Today is my birthday and a dear friend drew this doodle of me! I absolutely love my Peanuts-style design!
As of this writing, the most recent episode of South Park is called “Safe Space”, which, as one could probably guess, is the incendiary cartoon’s send-up of the phenomenon behind “safe spaces” and campaigns against “shaming” particular sections of the population that is prevalent on college campuses and certain online sections. I have watched South Park for a long time and I think the show has been past its prime for at least the last few seasons. With that said, one thing I like very much about the show is that even as the quality of its episodes declines (particularly in its most recent parody and topical episodes), it is still able to sparks my mind and makes me think further about the issues it takes up. That’s more than I can say than pretty much any other cartoon series I can think of that ran for more than ten years. This is the reason I write about South Park so often on this blog. “Safe Space” did that for me once again and I want to discuss it a little more.
Of the NickToons that aired during Nickelodeon’s heyday in the 1990s, Hey Arnold! may not have had the widespread popularity of Rugrats or Spongebob Squarepants nor the monumental influence of Ren & Stimpy, but it was a thoroughly beloved show by its considerable fanbase during its tenure and long after. Behind its vague title and unusually designed characters was a surprisingly deep and heartfelt show that thoroughly explored the depths of its characters’ personality quirks. No character on Hey Arnold! was as thoroughly explored as Helga G. Pataki.
The first impression viewers are given of Helga is a character who is not far off from Lucy Van Pelt from Peanuts. Like Lucy, Helga is bossy, brusque, vulgar, aggressive, and quick to knock out anybody that steps out of line with her. However, from the beginning of the series to the end, the show explored why Helga is the way she is and why she acts the way she acts. We learn over the course of the show that Helga is an artistic and poetic prodigy who is stuck in the shadow of her overachieving and unanimously admired older sister and has always been unacknowledged by her self-involved, overbearing father and her unfulfilled, subtly-hinted-alcoholic mother (remember this was a “kids’ show”, folks).
Helga’s character got even more complex in her complicated relationship with the main character Arnold. The initial quirk of this relationship was that Helga simultaneously liked Arnold (or “liked him liked him” in the show’s terms) and hated him (“How I hate you! And yet…how I love you!”). To elaborate, Helga has had feelings for Arnold for as long as she has known him, but in fear that her feelings are unrequited, she outwardly lashes out and picks on him. The show gradually pushes this dichotomy within Helga to its comedic, dramatic, and psychological extreme.
As contentious as Helga’s and Arnold’s relationship was and although the show ended with their relationship unresolved, multiple signs throughout various episodes hinted that Helga and Arnold would eventually end up together and get married. It invited the audience to root for the both of them to end up together.
Romantic, isn’t it? Well….
NOTE: As you probably guessed by the title, this blog post contains discussion of mass shootings and violence.
I don’t know how much of an international audience I have, but in case it hasn’t been clear before, I live in the United States. Any of my readers outside of the US that keep up with international news might be aware of the US’s problem with mass shootings. To quote our president, we have gotten to a point where mass shootings have become routine. Within just the past few years alone, the United States have been rocked with shootings on college campuses, shootings in churches, a shooting in a Sikh temple, a shooting in a Holocaust museum, multiple shootings in movie theaters, the shooting of nearly a couple dozen first graders, and a shooting live on television. Our most recent high-profile mass shooting was slightly more than a week of this writing at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. There has been almost as many mass shootings this year as there have been days in the year. What has become just as routine in this country as the shootings themselves is the tepid response to them by our politicians and news media. What always follows is an acrimonious and hollow debate about the accessibility of guns with some lip service given towards improving how we treat mental illness. The debate never gets past bickering and propaganda until it dies down as no steps are taken to prevent mass shootings in the future. Until yet another one happens (usually within a week of the last one at this point) and the cycle starts once again. I might find the absurdity of this funny if this was some sort of dark Stanley Kubrick comedy or an episode of The Boondocks instead of real life with real people getting killed.
But what does any of this have to do with Batman?
WARNING: This post contains discussion of sexual violence.
One of the most famous, influential, and ubiquitous cartoons is the wide collection of animated shorts released by Warner Bros. Studios, commonly known as Looney Tunes, in the early to mid 20th century. In particular, the most popular character of these cartoons became Bugs Bunny, whose voice, mannerisms, and comedic routines became ingrained in our collective consciousness. One such routine is Bugs Bunny’s penchant for cross-dressing in order to pull one over on his adversary. I want to talk a bit more about this.