L. Neil Smith's
Number 163, March 4, 2002
Chuck Jones, RIP

"Of Course You Realize This Means War"

by William Stone, III

Exclusive to TLE

"Aha! That's it, hold it right there: pronoun trouble. It's not 'He doesn't have to shoot you now," it's 'He doesn't have to shoot me now.' Well, I say, he does have to shoot me now. So shoot me now!!"
-- Daffy Duck, "Rabbit Seasoning," 1952

"Director? Why does a cartoon need a director?"

So went the baffled questioning of a coworker when I explained why I came into work depressed on Monday.

Chuck Jones -- director of an some of the most hysterical Warner Brothers Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons -- died February 23, 2002 of congestive heart failure. Jones was 89.

I don't think I've been quite so depressed since the 1989 death of Mel Blanc, the remarkably talented individual who gave voice to virtually all of the male Warner Brothers cartoon characters (and a lot of the female ones).

I've always been a gigantic fan of the classic Warner's cartoons -- and I don't use the word "gigantic" lightly.

I can identify any Warner's cartoon starting from the very first 1930 Bosko and Honey short "Sinkin' In the Bathtub," through 1988's "Night of the Living Duck." I've literally seen every single Warner Brothers cartoon produced during the 58-year span, including http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/~kvander/swblack.html "Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs" -- a cartoon considered so racist that it's never been released to synication.

I've seen the animators' gag reel, which include such moments as Proky Pig kitting his thumb with a hammer and stuttering, "Son of a b-b-b-, son of a b-b-b-, son of a biscuit!" Then, after an embarrassed pause, Porky says, "I bet you thought I was going to say 'Son of a bitch.'"

I can trace the lineage of Bugs Bunny from his embryonic form in 1938's "Porky's Hare Hunt" to his first recognizable characterizion in 1940's "A Wild Hare."

I can identify the director of the cartoon with a glance.

Why does a cartoon need a director? The same reason a book needs an author. Without a director, you don't have a cartoon.

Chuck Jones was absolutely my favorite director of the classic cartoon era. From 1938 through 1963, he worked in a broken-down shack its residents called "Termite Terrace," alongside such greats as Friz Freleng, Bob Clampett, and Bob McKimson. Jones produced an extraordinary body of work to meet the demands of Hollywood's golden age.

I've never laughed harder at anything than I have at Chuck Jones' work. Like all brilliant comics, his sense of timing and characterization defies repetition. You can't explain Chuck's work: if you don't see it with your own eyes, it isn't funny.

All I can tell you is that Jones was the genius behind the "duck season, rabbit season" cartoons (there were three of that motif: "Rabbit Fire," "Duck! Rabbit! Duck!" and "Rabbit Seasoning") and that he created and directed all but a small handful of the Roadrunner/Coyote cartoons.

Chuck Jones was a genius who made me laugh until I cried. But that wasn't all he did. He created true American icons.

Precisely who "created" Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck is an issue of some debate. Having screened every single one of their cartoons repeatedly, my own opinion is that everyone at Termite Terrace had a hand in their evolution. I think that Chuck Jones was the individual who got their characterization specific, hilarious, and uniquely American. To quote film critic Richard Thompson, the duck season/rabbit season shorts have, "... the clearest definition of general roles: Elmer never knows what's going on; Bugs always knows what's going on and is in control of events; Daffy is bright enough to understand how to be in control, but he never quite makes it."

But beyond this, the character of Bugs Bunny under Chuck Jones assumed a uniquely American flavor. By "American," I don't mean some form of nationalist or socialist drivel. I mean that he was an adult individual, aware of his own self-ownership, and took took care of his affairs without asking for help.

Yes, Bugs Bunny under Chuck Jones was a libertarian.

Jones voiced as much in his autobiography, Chuck Amuck:

"Golden Rule. Bugs must always be provoked. In every film, someone must have designs on his person: gastonomic, as a trophy, as a good-luck piece (rabbit's foot, which makes as much sense as a rabbit carrying a human foot on a keychain), as an unwilling participant in a scientific experiment (laboratory rabbit or outer space creature). Without such threats, bugs is far too capable a rabbit to evoke the necessary sympathy."

Sound familiar to the libertarian "golden rule" of the Non-Aggression Principle?

Indeed, in the best Bugs Bunny cartoons -- usually directed by Jones -- Bugs is typically going along, minding his own business, when someone drops out of the blue to interrupt his existence.

Bugs is usually forgiving for the first couple of infractions, such as 1949's "A Long-Haired Hare." In that particular cartoon, Bugs endures being smashed over the head with a banjo (observing, "Hm -- music- hater,"), squashed into a harp like an accordian ("Also a rabbit- hater! Oh, well ...") before finally being tied to a tree branch by the ears and pummelled.

At which point Bugs intones solomnly, "Of course your realize this means war."

Uniquely American -- and uniquely libertarian.

