The Sevier Valley Symphony gave me a sense of great relief when it played a medley of classical pieces once featured in Bugs Bunny cartoons.
I was afraid of being the only one in the room who wouldn’t know Gershwin if not for Daffy Duck. Fortunately, whoever organized the playlist of the concert understood for most people my age, knowledge of classical music is inexorably tied to Looney Tunes.
Elmer Fudd singing “Kill da wabbit!” to the tune of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” has at least as much cultural significance as “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Hamlet” and seasons 1-6 of “Game of Thrones” combined.
As much joy as hearing the Merrie Melodies music brought joy to my evening, it also resulted in sadness.
You see, in this era of smartphones giving our youth an infinite number of entertainment choices, we are raising an entire generation of social idiots.
Back in the day, there were three channels unless you had cable, in which case there were three good channels — all of which had Saturday morning cartoons.
Network executives in the 1980s didn’t necessarily have the best interest of developing youths at the forefront of their programming decisions. Thus, we got garbage like “The Smurfs,” and if you were suckered into it, knockoffs like “The Snorks.”
So it probably surprised no one when someone said, “Hey let’s repackage a bunch of old Warner Bros cartoons from the 1940s and 50s and put them on Saturday mornings.”
This was a cheap and easy way to fill airspace with material for children. It wasn’t meant to be education, but “The Bugs Bunny Show” aired for nearly 40 years and taught an entire generation about classical music, and many other important topics.
Who can forget the futility of consumerism as illustrated by the misadventures of Wile E. Coyote? Ol’ Coyote would purchase any number of sticks of dynamite, anvils, rocket boots and cannons from the Acme Corporation, only to have them backfire on him time and time again.
Meanwhile, the Roadrunner represented the resiliency of the natural world.
Elmer Fudd’s failures as a hunter could be seen as a meditation on the importance of ethical hunting practices. In all those times Bugs and Daffy argued about duck season or rabbit season, Fudd never pulled out his DWR upland game proclamation to check for himself.
Yosemite Sam cartoons demonstrated the perils of not controlling one’s temper.
Daffy Duck and Porky Pig showed us that you shouldn’t bully people with speech impediments.
Pepé Le Pew was all about not judging someone by his or her appearance, or smell.
However, not all the lessons in these old cartoons were good. Pew was also a serial sexual harasser who’d be locked up by the Me Too movement if he were chasing today’s cartoon cats around construction sites.
Also, since many of these cartoons were produced in the 1940s, they had references about the importance of buying war bonds, which I’m sure led to meaningful conversations about World War II, the Holocaust and the importance of national unity.
Today’s children don’t have Saturday morning cartoons and look at how divided the country has become.
Instead, they have YouTube videos of idiots using whiffle bats to whack their friends in the groin. Sure, on the surface that doesn’t seem much different than Tweety Bird dropping a hot iron on Sylvester the Cat’s head, but thematically there is a huge difference.
When Tweety hurt Sylvester, there was a very serious statement being made — watch out for predators. Or was it never trust a puddy tat?
We’re raising a generation who can’t identify Foghorn Leghorn, much less Wagner, Bach or Beethoven.
Our children are being done a disservice when we don’t expose them the classics, by which I mean Bugs Bunny dressed in drag.
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