What do Bugs Bunny and fairy tales have in common?
There’s no punch line, although I’ll give points to anyone who can think of one.
Besides the obvious–animals and humans talking to each other without flinching–there is an answer. But first, some background.
I’ve been toying with the idea of allowing my daughter to watch Looney Tunes. I’ll admit I have some reservations about the matter. Bugs Bunny may be beloved, but he’s also disgraceful. He encourages belittling those with speech impediments, has a serious penchant for violence, and is rather found of racist humor. What do I do when she asks me about the decidedly politically incorrect material she’ll be exposed to in seemingly harmless cartoons?
Well, perhaps I can comfort myself in knowing that the Grimm Fairy Tales I read her are just as grotesque and amoral. Have we ever stopped to think about how stunningly violent most fairy tales are? Most characters die, are cursed, or are subject to years of slavery and servitude. And those are the good guys! The bad guys are certifiable, willing to risk life and limb to win against servant girls, princesses, princes and anyone standing in their way. Who tries to kill a baby because she wasn’t invited to a party? A nutcase with antisocial tendencies! Or in this case, a fairy who felt slighted. (Sleeping Beauty anyone?)
I came across this post, which wonderfully illustrates the parental dilemma of big and bad versus warm and cuddly.
So, the truth is, neither fairy tales nor Looney Tunes were meant for kids. The gruesome descriptions and off-color humor were originally meant for adults, who are prepared to see gray where children see only black and white. Does the fact that we have made this material available to children make gratuitous violence acceptable in their TV and literature?
Maybe the answer isn’t so cut and dry. As a parent, I worry that my daughter’s concrete way of looking at the world will be skewed by the things she reads and watches. As a parent who still remembers being a child, I know I watched way more TV and read books too mature for me. I turned out fine. As a matter of fact all those fairy tales, Disney cartoons, and Looney Tunes gave me more imagination than I can contain. It’s why I write.
Have you figured out the answer to my question? Fairy Tales and Looney Tunes were supposed to be for adults, but when I indulge in either I feel like a kid again. Probably because that’s when I first experienced them.
That’s all folks!