It's easy to realize that the Bugs Bunny cartoons could never be made today. A huge number involved guns and -- gasp! -- hunting! The office busy-bodies, victim disarmers, and feminized, cowardly men in this country would never let such a thing happen again. I don't suppose anyone could miss the almost semi-annual argument that the Road Runner/Coyote cartoons are in some way responsible for schoolyard violence.

As though watching the Coyote being crushed by a giant boulder that he himself pushed off a cliff could inspire the Columbine Massacre.

Beyond that, however, there is the uniquely American character of Bugs Bunny that would never be allowed today. Bugs never resorted to government intervention to stop Elmer Fudd from hunting him down -- except, or course, to twist the government's hunting laws into a parody of themselves.

In one instance, Bugs admonishes Elmer that he can't shoot Bugs since Bugs is a fricaseeing rabbit -- and Elmer's license is for a stewing rabbit. In another, a confused Elmer asks the game warden (Bugs in a cheesy disguise) which season it is -- only to have Bugs inform him that it's baseball season.

And in my favorite version, Bugs and Daffy tear down hunting sign after sign, loudly arguing which hunting season it is -- and then finally reach a sign proclaiming that it's Elmer Season.

Rarely, too, does Bugs resort to physical violence to thwart his antagonist. Oh, there's plenty of cartoon violence, but it's almost always a result of something the antagonist has initiated. Bugs relies on his wits to outsmart the bad guy.

Again, a uniquely American -- and libertarian -- notion.

I've learned a lot from Bugs, Daffy, and Chuck Jones. I mean that quite literally. Not only have I laughed myself silly, I've learned a lot about dealing with the real-life hunters in this world, the aforementioned office busy-bodies, victim disarmers, and feminized, cowardly men.

In fact, just this morning I got the opportunity to put the teachings of these great Americans into practice.

As I've written elsewhere, I have a concealed carry permit that allows me to legally carry a sidearm on my person in the state of South Dakota. Further, my present employer does not have a policy requiring disarmament of his employees. Nevertheless, there are a few office busy-bodies, even in South Dakota. One of them recently complained to my boss that I was carrying a gun -- a gun! -- and was probably a dangerous psychopath.

This represented a tricky situation for my boss, and he carried it off with much dignity. I'll not recount the details, but suffice to say that I agreed to leave my carry gun behind so as not to cause this busy-body to complain to the HR department. This would almost certainly have resulted in a new disarmament policy, thus making my office a much more dangerous place by the creation of ready victims.

And just in case my little office busy-body happens to be reading, you heard me right: I'm by no means the only one packing. This is South Dakota, after all. People like you are in the minority around here.

And guess what? You're safer with us around. Not that I'd expect you to understand why this is so.

However, disarming me wasn't enough for this particular office busy- body. On Monday, he complained to my boss about my copy of Scott Bieser's extraordinary http://www.libertyartworx.com/sept11.html "September 11" cartoon.

I've had the cartoon pinned in my cubicle since Scott created it. I'm frankly amazed that anyone would admit to objecting to the idea of filling terrorists with lead before they have a chance to murder three thousand individuals. Indeed, the normal reaction to the cartoon is that of a night janitor I bumped into while doing some after-hours maintenance:

"Hey ... uh ... about this cartoon?"


"Can I get a copy of that? I've seen it in here, but we're not allowed to take stuff down from the cubicles."

I naturally ran him ten copies, proudly identified myself as a friend of the artist, and let him know that he could get it on t-shirts and coffee mugs at the http://www.libertyartworx.com artist's Web site].

Despite the obvious insanity, the office busy-body objected to the cartoon being in my cubicle, on the grounds that it wasn't "professional." Apparently it's escaped his notice that I'm a Certified Information Systems Security Professional.

In any case, I was asked to take down the cartoon. Since my company has the right to make any policy it likes, I complied.

Then I sat back and said to myself, "Of course you realize this means war."

My daughters are presently aged six and eight. I've had their art literally plastering my workspace since I was hired. Sometimes if I have to do after-hours work and the kids are with me, I'll toss them a ream of paper and highlighters, and let them busy themselves. This evening, my little libertarian girls presented me with a whole series of new artwork with which to adorn my cubicle.

Let the office busy-body try and object to the Gadsten flag that my daughter drew. Or the picture of a man playing the banjo over which the words, "Tom Daschle For Dog Catcher" have been imprinted.

Let the office busy-body object to my new http://www.cafepress.com/cp/store/productdetail.aspx?prodno=1529035 September 11 coffee mug that I'm suddenly carrying into every meeting.

Let him object to the new pro-gun cap I'll be hanging on my cube (hopefully a version of Scott Bieser's beautiful http://www.libertyartworx.com/pieceposter.html "Piece" poster).

Let him object to the http://www.jpfo.org/bumpersticker-righthand.htm "Raise Your Right Hand" bumper- sticker] that will be in the cube corner behind my laptop docking station (curtesy of the wonderful folks at jpfo.org Jews For the Preservation of Firearms Ownership).

In this cartoon, I'm Bugs Bunny, and the office busy-body is Elmer Fudd.

I happen to know that it's really Elmer Season.

(With respect and admiration to Chuck Jones, 1912 - 2002.)

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