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!

3 thoughts on “The Looney Tunes-Fairy Tale Conundrum

  1. I think the problem is not violence per se, but violence being glorified. As long as violence is depicted as something to be shunned, it’s fine. I get worried when it’s shown as something to marvel at. Same with making fun of someone’s disabilities. I do hope the trend shifts towards more sensitivity in this regard.

    The earlier fairy tales, as you’ve mentioned, were not created specifically for children. But now that material is being created with children in mind, I think the creators can start looking into the potential psychological impact before putting things out there.

  2. Some old fairy tales weren’t created for children while others were. The French “salonistas” were writing stories to tell to other adults at court. The Grimms were trying to collect German folklore (with varying results). Yet, Andersen’s writings were generally intended for children. I think one thing we must also consider is that our notion of “childhood” has changed greatly over the centuries. For a good length of time, children weren’t considered much more than “little adults” and the world was such a place that it was difficult to shield them from the vagaries of the world. Yet, those children survived. I know parents worry. It’s in their nature. But sometimes you should consider that your kids might be tougher and more perceptive of the truth than you think.

    1. How true that is! There are aspects of protection that I try to avoid when the experience will actually be a form of enrichment. Literature is a great place to explore “the other” or better yet, the road less travelled. Thanks for the great comment.

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