Today I cried in the car, having been ambushed by an NPR retrospective on Pokémon (“Pokémon:”) I came a little unmoored hearing that stupid theme song (“it’s you and me,”) and my brainhead pinging with all these involuntary flashes (“I know it’s my destiny,”) of recess swingset (“Pokémon!”) pencil sharpener, of decaffeinated Turkey Hill iced tea and one five-cheese pizza Hot Pocket after school. Remember not feeling fat with grief? Try to remember.
When I cry in the car or the anywhere, I am ashamed to admit how I crave a mirror. How is it that my face scrunches so? How do its caves puff out air, its convexes collapse? How do I rearrange? The green eyes go red and the wrinkles—bless—become rivulets. I have gone from the thing that doesn’t cry to the thing that does. And then I go back, keeping my morph in a back pocket or belly bag, a proof of shifting out of the way of the little wrecking, a license to abide.
Maybe you’re on the internet? Yesterday the internet yelled “PEOPLE SHARE THEIR FEELINGS ABOUT LOLA BUNNY,” a statement that really means, “PEOPLE ABSOLUTELY LET IT ALL HANG OUT REGARDING CARTOON RABBIT ANATOMIES; PEOPLE REALLY NEED VACCINES/ FRESH AIR ASAP!” Maybe it’s weird that Space Jam animated Lola Bunny as Jean Harlow in Athleisure. Maybe it’s weirder that Space Jam 2 (???) is compelled to consciously desexualize a cartoon rabbit. These are strange sentences to type.
We maybe don’t have the essayistic time to atomize either the historically-male animators’ aspiration to what we can only call “Bazoonga Theory” OR the inching swing of liberal moralism—increasingly in line with corpo-conservative pearl-clutching—to a brand philosophy staunchly opposed to any basic expression of sexual pleasure or deviance. But there is something tellingly, humanly limited in the anxieties we attach to not only the plasticity of perverseness but to the perverseness of plastic. Toons are always morphing, shifting, gooping into a new them. That sublime slippage is the precise tonic for the gray myth we lumber under, the one that assures us that real change is impossible, that we’re best off accepting this literally murderous acid masquerading as an imperfect beige.
When I cry, I chop my face with salt water and transfigure if only a little. I am constantly aware that I am only me. “I don’t need / Don’t need anyone to be who I want to be / I’m the only one.”
We* (*I) talk about Bugs and Daffy like they’re set and still mythologies to be invoked, but they’re all melt and warble, shake and reanimate. We meet Daffy in 1937’s Porky’s Duck Hunt, a year before Bugs’ debut. Unlike the incremental introduction of Bugs and his personality, Daffy arrives all screaming puddy duck, all “Woo-hoo! Woo-hoo! Woo-hoo!” When Porky sends his hound swimming after Daffy, the dog retrieves the duck only for the duck to round on him and smack the dog upside the head. Daffy swims off scot-free. Porky reaches into his coat pocket for some papers, sweetly stuttering, “That wasn’t in the uh, script.” Daffy shrugs. Bugs’ anarchy is the cool con, the I can’t believe you thought I was dumb enough for that. Daffy’s the rip-it-up bazooka, which is both explosive and gummy.