his life are not things which strike a chord in modern America. The Flintstones are closer, but again, they are fading in light of being updated by The Simpsons. And in that regard, the IMDB comparison is extremely telling. A 60-1 level of interest comparison leads to a fairly obvious comparison that one has caught the attention of the public and the other has not.

(As an aside, if you click on the individual episodes, you will see that most are getting 10 votes (which is probably the same 10 people). The Flintstones, whose individual episodes are also listed, are getting around 50 each. So the ration maintains itself at that level too.)

In terms of whether or not people can relate, The Flintstones do relate to modern America and the reason I can say that is the identical template is still used by family sitcoms today... with only minor tweaks. Nothing follows the Popeye template today.

AndrewPrice said...


My dad, a veteran of four invasions, was impressed until he saw the rest of the movie where the soldiers, in Dad's eyes, acted more like they were in Vietnam than in France.

That's long been my complaint about Saving Private Ryan. It was an attempt to bring Vietnam-era values to WWII, where those "values" did not exist. That's always bothered me.

I think we're all on a beam that the trend in movies is towards piling up ever more abuse upon the 'hero' before letting him/her go off on the bad guy. And, frankly, while it works for the drama, it's often pretty annoying.

Agreed. Hollywood is trying to make heroes increasingly more reluctant and I think they've crossed the line (with these "slacker heroes") into characters who are not heroic at all anymore, but are instead just obnoxious characters who are forced to defend themselves and in the process just happen to save the world.

That said, I don't think the motive is political, I think the problem is that as their writing quality sinks, they are trying to exaggerate ups and downs to create more emotion in the audience. In other words, you now need to sink as low as possible before the climax because they no longer have the ability to write very good climaxes. So to make these seem like they pay off, they just lower the audience emotionally as far as possible so the rise feels like it was much higher.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I think the slacker hero is a result of the slacker culture that has beset Hollywood through Judd Apatow slamming head first into superhero films. Thus, the perfect example of the slacker hero is the Green Hornet. He's an obnoxious slacker jerk who doesn't care about anyone or anything and he only becomes a hero because he doesn't like the people around him looking at him like he's a failure.

Or consider the new Green Lantern. He's a slacker who just likes messing around with his new-found superpowers. They try to train him, but he doesn't like having to earn his stripes, so he quits. Then he's forced to become a hero because he gets physically attacked (which means he's not actually a hero because he's just fighting to save his own life).

To me, the slacker hero is a subset of the reluctant hero. It's a modern invention that just tries to import Hot Tub Hangover 7 into the action movie context.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, So if Lex Luther took Louis Lane out for a nice night on the town and they had a great time, that would mean he wasn't actually a bad guy? Or do we look at the character Lex was presented as for most of his career?

tryanmax said...

Andrew, it's funny, I was actually thinking about the new Green Lantern a lot when I was thinking of slacker heroes. But I singled out Wolverine to show how it extends beyond nerds and pretty-boy jerks.

In the context of heroes, I'd like to also bring in "saving the girl." While this can certainly be a heroic act, it usually isn't where a slacker hero is involved. When the hero is a slacker, the girl is almost always the hero's love interest if not his girlfriend. This simply brings saving the girl into the realm self-defense. A good boyfriend should defend his lady--even if it is from a glowing space octopus.

In fact, the girlfriend angle is almost a dead giveaway that the hero is a slacker and not just reluctant. Reluctant heroes often find themselves saving the girl, but they have no prior relationship to the rescue. In some cases, he "gets the girl" but he had no way of knowing he would beforehand. In other cases, he doesn't get the girl, or even rebuffs the girl, dedicating himself to heroism.

AndrewPrice said...

Gleichman and Backthrow, Let me see if this helps. You guys obviously love Popeye and you see his better side, and you've done a good job pointing out that he has this better side. That's fine. I don't disagree: clearly, Popeye has a good side. He's not a monster.

But he has another side too, and my point is that his behavior is such that it does not appeal to modern audiences. It did appeal to the public at a time when the US was a different country -- the Great Depression left a lot of people as drifters or working from the bottom up, and then WWII required the country to develop a fighting spirit that didn't naturally mesh with our isolationism. So America reinvented itself as the scappy self-defender who need to slay the bully. Popeye resonated in that environment. But that environment didn't last and today America is much less willing to see violence as justified as a means of settling disputes. Because of that, Popeye no longer fits.

