Contributed by BugssBunni.
Usually, Bugs Bunny is always the good guy and he triumphs in the end. Yet there are a few exceptions. I wish to discuss the cartoons in which Bugs Bunny is defeated in a race by a turtle. I know that one of them is “Tortoise Beats Hare,” the other I’m not sure what it is called.
In these two cartoons, Bugs Bunny is pictured as an arrogant rabbit who has TOO much confidence in himself. He is outraged by the thought that a turtle can beat him in a race. He finds it insulting and embarrassing to all rabbits. We see a side of Bugs Bunny hardly ever shown — it seems in this cartoon that he is slightly conceited and over-sensitive. These two character traits are inferred in Bugs Bunny’s character only once before, in the Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde episode. When Dr. Jekyll/Hyde asks Bugs if he drank the formula, Bugs Bunny become overly defensive and has the attitude of “how can you think of such a thing about me.”
In “Tortoise Beats Hare,” we all cannot help being slightly upset with Bugs Bunny. We are not used to him acting arrogant and we are disappointed. I think it is the only cartoon in which Bugs appears to be “the bad guy.”
I noticed another thing. In most cartoons, we all feel triumphant for Bugs when he defeats a “maroon” such as Yosemite Sam or Daffy Duck or Elmer Fudd. And yet we never actually are upset with the “maroons” even though they are the bad guys. Honestly, how many of you out there hate Elmer Fudd? It doesn’t seem like Bugs Bunny himself actually hates Elmer, just loves playing tricks on him. I don’t think anyone hates Elmer, despite that on numerous occasions he has actually tried to murder or heroic rabbit. But even though no one hates the bad guys, we still feel that it is justice when Bugs Bunny defeats him. No one ever feel mad at Bugs for being nasty to Elmer Fudd. We always feel triumph for the victor and sort of an affectionate feeling for the antagonist. No one feels upset at the bad guy.
However, in “Tortoise Beats Hare,” the theme is entirely different. Bugs Bunny seems like the antagonist, and we cannot help feeling slightly disgusted with him. We are not used to his arrogance and we are annoyed — we all know that he knows better. It is one of the only times where we are upset with the antagonist.
Yet, even stranger, we cannot help feeling even more disgusted with the tortoise. We all feel contempt to him and that it was unfair the way he tricked Bugs Bunny, and we are upset when Bugs loses the race. Yet when Bugs Bunny tricks people and the bad guy loses, we are not upset with Bugs, and we don’t say, “I wish Elmer won!” Why in this case are we upset with the protagonist?
The answer is that even though we are annoyed with Bugs Bunny in this animated short, we easily forgive him. We know that it is not usual of Bugs, so even though he acted conceitedly, we are biased towards him because we all like him. Even though we all know he deserves to lose the race, we can’t help thinking that he should win anyway. Why should he win? Because he’s Bugs, Bugs our favorite rabbit, and he always wins. We can’t help feeling that he should win just because he’s Bugs. We expect him to be the good guy, so we are upset that he isn’t, but we still wish he was.
This is also why we are mad at the tortoise. We feel that Bugs Bunny should have won, and the tortoise stole that position. That is the difference between this cartoon and others. We never want Elmer to defeat Bugs Bunny, so we don’t mind when Bugs defeats him. That doesn’t mean we always want the protagonist to win, because here the protagonist is the tortoise, but we want Bugs Bunny to win. We feel Bugs has the right to win, and we all can’t help loathing the tortoise for grabbing the limelight.