Aug 2, 2021

Are Cartoon Heroes PC Enough? Random Thoughts on a Useless Topic

Drawing some conclusions from favorite drawings

By Ed Goldman

Is Yogi Bear really “smarter than the average bear”? Has any authoritative group conducted a survey to verify this claim? And how do other bears feel about Yogi’s designation?

Do they think of him as an unsolicited spokesman for them? At least Smokey the Bear, Yogi’s ex officio celebrity-ursine predecessor, tried to do some good, exhorting all of us to “prevent forest fires.” Yogi’s claim to fame is that “before it’s dark/He’ll have ev’ry picnic basket that’s in Jellystone Park.” Ergo: He’s a thief. Not only that, but he, or Hoyt Curtin, who wrote his theme song, is proud of it. (Doesn’t “Hoyt Curtin” sound like a good name for an overly sensitive decorator from Brooklyn?)

Edgy Cartoon

“You’re late. Everybody’s beaten.”

Anyway, these are but a few of the politically correct inquiries I’m hoping will be made of our cartoon icons. If we’re going to be “woke” as a people, shouldn’t our inky counterparts be subjected to the same criteria we increasingly are?

Is Popeye really “strong to the finich/cause I eats me spinach/”—or is this a blatant example of product placement by the Greenleaf Vegetables Association (motto “Sorry About Kale”)?

Would he have proved just as strong if, in a moment of crisis, instead of pouring spinach down his throat he popped open a can of, say, Dole’s pineapple slices (in “heavy syrup,” for added pep)? 

Is Popeye a vegetarian—in deliberate counterpart to his morbidly obese hamburger-snarfing pal Wimpy, who seems like an ideal candidate for adult-onset Type 12 diabetes? In addition, is the name of Popeye’s exceedingly slender partner, Olive Oyl, used as merely a come-on for a segment of the tree-fruit business? Remember, Vito Corleone, The Godfather himself, made his legitimate money in the olive oil industry. Coincidence?

And when we hear Olive Oyl’s name, do we unconsciously get a desire for a martini—and if so, is this a subliminal attempt by the makers of gin and vodka to engage our thirst genes? Did Messrs. Smirnoff and Tanqueray do side deals with Moe Greene and Fredo before the former was shot in the cornea while enjoying an otherwise soothing massage (“The Godfather Part 1”) and the latter was offed, on the order of his kid brother, while on a rowboat placidly praying for fish to bite at his line (“The Godfather Part 2”)?

Are these the connections we want our children to make? And, in clinical terms, is Olive Oyl just preternaturally thin or is she downright bulimic? 

Meanwhile, would Popeye be any less effective as a cartoon hero if, after beating up his constant nemesis Bluto (called Brutus in later cartoons), he sang, “I’m strong and resourceful/When I drinks a Red Bull/I’m Popeye the Saaaailor Man!”?

Then there’s the perplexing case of Mighty Mouse, whose theme song—which the late comic Andy Kaufman, also a perplexing case, adapted for his act—advises us:

“Mister Trouble never hangs around 
When he hears this Mighty sound: 
‘Here I come to save the day’
That means that Mighty Mouse is on his way.”

Oh, really? Mister Trouble’s already there and now we’re privileged to await Mighty Mouse? Is this not akin to awaiting a service tech from Comcast, the results of the MRI they did for your torn ACL, or a phone call from a lover on vacation without you?

And what about the sales edict, “Under-promise but over-deliver”? Mighty Mouse is more than “on the way”—he’s also apparently going to save not just a portion of your day but the entire day. Is this truth in advertising? Is MM’s aging brand doing a bit of a late-inning stretch?

Let’s also take into account “Mister Trouble.” He’s really getting out of Dodge because a mouse wearing a cape and tights is “on his way”? Is there a Mrs. or Ms. Trouble? And how does she feel about being uprooted once again just because an airborne rodent is approaching?

And what about their kids (the Little Troubles)? Are they going to have to move to a new town, enroll in a new school and make new friends, just like they’ve had to every time Mighty Mouse was “on his way”?

Finally, do we even know if Mighty Mouse is all that mighty? And even if he has brute strength going for him, is he smarter than the average mouse? Maybe it’s time for us to look at each of our pen-and-ink heroes and consider changing the ‘toon.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).