Continuing with my exploration of the Sociology of Animation, I focus on one of the world’s most famous animated rabbits: Bugs Bunny.
Sociologists have noted that the legacy of Bugs Bunny is twofold. On the one hand, like aspects of the Mickey Mouse/Disney franchise that has been infamously linked to war propaganda of its time, some Bugs Bunny cartoons produced at the height of World War II in the mid-1940s can now be read as racist. Some of these cartoons produced negative and offensive stereotypes of Japanese people, as Sociological Images has pointed out.
During the early 20th Century, Warner Brothers cartoons reproduced colonialist visions of Otherness by emphasising the cultural difference of other groups as inferior, barbaric and uncivilised, such as the ‘Pygmy’ character and ‘Sambo’ the African-American boy (read more here). Eleven Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons have been banned for their offensive depiction of minority groups, specifically of African-Americans (for an analysis see Racialicious).
On the other hand, the Bugs Bunny cartoons made a strong impact on ‘Western’ popular culture, pushing the boundaries of what is classified as ‘art’. As a pop culture icon, Bugs Bunny bridged a generational gap from the 1960s onwards, when Saturday morning cartoons were a staple in many people’s homes. For example, read sociologist Karen Sternheimer’s personal recollections of watching Bugs cartoons with her mother with respect to the changing rituals of popular culture in American family homes.
Perhaps the most enduring legacy of Bugs Bunny cartoons is that he came to symbolise a mainstream cartoon archetype,
. Bugs Bunny signified quick wit and defiance of authority figures, representing the ultimate escapist fantasy to young children and early adolescents.
In this clip posted above, the classic tale of Hansel and Gretel gets the Bugs Bunny treatment, with Bugs living up to his trickster persona with great relish. As an aside, in my family, this clip is a classic. Prince Charming has the best line, which my brother and I still emulate to this day:
It’s all in the delivery… Trust me, it’s funny. This is not the best quality video but it still does the trick – speaking of trickers…