Friday, December 19, 2003


The other day I was watching Bob Clampett's immortal "Wabbit Twouble," from the Looney Tunes 4-DVD set. (This set is deeply problematic, but that's a topic for another post.) This wasn't the first time I'd seen it, or the second or third; but this time around I was struck by an aspect of it that I hadn't really thought about before. The middle of the cartoon is taken up by an extended gag, perhaps the longest gag in any Looney Tune (or Merrie Melodie): an elaborate scheme of Bugs Bunny's, involving glasses painted black, a shaving towel and a tree branch, to lure Elmer Fudd into walking off a cliff. And at the end of this whole scheme--he doesn't fall! He walks over the edge of the cliff, but taking advantage of cartoon physics manages to scramble back. Nor has he suffered any injury in the course of the scheme. The payoff is purely psychological, with Bugs "confiding" to Elmer (quoting from memory) "Ya know, Doc, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was me that tricked you," Elmer's delayed reaction as this sinks in, and Bugs kissing him and running off. Like pure mathematics or abstract art, Bugs' schemes in this film have no "practical" function and serve no purpose beyond themselves.

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