Tuesday, January 15, 2008

the hilarity of violence.


My brother gave Quinn a Tom & Jerry DVD for Christmas.  The other day, I sat down with him to watch it, and it's a gem.  It's a collection of all the original 1940s and 1950s Hanna/Barbera/Quimby cartoons, not the later (crummy) Gene Deitch or Chuck Jones ones.  These are the ones that won seven Academy Awards.

There's something utterly hilarious about the over-the-top cartoon violence mostly inflicted on hapless Tom.  I hadn't seen any of the Tom and Jerry cartoons in ages, and it occurred to me that the entire series, Academy Awards and all, is not only one of the best animation features of all time (if not the best), but also completely politically incorrect. 

What is it about the PC mindset that's so infuriating to me?  It's not the intentions of the people perpetuating it.  Well, maybe it is--these are the folks who preach that violence is always unacceptable under any circumstances, even in self-defense, and that's why the current generation needs to be shielded from the images of a cartoon cat getting its tail smashed in a waffle iron.

I watched a ton of violent cartoons as a kid.  I've watched poor Tom getting his butt handed to him by Jerry many times, and the more outrageously the manner of it, the funnier it was.   I've watched Elmer Fudd go full-auto on Bugs many times with that double-barreled shotgun of his, and I can't count the number of times I've laughed at Wile E. Coyote's Acme products backfiring on him.  (For someone who's never had a good experience with the product line, he was unreasonably brand-loyal.)

Yet even at six or eight or ten years of age, it never occurred to me to stick my brother's hand into a waffle iron, or throw him head-first into the open fridge.  Why is it that I was able to see the cartoon violence in context, and to correctly classify it as caricature, yet the current guardians of youth welfare think that the current generation of kids lacks that ability, and that only complete non-exposure will prevent them from playing Tom to their little baby sibling's Jerry?

Of course, now that I'm a bit older, I recognize a bit of a libertarian bent in the old cartoons.  It occurred to me that all the characters on the receiving end of the most gratuitous cartoon violence are almost always the ones who initiated force against their opponents.  Jerry wants to be left alone--it's only Tom's initial aggression that triggers the epic onslaught.  It's the same with Bugs Bunny, and the Road Runner--the good guys are always minding their own business until the bad guy comes around and tries to eat them, at which point the violence is not only hilarious, but completely justified as well.  There's a great educational message here: Don't give an attacker what he wants, give him a hammer in the face. 

Of course, that kind of message is equally unacceptable to the PC crowd, isn't it?

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