Despite choosing the name of this site, I have never been a fan of whimsical characters, those that are playfully silly. They’re like annoying children – except unlike real children you can’t hit them.
I am also not a fan of goody-two-shoes, smart alecs, winsome dreamers, moronic savants, or characters that always come out on top – winners are for losers. Here are eight characters that fall within these categories and thus are detested by me. Some fall into more than one category. Some fall into all of them. I’m looking at you Smurfs!
We’ve been socialised to think of predators as inherently bad and prey as inherently good. Wolves and snakes are evil, right? No, they’re just surviving and that means eating those lower on the food chain. Road Runner is the standard-bearer of this lie. Most cartoon ‘prey’ are occasionally endangered but Road Runner is never caught. He’s never touched. He just smugly “beep beeps” his way out of harm, mocking nature itself. Wile E Coyote, on the other hand, suffers sadistically, even by toon standards. If you think I’m going to accuse the cartoonists of injecting their BDSM predilections into a cartoon, you’re right. By the way, real roadrunners are opportunistic omnivores who eat fruits and seeds, insects, rodents, along with smaller birds, fledglings, and even bird eggs. Yes, your beloved Road Road is a cannibal!
Peter Pan is introduced in J.M. Barrie’s piece called The Little White Bird. In it, a six year old boy has been allowed to sleep the night at the narrator’s house:
I knew by intuition that he expected me to take off his boots. I took them off with all the coolness of an old hand, and then I placed him on my knee and removed his blouse. This was a delightful experience, but I think I remained wonderfully calm until I came somewhat too suddenly to his little braces, which agitated me profoundly.
Peter Pan was birthed from this creepy fascination with youth – the embodiment of the child the man wants to be and/or be with. We are meant to see Pan as a carefree sprite who has avoided being ensnared by the demands of adulthood. But this brat sneaks into the Darling house, kidnaps the children, and takes them back to his home where they are tortured. All that’s missing in this tale is a white windowless van.
If Pan is the child embodiment of Barrie’s obsession then Captain Hook is Barrie’s stand-in. Hook stalks Pan and it costs him a hand – a very Biblical punishment. If you think I’m going to claim that’s a metaphor for Barrie’s guilt, you’re right. Still not convinced that this is a story drenched in pedophilia? The prosecution calls to the stand…Tinkerbell. Tinkerbell desires Peter and views Wendy as her romantic rival. But unlike Wendy, Tinkerbell is not a child. She’s an adult fairy with a va-va-voom body. So I refer again to my earlier statement “Tinkerbell desires Peter and views Wendy as her romantic rival”. Jury verdict: That’s some fucked up shit.
Like his Looney Tunes stablemate, Road Runner, Tweety’s world is based on the predator-bad/prey-good untruth. But at least Road Runner doesn’t speak. Tweety does not shut his beak, spewing out a non-stop torrent of irritating baby-talk as he eludes the clutches of Sylvester the Cat who, like Wile E Coyote, is simply following his biological urges.
There’s pedophilic subtext in the fact that Tweety is a wide-eyed, lash-batting baby while Sylvester is a lisping, effete adult. If you think I’m going to accuse the cartoonists of injecting their gay-panic-stranger-danger-homophobia into a cartoon, you’re right
The TV show Stingray is Thunderbirds under the sea. It’s named after the titular submarine, tasked with policing Earth’s oceans in the 2060s. Marina is a mute member of an undersea race, who works alongside Stingray’s captain, Troy Tempest. Many episodes profiled the love triangle between Troy, Marina and Lieutenant Atlanta Shore, and if you think that’s the end of the ocean-themed names in the show you would be wrong, by a thousand names. Marina wafts around the sea, stumbling across trouble then guiding Stingray there to assist. So she’s Flipper, but in a dress.
Docile, silent Marina is the star of the show’s outro, Troy warbling about how wonderful but unattainable she is, while ultra-available but drab Atlanta stares longingly at a picture of the man who will never be hers. Poor Lieutenant Shore, passed over for a dolphin in a mumu – that’s gotta sting, bae.
You have to admire the ambition of a character that can leap from greeting cards to toys to TV and, finally, feature film. Miss Shortcake lives in Strawberryland, in a house shaped like a strawberry. She grows giant strawberries and replaces every occurrence of the word ‘very’ with ‘berry’. She skips around, spreading happiness. There is no room for negativity in Strawberry’s world – either you’re happy or she will make you get happy.
victims friends include Raspberry Tart, Plum Puddin’, Cherry Cuddler, Crepe Suzette, and Mint Tulip. It will shock you that none of them are strippers. The villain of the piece is the Peculiar Purple Pieman, who watches Shortcake’s every move in his magic pie tin. If you think that sentence sounds perverted, it is. It’s also lifted almost word for word from The World of Strawberry Shortcake, her very first TV special. Wait, shouldn’t that be berry first TV special? Please don’t tell Miss Shortcake I messed up, she will not be pleased.
Change Road Runner to a mouse. Pit him against Sylvester the Cat. Add in racist stereotyping and shouting. Lots and lots of shouting.
Pinocchio is a film starring a wooden puppet who is kidnapped, sold into slavery, tortured, mutilated, and replaced by a lookalike human counterpart. This would be a tragedy, except that Pinocchio is an tedious blank slate whose innocence ends up coming off as idiocy. The entire tale is packed with disturbing dysfunction, which Dan O’Brien (ex-Cracked.com) examines way better than I ever could. Warning: once you have the penis obsessed fish part pointed out to you it will haunt your nightmares forever. It’s so cool.
The Smurfs use the word “smurf” as a placeholder for everything from “happy” to “dildo”. They insert the S-word in so many places you’ll be wishing you were back in Strawberryland where the word-substitution is only berry annoying. During background research into the Smurfs, I fell across this piece that describes them as “the embodiment of a totalitarian utopia, steeped in Stalinism and Nazism”. I was just going to call them “moronic blue turd-people” but “totalitarian Nazis” works too. If you think that means I am going to label them as racists, you’re right.
I’m also going to label them as misogynists, homophobes, fascists, and annoying as Smurf-shit. Then again, they were invented in the 1950s. And they’re still a thing. Just goes to show, the world was always terrible and it always will be. Berry terrible.