From the archives: Thoughts on Biker Mice from Mars

April 3, 2009


Contributed by Sterling F.

CharleyOf all the shows mentioned on this web site, no one has mentioned Biker Mice from Mars. This truly underrated show had some surprising adult characters and situations.

First let’s look at the main characters. Throttle is the quintessential leader who is smart and your average guy. He is the only one with a girlfriend who is tough and very loyal. Vinnie is the classic young, hyper, oversexed man. He boasts and brags consistently and of course tries to get women (I’ll explain that more later). Modo is the lovable big guy who is committed to family (he is pretty much a mama’s boy). Charley is a woman who lives alone and is a mechanic (she is also the most realistic looking woman as she rarely wears sexy clothing). She obviously enjoys the company the Biker Mice bring her. The villain Limburger is very similar to the British villains seen in James Bond films. His assistant Carbunkle is androgynous in both look and voice. Greasepit, a henchman, is an idiot.

Now, there are tons of sexual overtones and innuendos between Charley and Vinnie. It is evident in the first episodes (in the second episode when Charley is dressed in a short skirt and falls over in front of them, Vinnie asks her to “turn around again”). Other incidents include: his reactions to when Charley is in danger (male protectiveness of his woman), flexing in front of her, jealousy (evident when Charley’s old boyfriend showed up), and many incidences in which he wants her to check him out. Charley flat out refuses all his advances (after all, that is bestiality) but even including that kind of relationship which is more obvious than Elisa and Goliath in Gargoyles is bold.

Also, the Biker Mice are borderline chauvinistic in most of the episodes. They fight while Charley sits in the garage only because they make her. She often has to fight to get equal treatment from them which mirrors the women’s rights movement and the glass ceiling issue.

The villain Limburger could be considered gay. He never does anything himself against the Biker Mice, he hires someone else to do it. Limburger has no family to speak of (except for a nephew…think of Scar from The Lion King) and is often running, yelling, and screaming (with Carbunkle in tow) from the Biker Mice. Also, Limburger has an inferiority complex. He loathes anything dealing with being Plutarkian (he is an alien). He despises doing the Plutarkian greeting and always has on his human mask even when he does not need to (in fact an episode showed a flashback where he was infatuated with Earth movies).

One thing about the show that seemed negative was the portrayal of rats. All the rats on the show are evil or do evil things. Modo, in particular, gets angry when anyone compares him to a rat. The person(?) that brings down the Martian forces is a rat disguised as a mouse who infiltrates the group. He also kidnaps the girlfriend of Vinnie (note that this takes place before they get to Earth). This smells of racism (the rats being African-Americans) and the rat kidnapping one of the mice’s girlfriend goes right into the stereotype of African-American men craving white women.

There are also lots of in-jokes. The voice of Vinnie is Ian Ziering of 90210. Thus, the show had guest appearances by people from 90210 including Luke Perry, Jason Priestly, and Jennie Garth (in fact, Luke Perry’s character looked like a twisted version of him). Also, an episode of the show dealt with Shakespeare. The voice of Limburger is a Shakespearean actor.

I hope this gives you an idea of the show, which was on the air for three seasons. Even though the animation was not nearly as good as Disney or Warner Bros., the writing combined sexual tension, humor, action, and adult in-jokes in virtually every episode while staying within the realm of children’s television. Also, what show geared toward kids would stretch out a storyline through 3 weekly episodes (as it did in its final season, before shows like ReBoot or Beast Wars did it)? Anyone who is a fan of this show or vaguely remembers it should comment and tell me what you think.

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Ex Situ: Carrot and Shtick

November 4, 2008


Cold on the heels of our last article, another one claiming Bugs Bunny for the Jews. The ancient and semi-Yiddish Forward newspaper printed a column last year discussing the concern:

Can we find the rabbi in the rabbit? As far as I can tell, Bugs never uses a word of Yiddish, but he does have a yidisher kop. He has the gift of gab as well as a fine command of Acme products. Poor Elmer — was there ever a Jew named Elmer? — never stands a chance. Of course, it is well known that Bugs comes from a long line of tricksters. He is an Eastern Anansi, an American Hershele Ostropoler. He’s even distantly related to Isaac Babel’s Odessa gangster, Benya Krik.

