yes we can, doc

04 Mar

Okay, so the English took their nobility and silent dissatisfaction with their class struggle and created Robin Hood.  The ancient Greeks worshipped all-powerful deities who were just as fallable as they were.  And Americans, in turn, created Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.


No, really, man, I’m serious. 

Lots of ancient cultures had myths populated by anthropomorphised animals, be they tricksters or dupes or blithe spirits.  As the US is a post-enlightenment civilization, our myths are either partially based on fact (such as Paul Bunyan, John Henry, Johnny Appleseed, Betsy Ross, etc.) or are specifically written as fictitious, but with characters that are so ubiqutous and resonate so well that they might as well be real.  Oh, sure, there are better works of fiction with more fleshed-out, well-rounded characters, like The Great Gatsby, that tell us more about ourselves as a nation and as a people.  The Greeks had their national epics, too.  But their myths were as simple, yet topsy-turvy, as a Bugs Bunny short.  

Incidentally, Bugs represents the American we all want to be – cool, casual, knowing how the game is played and always one step ahead of everyone else – and Daffy represents the American we sometimes are – hot-tempered, grumpy, paranoid, and easily excited. 

I’m thinking about this particular thing today because Slate’s Jeff Greenfield just posted an article comparing Bugs to Barack Obama and Daffy to Hillary Clinton, saying that American’s always vote for Bugs over Daffy.  And it’s kinda true.

Go back to 1960, the first campaign in which television was the clear dominant medium. John “Bugs” Kennedy was cool, restrained, ironic. Richard “Daffy” Nixon was brooding, suspicious, scowling. Look at 1980, when Ronald Reagan’s sunny approach to the campaign and to the world (“Our best days are yet to come”) stood in sharp contrast to President Jimmy Carter’s talk of a crisis of the spirit. (Maybe the cartoon duel helps explain why Jimmy Carter had his famous battle in a boat with a rabbit.)

He goes on to say that, if Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, she’ll be up against McCain, which will make it effectively Daffy vs. Daffy.  I suppose that’s almost true, although McCain is clearly Marvin the Martian. 


Also, it might have been interesting to point out that the Presidential election of 1964, between Lyndon Baines Johnson and Barry Goldwater, was essentially Foghorn Leghorn vs. Henery Hawk

(In case you don’t remember this particular pairing, click here and re-educate yourself in the building blocks of American cultural history.)


Posted by on March 4, 2008 in history, nerd riot, nostalgia, politics, toons, tv, youtube


8 responses to “yes we can, doc

  1. Bill D.

    March 5, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    I don’t think mythologizing Bugs and Daffy is a stretch at all. In a way, they’re almost perfect fictional creations in that you can insert them into any sort of story setting you can imagine, and they still work. You can’t say that about, say, Sherlock Holmes, Hamlet, or Jay Gatsby, at least not without a whole lot of explanation right out of the gate. Even Superman requires a good deal of audience prep before changing his story particulars. But with Bugs or Daffy, you can just drop them into space, the old West, a Wagner opera, or surrealist actor’s nightmare and just let them loose. In short, they can be anything they want (or need) to be. What embodies the ideal American experience more than that?

  2. geekusa

    March 5, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit, indeed.

  3. Lauryn

    March 5, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    “Oh, there once was an acrobat’s daughter,
    She hung by her teeth from a nooooose…
    But one matinee, her bridgework gave way,
    And she flew through the air like a goooooooooooootttthhhhheeee!!”
    –D. Duck

    The above song is one of the many reasons I’ve long identified with Daffy. Take what you will from that statement.


  4. Larry

    March 7, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Like daugther, Like father. Sorry, Andy, buit while I have always liked Bugs, I love Daffy. He’s funnier than Bugs and more textured. Bugs is all surface. Daffy has dimension. What’s funnier than a pissed off duck with a lisp? Hope that’s not too politically incorrect.

    Lauryn’s Dad

  5. Lauryn

    March 7, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    So….if the metaphor you are putting forth works thus:

    Obama = Bugs
    Clinton = Daffy

    And we continue to carry this metaphor onwards, doesn’t it inevitably follow that instead of Marvin the Martian:

    McCain = Elmer Fudd

    I mean, McCain and Fudd have the same-shaped head….c’mon!!

  6. Lauryn

    March 7, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    So….if the metaphor you are putting forth works thus:

    Obama = Bugs
    Clinton = Daffy

    And we continue to carry this metaphor onwards, doesn’t it inevitably follow that instead of Marvin the Martian:

    McCain = Elmer Fudd

    I mean, McCain and Fudd have the same-shaped head….c’mon!!

  7. Chris Gillespie

    April 27, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Now I get It, can you imagine your job is to make people laugh through cartoons. I loved them as a kid but they are funnier when you watch them as adults and they remind you of people you associate with every day, Marvin the martin, Henery Hawk,Yogi and Foghorn leghorn I work with these guys and my Shiz tu is the Ralph protector of the flock of sheep that the Sam aka. the coyote is trying to get.
    Life is one big cartoon.


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