I personally won't miss him because while he does have good traits, his negative traits cause him to act like the kind of people we really do not like in real life. That's it. I'm not saying you can't like him. What I'm saying is that I see him as an anachronism. He represents a short period in American history that doesn't mesh with today's sensibilities.

AndrewPrice said...

KRS, Bugs was a real jerk at times. His saving grace was that (1) the era in which he was created viewed that kind of conduct more favorably and (2) he's a rabbit.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I totally agree. The whole "saving the girl" thing only works when the girl isn't your girlfriend who has been threatened because she knows you. When that's the case, it just becomes another form of self-defense really.

Wolverine is an interesting case. At first blush, I wouldn't consider him one of these slacker heroes. He has the feel of an anti-hero (which is maybe what the slacker heroes really are anyway?). But the more I think about it, he really is no different than the other slacker heroes. He has superpowers which he doesn't want. He doesn't really see his role as doing good or helping people either unless he gets to know them first. So like the Green Hornet, he only acts because of peer pressure from his friends. Good call!

Kit said...

Wolverine is essentially, an anti-hero. And I actually like his character.
I think in recent years he has moved more in the "hero" area -though still morally ambiguous. When he is on his best behavior he is Jack Bauer.
Last time I checked he was head of the Jean Grey School.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, He is an antihero, but I'm wondering now if the slacker heroes aren't really just a form of lazy antiheroes?

Gleichman said...

Andrew, "Gleichman and Backthrow, Let me see if this helps,You guys obviously love Popeye and you see his better side, and you've done a good job pointing out that he has this better side."

You know, I don't really disagree with your point about the change in culture and how it views that character. I agreed with you on this before early in this thread. I've also stated in this thread that I don't "love" Popeye, it's just that I don't condemn him as you do.

But Help? No, I don't think it does.

Really what this comes down to is three things that I found very disappointing in the article and in this thread:

First, what you've done here is declare that a Depression/WWII hero is irrelevant and strongly implied that that that hero, and the people who considered that heroic should be tossed upon the dustbin of history since "that environment didn't last". And you are *good* with this result.

That implies rejection of that heroic idea, and the culture it represents. A generation that IMO represented the best America ever had with the exception of the Founding.

But I'm biased, as I was raised by a drifter who lived the Great Depression and went to Europe to see such places as the Budge and the camps. You know, that type of guy you want to say good riddance to. Naturally I have more respect for them than you. Thus I may have taken this exchange more personally than I should have.

What makes it even more painful is that you're right- the wider culture has done exactly this. But should you have joined in?

That leads to the second issue, and goes to the subtitle on this blog. "Pop culture for conservatives and independents". Is it really the job of a conservative to be ripping down the past, saying their heroes should be arrested on COPS, and rejoicing that the culture has "moved on"? Or should he be more careful in noting what may have lost, and what the costs of might have been- at least one would think that he might consider for a moment that his hated hero of yesterday who at least had "a good side" has given way to the slacker hero and anti-hero of today who has no good side at all. And just maybe wonder if there was a connection...

Lastly I'm disappointed in the word games and dodges.

Perhaps I picked the wrong label with reluctant hero, for in my circles it means something very close to your slacker hero. But really couldn't you have just realized I was using a term you didn't recognize instead of saying I don't understand things that have been life long hobbies for me such as Lord of the Rings? Especially when I gave John Carter as an example of what I was speaking of and rejected Samwise? It should have been a clue we weren't communicating.

And completely passing over the point of the Hanson article I linked to that indicated the need for heroes who *don't* fit the modern culture, both in fiction and reality. I think perhaps that was the worst thing, the sheer tunnel vision displayed in not even taking time to answer that point. Did you even read the article?

So help? No. But at least I'm not angry about it.

And I have enjoyed your other articles.

Kit said...

re Wolverine, my main problem with him is that some writers are just too much in love with him. I think I watched about 5min of the recent cartoon Wolverine and the X-Men before I quit. He was just to perfectly awesomely badass.

