I have very fond memories of the Looney Toons. Ben and I used to watch the two hour chunk on Sunday mornings, comparing the quality of the Toons’ jokes to those of the other shows for kids, touting the writing in the 1940’s like a couple of bitter seventy year olds.
Our favorites were Wile E. Coyote (Predatorius-Craftilus) and the Road Runner (Delicius-Delicius). We would talk about the genius of using umbrella corporation ACME as commentary on consumerism, then burst into noisy laughter (commentary forgotten) as poor Wile E.’s rocket scooter stopped just short of the other end of the cliff and he plummets into the canyon. “How about ending this cartoon before I hit?” he asks sadly, via a sign with writing on it. The cartoon-makers oblige, and the screen begins to fade to black.
I could say a lot about Looney Toons, and I probably will at some point. The way it treats life and death as absolutes to be casually accepted, the way that the conflicts stem from basic instincts (the desire to eat, to hunt, to survive), the way that women are only present as nagging wives, tired or overindulgent mothers, or sexual objects, but you know what? I just watched like three cartoons starring Daffy Duck, and I really just want to talk about how totally awesome Daffy Duck is.
Daffy was originally created as a screwball protagonist, screwball meaning completely uninhibited and nonsensical. This is the era where he coined his typical, “WOO-HOO! WOO-HOO! WOO-HOO!” while jumping madly around a confused foe. As time went on, though, the creators blessed Daffy with a little more savvy. His zaniness was replaced with a quick-talking irritability and sense of entitlement, and eventually he hit on his famous catchphrase, “Yoooou’re despicable!”
Now, the thing about Daffy is that he is never quite good enough. He is always one step behind his self-imposed rival, Bugs, and can never really seem to come out on top. He constantly senses that he is being somehow jilted, and it’s true, but this never stops him from trying. Daffy is always trying to get ahead, and in his fervor to be important, he often steps on the straight man.
I don’t know about you, but I can never help but love the underdog. Or, uh, underduck, as it were. Daffy just wants to win, just once, and he never seems to, so he loses his temper and gets frustrated and vitriolic and spouts the fowl language he’s famous for.
See what I did there?
A character who always wins is far less interesting than a character who never does, and I feel I have far more in common with poor Daffy than slick Bugs.
What do you think? Do you have a favorite Looney Toon? And if you say Tweetie Bird so help me god I will find where you live and slap you in the mouth. I have had enough cutesy imitations of ‘I tawt I taw a puddy tat!’ to last me several lifetimes.