By Tim Hayes
In the span of about 20 minutes the other day, I saw someone get shot about five times. Parts of his face went flying. Then another person tripped, leading to a hazardous free-fall and a violent landing. Miraculously, that person survived, only to have a 10-ton boulder land on him. Then, a third person got electrocuted, crushed by an anvil, and blown up by dynamite – yet somehow pressed on.
Actually, I shouldn’t call these victims “people.” The first one was a duck, the second a coyote, and the third a house cat. Daffy, Wile E., and Sylvester, I believe.
From the time we were kids, Warner Brothers’ “Looney Tunes” cartoons have been the all-time champs for laughs. Their mix of slapstick, energy, and crafty wordplay placed them far above anything that safe old Uncle Walt Disney would ever serve up.
First created as “shorts” to precede Warner Brothers movies in theaters during the late 1930s and early ‘40s, Looney Tunes really hit their stride in the post-World War II era. When television came along in the 1950s, those classic cartoons found their permanent home and entered into the fabric of American society, entertaining generation after generation.
But could Looney Tunes be made in the politically correct, hyper-sensitive, hair-trigger litigious environment we all endure today? Sufferin’ Succotash, there’s no way in hell!
Heavens, the violence alone! Explosives! Men with loaded rifles! Anvils and slingshots and guns – oh, my!
And the insensitivity! Daffy and Sylvester, with their slobbering speech impediments. Porky Pig and his shameful stutter. Poor Elmer Fudd, unable to pronounce those pesky Rs. Where are those TV lawyers to due for pain and suffering when you need one?
Then there’s the unrelenting sociopathic stalking and the constant threat of imminent death! Just like the song says, “Poor little Road Runner never bothers anyone; his running down the road’s his idea of having fun!” Tweety, the everlasting target of cats, feral and otherwise. And, of course, Bugs. “Kill da wabbit,” indeed. Good Lord, what about the children!
Yes, what about the children? As kids, my friends and I watched those cartoons every Saturday morning, and whenever else they came on. We saw the Coyote’s unintentional cliff dives into a poof of desert sand a million times. We watched Bugs plug a shotgun with his finger, so that Elmer got the blast out the back end. We heard the miraculous, mirthful voice characterizations of Mel Blanc give life and personality to each of those distinct drawings. And through all of it, we laughed our heads off. Just as those artists, writers, musicians, and performers intended.
Somehow, we all turned out to be well-adjusted, productive, contributing, tax-paying members of society. No lasting damage. No damage at all, in fact. Imagine that. Compare this with the regrettable trend of the past decade among parents to raise their kids by “hovering” nearby, ready to swat away any inkling of potentially negative influences.
“I think what we’re witnessing is the professionalization of parenthood,” said Carl Honore, a former hyper-parent who has written books on the topic. “We’re living in a cultural perfect storm. A culture of soaring expectations. We want everything to be perfect. From our homes to our teeth to our vacations to, regrettably, our children.”
Yeah, well, in my book, THAT’s looney. I’ll take a stuttering pig and box of exploding cigars any day.
(By the way, Cartoon Network shows an hour’s worth of classic Looney Tunes every weekday from 11 a.m. to noon. DVR it, you won’t be sorry!)
Copyright 2015 Transverse Park Productions LLC and Tim Hayes Consulting