It would not be so bad if it was not to the detriment of other characters, such as Cyclops. Who got shafted in the movies.

tryanmax said...

re Wolverine, I'm not really up on the comics. I was considering his portrayal in movies and TV (this is a film site, after all!) Naturally, his story arc in the comics is much longer and, as I said before, anyone can become a hero. That's America's favorite story.

Rustbelt said...

"Popeye Wars," indeed!

Andrew, I don't have much to add except that I agree with the comments that Popeye was boring and repetitive compared to Mickey and Bugs- and let's not forget the Mighty and Powerful Goofy! Maybe that's why the sailor man hasn't aged well, unlike some other things. (I dare you to watch that and tell me it isn't still relevant.)

But, really, what ruined Popeye for me was Dave Coulier's impression of him on 'Full House.' Oh, why? Why? WHY? (He did the same thing for me in the case of Bullwinkle- though that show's voice acting may have done it in for me on its own, eventually.)
And speaking of Full House, wouldn't this have been a better way for the producers to settle the show's outcome? It seems to be more of the Popeye way! (Yes, this real. Someone actually made this.)

AndrewPrice said...


I'm so glad you're not angry about it. I guess passive aggressive is enough, is it?

1. Absolutely no one has said what you are implying. If you want to paint your father and yourself as victims of our lack of respect then knock yourself out, but let us be clear that you invented the insult.

2. And no, the job of conservatives is not to whitewash the past in lieu of honest discussion. Just because something is old does not mean it is sacrosanct.

Nor is the role of conservatives to grouse about the present using false arguments.

3. Nobody's playing word games with you and no one is evading anything. And if I had arbitrarily re-defined the words you use as you seem to say I should have, I can only imagine that you would be screaming that I'm putting words in your mouth. And if you weren't sure what you meant, then say so... don't criticize me for failing to read your mind.

As for "ignoring the Hanson article," you apparently don't realize that the entire conversation for a great many comments was about the Hanson article. I'm sorry if you weren't able to understand that. And yes, I read the article. He's wrong. He cherry-picked characters to create a theory that is nostalgia nonsense.

I'm glad you enjoyed the other articles.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, That's a problem with you run into a lot, where the writers fall in or out of love with characters and the feel of books/shows will shift.

Backthrow said...


Nothing follows the Popeye template today because they did it right the first time, LOL! But I think the fading of Popeye from the modern public consciousness really has less to do with his (perceived, by you) values not connecting, and is really just the general, blanket supplanting of the old for the bright shiny new thing, unless a successful reboot is achieved (which can either be a radical redesign, like Alvin & the Chipmunks in the 1980s and again today, or a 'getting back to basics' approach, like Nolan's Batman and the Daniel Craig 007). The Flintstones may be more like the family sitcoms of today, but that doesn't seem to be helping it much, is it? Even though it's still on the air, the bloom has long been of the rose of The Simpsons, which is also fading and has been supplanted in connecting to modern audiences by Family Guy, South Park, Futurama, Spongebob, Archer and Adventure Time.

The best Popeye cartoons, the ones most likely to entertain an audience today, were made in the 1930s. Unfortunately, with the exception of the three color specials I mentioned earlier, they are all in black and white, which is the biggest obstacle to public acceptance today.

The color Popeye cartoons of the 1940s and 1950s were the most formulaic and uninspired. These are the ones I guess most people think of today when they think of Popeye at all. If Bugs Bunny had been presented in the way the color Popeye was from those years, he'd only ever deal with Elmer Fudd, using the same exact gags to thwart him in every cartoon, with only the backdrops of the cartoons changing.

The post-1950s Popeye cartoons were that, but worse, with really cheapjack animation, later ones wouldn't let him fight, or do much of anything. The 1980 Robin Williams film tried to be, in tone, both like the 1930s cartoons and the original newspaper strip (as well as a bad musical), which are two different animals... much like trying to make a James Bond film be both like the Fleming novels and the most over-the-top Moore film, at the same time... can't work.

No wonder Popeye's fading. When he's presented at all (indifferent owners), it's either in a format people generally disdain (black and white), or else it's all the chaff.

