Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cartoons and Philosophy

This episode of The Pink Panther is a classic. It shows the ridiculousness of duality in a cute, digestible animated short. The clip was posted on the Non-duality Network and it transported me back to my childhood. The Pink Panther overcomes the stubborn painter until the entire world is changed. Love overcomes the anger and easily transforms it. The more will is exerted, the quicker Pink Panther progresses into a world of his own choosing.

I love cartoons, especially in their 60s and 70s heyday. Back then, the animation houses were filled with burnt-out philosophers, avant garde artists, and new-age, draft dodging weirdos. Parents would sit their kids in front of the TV and, unknowingly, educate them in Zen philosophy, Gandhi's peace protests, and the futility of violence. Growing up in the 1980s, we got a lot of the leftovers and repeats from that era.

Tom & Jerry, The Roadrunner, and Bugs Bunny made classics that featured villains blindly trying to exert their will on the willy and playful universe. The playful universe -often embodied as a juxtaposed character- would simply subvert, frustrate, and overcome the stubborn blind will. I don't think there's a better teacher for children on the idiocy of violence than watching Jerry repeatedly defeat Tom, or the Coyote who purchases ACME dynamite only to see it blow up in his face while the Roadrunner darts by, completely oblivious. Elmer Fudd's hunting for years and never catching one single animal (much less the smart-mouthed rabbit) is something I can see an anti-Vietnam hippy coming up with late at night in between tokes .

Dude, he never catches the rabbit. (puff puff)

Not even once. (puff puff)

Nah, never. (puff puff) Fucking asshole.


Pink Panther wasn't one of my favorite cartoons. If it was on, I would tolerate it. But most of the time I would look to see what else was on. From a visual standpoint, I didn't like the color pink. It wasn't because I was a boy, but the color irritated my eyes and reminded me on inflammation and Pepto Bismol. My sister's room was painted pink and it was one of the most effective deterrents from snooping around her stuff. Everything about that pink room annoyed me and I wondered how she could sleep in a giant esophagus.

But Pink Panther was a part of that arty European-looking minimalist stuff with jazz music. Along with Peppy Le Pew, there were these cartoons I was aware of as being 'arty' as a child. I appreciated them more than I laughed at the antics and looked forward to growing up and watching it again with some perspective.

If a college offered a major in cartoon philosophy, I think the graduating students would be a lot more insightful, mentally flexible, and innovative than most philosophy and poli-sci students. Most importantly, I think our society can learn philosophy, see how its applied in absurd situations, and laugh. Laughter is an excellent learning tool. In our insane political environment of outrage, I'm learning to laugh more, not take the so-called 'enemy' so seriously, and to re-indulge in cartoons for inspiration. 

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