Daily Archives: November 20, 2010

Saturday Night Cartoons


“Beanstock Bunny”

I can’t even pretend embarrassment here. These Warner Brothers cartoons are classics — they’re funny and grownup and look pretty good after almost sixty years.

I also confess a preference. Sure, Bugs Bunny is the breadwinner, but I always sorta preferred Daffy Duck. The two of them in combination is of course irresistible: eiron vs alazon.

And that reference provides the cue to exploitable Frye-relevance. Here he is in “Towards a Theory of Cultural History”:

The conception of irony meets us in Aristotle’s Ethics, where the eiron is the man who deprecates himself, as opposed to the alazon.  Such a man makes himself invulnerable, and, though Aristotle disapproves of him, there is no question that he is a predestined artist, just as the alazon is one of his predestined victims.  The term “irony,” then, indicates a technique of appearing to be less than one is, which in literature becomes most commonly a technique of saying as little and meaning as much as possible, or, in a more general way, a pattern of words that turns away from direct statement or its own obvious meaning.  (CW 21, 157)

And here he puts the animated cartoon in the context of the “media revolutions” he’d experienced in his lifetime:

In my childhood were the silent movies, which were lineally descended from the puppet show.  The comedies of Larry Seton, Harold Lloyd, Mack Sennett, were funny in a way that no spoken comedy can possibly be: naturally the spoken lines, which had to be printed, were kept to a minimum in any case.  I remember seeing a movie, colored and talking, which was a comedy, and being bored by it: but at the beginning there was a reference to the early knockabout silent comedies of the pie-throwing kind, with a brief illustration, and I laughed until I nearly fell out of my seat.  Similarly, with children at a Punch and Judy show.  Some types of movie, notably the Disney and other animated cartoons, continued this totally disembodied puppet convention: in television it only survives in things like Sesame Street, which are addressed to small children.  (CW 25, 197)

Phew! Without further ado, more Bugs and Daffy after the jump.

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Video of the Day: Rocking the Vote


The Young Socialists of Catalonia in Spain have produced this video to encourage people to vote in upcoming regional elections.  It’s caused a bit of a stir, but most people (politicians excluded) don’t seem to have much trouble with it.

According to Frye, sex is of course a primary concern, and the right to vote is the peak experience of citizenship, so it seems natural enough that they come together at some point.  Maybe this is it.  Frye in conversation with David Cayley:

Then you get the other account [of creation] in chapter 2 [of Genesis], which begins with a garden and deals with animals as domestic pets.  The imagery is oasis imagery.  It’s all gardens and rivers.  And the emphasis is heavily on the distinctness of the human order.  First you get Adam, then you get Eve as the climax of that account of creation.  Obviously, that describes a state of being in which man and his environment are in complete harmony.  Then comes the fall, which is first of all self-consciousness about sex, or what D.H. Lawrence calls “sex in the head.”  That really pollutes the whole conception of sexuality and thereby pollutes in the same way the relation of the human mind to its environment.  (CW 24, 1023)

Not to be a total jag about this, but there is something deeply satisfying about seeing a woman depicted as having an orgasm while voting: it eagerly embraces both liberated female sexuality and gender equality.  As Frye notes, if, according to Judeo-Christian myth, humanity fell by way of a woman, then it will rise again as one.  Why shouldn’t something like this be winkingly suggestive of that?  Traditionally, nothing about sex is more threatening than female sexuality, which has always been about sexual shame generally and female subordination specifically.  This sort of thing fully exposes the fact that some people (including young socialists) are well past that.  Woman is after all, Frye suggests, the climax of creation.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Today is the birthday of Canada’s seventh prime minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier (1841-1919).

Frye in “National Consciousness in Canadian Culture”:

The Canadian sense of the future tends to be apocalyptic: Laurier’s dictum that the twentieth century would belong to Canada was even then implying a most improbable and discontinuous future.  The past in Canada, on the other hand, is, like the past of a psychiatric patient, something of a problem to be resolved: it is rather like what the past would be in the United States if it had started with the Civil War instead of the Revolutionary War.  (CW 12, 500)

(Note that there is a brief bit of film footage of Laurier giving a speech on the campaign trail in 1911, the first moving image ever taken of a Canadian prime minister.  However, I’ve been unable to find it.  If anyone knows of a source, please let me know where it is and I’ll post it.)