Could a Popeye feature film (rather than a TV series) connect to today's audience? I think it could. It'd have to be a far-flung adventure (a treasure hunt and/or rescue mission) in its own world, like Goonland, Popeye Meets Sindbad the Sailor or Popeye Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves. Popeye and Bluto would have to say witty things and malapropisms under their breath. It'd have to be very cartoony and surreal, in a humorous way. Popeye would have to fight big monsters. A few lesser-used characters would have to be involved (Alice the Goon, Sea Hag, Wimpy, Poopdeck Pappy, Swee'Pea, Eugene the Jeep), so as not to simply be the usual Popeye-Bluto-Olive triangle. You'd have something both action-packed and funny, not all that far removed from popular, modern things like The Incredibles, Shrek and How to Train Your Dragon.

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, It's amazing how a single incident can ruin a character or movie or whatnot. I've had a problem with Christopher Walken ever since SNL did a skit in which they mimicked his style perfectly and made him out as retarded. Ever since that, it's been hard to see him on film without thinking about that skit.

Gleichman said...


So much for trying to "help", it seems that I've tagged your ego and really that's all that counts isn't it? Everything else is always someone's fault, and doubly so even when they admit taking something too personally- you actually rub it in and continue to insult them.

And lie.

Tell you what, just forget it. You're not a person I wish to speak to, nor one I wish to continue reading. Thank you for showing your true colors. It's saved me and others a good deal of time.

AndrewPrice said...

Oh Gleichman, how formulaic of the passive aggressive personality... always the victim.

As for bothering my ego, don't kid yourself. My ego, unlike yours, is not wrapped up in comments about a cartoon on a blog. Sorry.

In any event, I'm glad you see through me now. What a happy ending for all! :)

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, In a broad sense, I agree. Popeye, like everything else, finds itself fading as it drifts further into the past. In fact, I'm talking about that tonight based on your question of the weekend. So tune in!

So it's possible that Popeye is just fading because it wasn't special enough to catch a wave that kept it alive longer. Perhaps, as you note, a solid reboot would have helped.

I tend to think the problem is more that it no longer speaks to modern values, but we can disagree on that point.

On the upcoming film, it will be interesting to see how it goes. On the one hand, I agree that if the character is done right, then it could extend his life to a new generation. Making him an adventurer would probably work well. That said, I'm not sure Genndy Tartakovsky is the right choice to achieve that. Don't get me wrong, I think Tartakovsky is a genius, but he's hardly the type to make a film for wide-release general public consumption. I suspect it will be something that becomes an instant cult classic.

Backthrow said...

But he has another side too, and my point is that his behavior is such that it does not appeal to modern audiences. It did appeal to the public at a time when the US was a different country -- the Great Depression left a lot of people as drifters or working from the bottom up, and then WWII required the country to develop a fighting spirit that didn't naturally mesh with our isolationism. So America reinvented itself as the scappy self-defender who need to slay the bully. Popeye resonated in that environment. But that environment didn't last and today America is much less willing to see violence as justified as a means of settling disputes. Because of that, Popeye no longer fits.

I personally won't miss him because while he does have good traits, his negative traits cause him to act like the kind of people we really do not like in real life. That's it. I'm not saying you can't like him. What I'm saying is that I see him as an anachronism. He represents a short period in American history that doesn't mesh with today's sensibilities.

Yes, exactly... that's why The Hulk was the public's least favorite character in that box office bomb, The Avengers. It's also why National Lampoon's Animal House fails to resonate ("Cut the cake!").

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, You lost me. Can you elaborate?

Kit said...

Backthrow, the reason the Hulk was so popular is that it was the first time he was done in a truly smart and enjoyable way. The 2003 movie was way up its own ass and the 2008 movie was, well, meh. The Hulk in Avengers was the one we all know and love. A man who tries to help people while struggling to control his own inner demons, sometimes channeling them in a constructive way.
And he got this scene (spoilers): LINK

Backthrow said...


Yeah, hard to say how it'll end up in Tartakovsky's hands. One one hand, he's definitely got a personal vision and a strong sense of style, fueled by passion, and has made good stuff in the past, so it has a better chance of amounting to something than if Popeye was "--from the makers of SHARK TALE!"... on the other, he might just not be the right fit for the material, turning it into something ill-conceived (or if studio suits, with a lot riding on it, insist on a lot of creative input, at odds with his vision)... or he does it well, the general public just doesn't care, and it become a niche or cult film.

Backthrow said...

Backthrow, You lost me. Can you elaborate?

Andrew (and Kit),

Simple: "Hulk Smash!"... people love it when Hulk smash! Sure, sure, Bruce Banner is fighting his inner demons for control and yadda yadda... but what it all boils down to is usually somebody (most often a bully) pushing him until they push him too far and... well, he might as well be Popeye, saying, "That's all I kin stands, I kin stands no more!" and then (to mix cartoon metaphors) it's clobberin' time!

Besides all the pretentious b.s., and bad CGI, I remember the 2004 film disappointed many for its decided lack of "Hulk Smash!" (apart from a brief desert battle with the military). The comical way Hulk smashed Loki in The Avengers was pretty close to a Popeye-style beatdown of Bluto, even though Hulk visually resembles Bluto far more than Popeye.

As for Animal House, more scrappy underdogs using violence against bullies, sort of Popeye-style thinking! Would you advocate real-life college students ramming the bleachers on which stand the town mayor, his wife, the dean, etc, with a death-mobile? How about Eric Stratten kayo-ing Greg Marmalard ("Look at my thumb... *BAM* --Gee, you're dumb!")? Flounder's use of marbles? No, of course you wouldn't... but it's funny in fictionland.

Come to think of it, Ash fighting the undead in Army of Darkness is fairly Popeye-esque much of the time, though that's pretty much a cult film, but it's a reasonably large cult these days.

tryanmax said...

Backthrow, I think you're being really unfair to Hulk fans.

tryanmax said...

re Tartakovsky - I think his work on Samurai Jack, Dexter's Laboratory, and PowerPuff Girls demonstrates a deep appreciation for the very earliest days of animation. It's likely that his film will try to capture the essence of the Fleischer Studios' Popeye over any of the later iterations. And, as I described earlier, that Popeye was less of an instigator--though he still qualifies as the guy who trouble always seems to find.

Kit said...


The reason Hulk was so well-liked in Avengers is because it is the first time since the 80s you saw a well-written live portrayal of him. Not just the Hulk but Bruce Banner as well. It created a brilliant and subtle dynamic that the audience wanted to see more of.

Yes, they liked the "Hulk Smash!" but "Hulk Smash!" without the heart of Bruce Banner is basically just a Michael Bay movie. It may be fun to watch but not memorable (at least in a good way). Here Joss Whedon brilliantly captured the Hulk/Bruce Banner dynamic.

tryanmax said...

As much as I enjoy Edward Norton on camera, he was a real prick of a Bruce Banner.

Anonymous said...

A - In defense of Bugs Bunny; Many historical figures were rash and immature when they were young. But they matured past it into the characters we remember and revere. Bugs may have been a jerk when he was young but as he matured he truly tried to live in peace with the forest. Like Quai Chang Caine, Bugs tried to live in peace but the forest was a violent place.
Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam kept trying to shoot him. The Tasmanian Devil kept trying to eat him. That damned construction worker tried to destroy his home to build a freeway without reimbursing him for the property.Like Caine,Bugs was a being that craved force but was forced time and time again to use his skills to save himself from the designs of the violent. And Aikido - like,Bugs never really attacked. He was the foil upon which the violent crashed,victims of their own hubris.
B - Who'd have ever thought that we'd get this many comments and this level of passion in a discussion of the cultural relevance of Popeye?! :)

Anonymous said...

Just reread it. I meant craved peace. My brain got ahead of my fingers!

Rustbelt said...

What?! Popeye? GypsyTyger, you mean this isn't Commentarama Philosophy? It's a film site?!

Does this mean everything else I thought I knew is wrong??????!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Not at all Rustbelt. You're spirited defense of the huge forearmed sailor was truly inspired.
Now that's all's I can stands cuz I can't stands no more! Ahgegegegegegege! LOL!

Rustbelt said...

My defense? I don't recall how...oh, wait. Yes, my defense of Popeye! Of course! Ha, ha! Dang, I'm good!

Whew, that's a load off my mind. I can relax. Now, to watch some more of 'Pinky and the Brain'...

AndrewPrice said...

Man, you turn your back for a minute and everyone shows up!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of cartoon characters and fighting. My daughter and I were watching The Crow,which of course stars Brandon Lee. This led to us talking about Brandon's dad,which led to Chuck Norris,and so on.We had a "pyramid" discussion - what if so and so fought so and so,etc. We decided that Bruce Lee was the tournament winner.
Then my daughter said 'What about Bugs Bunny?" And we decided that yes,Bugs Bunny would beat Bruce Lee.
What's up Doc indeed.

AndrewPrice said...

GypsyTyger, The idea of Bruce Lee fighting Bugs Bunny is totally awesome. I would LOVE to see that movie!

AndrewPrice said...

GypsyTyger, I never thought this topic would result in this many comments either. LOL!

And I love your defense of Bugs.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Andrew.
I appreciate it.

Mike said...

Wow, this thread took a turn for...well, took a turn.

Andrew, funny that you mention Gomer Pyle; a week or so ago Urban Cowboy was on which made me wonder what Debra Winger was doing these days. I did not know she was married to Arliss Howard, who played "Cowboy" in Full Metal Jacket. I went to IMDb to see if people were still discussing that movie, read about Adam Baldwin (Animal Mother) and some of the other actors in the flick, particularly Vincent D'Onofrio who played "Gomer Pyle". In the comments section, someone had asked why he was nicknamed that, never having heard of the TV series.(coincidentally, a friend of mine joined the Army long before the movie came out and "Gomer" was his nickname).

Back in '99, I met a British woman online and over the course of the next few years she came over several times to see me. I was surprised at how much Americana she knew, esp. the folk songs and some old TV series, but she explained that many of the old shows had aired over there when she was a kid. The one show she had never heard of, though, was The Andy Griffith Show; while it wasn't my favorite series, it would be the one I'd think most Americans would point to as how we'd like to think represents the best in American values. I guess British TV programmers weren't interested in such a sweet, simple show. (my Brit friend was a HUGE fan of Dallas, though, a show I've never watched. She was thrilled when I took her to the real Southfork Ranch east of Dallas)

Anyway, I watched FMJ again and enjoyed it, had been a long time since I last saw it. Heckle and Jeckle was one of my fav. cartoons when I was a little boy and while looking through my scrapbook my mom had made, there was a note in her handwriting that said "Wants to be Mighty Mouse when he grows up."

Just like I spent a couple of hours reading about FMJ, following links to the actors and various films they'd done, reading about those movies and then reading more about actors in THOSE movies, I do the same thing in here...reading a post about a movie, then reading other related posts, looking to see if you've discussed some of my favorite movies. I "waste" a lot of time on your blog, but I also know there are worse ways to spend my time. I guess I'm just trying to tell you I appreciate your blog.

Koshcat said...

WOW a lot of action on a long forgotten character. I used to like Popeye until I tried spinach. Compared to other cartoon characters, Popeye has never really changed with the times. He's the old guy who pines about the better days in the 40s and 50s. "Stay off my lawn!" They tend to listen to ALOT of Limbaugh.

AndrewPrice said...

Mike, Yeah, things kind of took a strange turn for a bit.

Thanks for the kind words!! I'm glad you spend so much time looking at older stuff. I think we've had some really good stuff that is well worth the read and I love that the internet lets us keep it all in one place. As an aside, I do the same thing you do. When I see a film with an actor who interests me, I go check out what else they've done and see where that takes me. I always end up spending a couple hours reading about old films or television shows that way. I love that it's all out there now to be read!

Interesting story about the Brit. I have German relatives and they are the same way. They grew up on American reruns, but only selective ones, which gives them a strange take on our country. "Dallas" (renamed "Denver" for some unknown reason) was big in Germany too. So were the Looney Tune, even though they dubbed them into German without even trying to keep up the voices. They didn't get much in the way of Andy Griffith either, but they did get our more salacious stuff.

Thanks again! :D

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, LOL! Yeah, Popeye never really changed with the times and that seems to have hurt his longevity. It will be interesting to see how the newfilm modernizes him... if at all.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, go watch the Fleischer Popeye cartoons from the late 1930s. You can find some of them on YouTube.

Outlaw13 said...

Bottom line, Popeye didn't last because those shows pretty much sucked. They were so bad that after a couple of weeks one year in my youth our local TV station switched from the Popeye and Bugs hour to the 3 Stooges Bugs Bunny Power Hour for after school entertainment.

AndrewPrice said...

Nice summation! LOL!

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