Carrot and Shtick >Catena Ex Situ

From the archives: Bugs Bunny is Jewish

October 23, 2008

Contributed by Krissy N.

Me and my friends were recently watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon, a take on the “Tortoise and the Hare”, when we began to notice some things about his behavior:

He was stereotypically Jewish.

It first came to notice at the beginning of the cartoon, when Bugs is reading a book. He reading it backwards, from right to left, turning the pages in that manner as well. Of course, one can read Hebrew or Japanese in this manner, and Bugs is definitely not Japanese.

We then begin to notice other things. Like Bugs’ Brooklyn accent. The stereotypical Jewish person always has a Brooklyn accent.

He kisses people a lot. My Jewish friends pointed this out as something their relatives do often, as well as people they just met. Bugs is awfully friendly…

He’s cheap. There’s a point in the cartoon where he has to cross a river, and instead of paying the bridge toll, he swims across the river.

Of course, being smart asses, we have to add that RABBIT - T = RABBI.

Not to say that Jewish people exhibit any of these characteristics, but they are common stereotypes.

COMMENT: Another thing altogether. In reference to what someone wrote about Bugs Bunny being stereotypically Jewish, one must also note that there is a Bugs Bunny cartoon showing Bugs reminiscing about when he was growing up (as a young rabbit either in the late thirties or early forties) in the Lower East Side. This also implies stereotype to being Jewish.
- Comment by Bugssbunni

COMMENT: Bugs does not have a Brooklyn accent. He has a Bronx accent. Just ask Mel Blanc. Oh wait, he’s dead. But I did hear him say that in an interview. As I long-time NYC area resident (not a native though), I must agree.
- Comment by JasonH2084

COMMENT: Just would like to comment on what someone said about Bugs Bunny have a Bronx accent, and not a Brooklyn one. I have read in several places that Bugs Bunny had a combination of a Brooklyn and Bronx accent.
– Comment by Mameshmeshuga

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September 29, 2008

  • I don’t know if others have noticed, but Pepe Le Pew is a glaringly insulting portrayal of the French people and all things Gallic. The cartoon relies on the stereotype that the French don’t bathe, hence Le Pew being a skunk, a rather malodorous animal. (Some people might think that the cartoons portrayal of the French as oversexed is a stereotype but, as anyone who has been to France knows, this is an astonishingly real picture of the French.) He speaks with a funny accent, too! It is completely galling! Could it get any worse? At least there was never an episode of Pepe capitulating to the Nazis. Vive l’amour!
    -Contributed by Mark C.
  • Brendan S. mentions several characters seen in the feature Who Framed Roger Rabbit? that were created after 1947, the year the film takes place. I read an interview with the filmmakers where they stated their excuse for this was that these characters were hanging around Toon Town in that year until they were “discovered” a few years later by the studios, as if they really existed and shared the same legends as live action movie stars. A bit of dramatic license. I think a bigger problem is the glaring lack of Tom and Jerry in the film. I guess they couldn’t get the rights to these characters.
    -Contributed by Mark C.
  • Is it just me, or does Panthro of the Thundercats seem like a feline representation of a black man?  It’s interesting to me that even when human protagonists are replaced with somewhat more bestial protagonists, that animation directors would feel the need to express racial diversity.  If you ask me, Thundercats was already demonstrating diversity by depicting feline humanoids, which have been grossly under-represented on television and elsewhere.  (I mean, just because they don’t exist doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be represented, right?)
    -Contributed by YHN

From the archives: A Response to Sexual Ambiguity in The Brave Little Toaster

June 6, 2008

This article was originally written as a response to Sexual Ambiguity in The Brave Little Toaster. Alas, the name of the original author has been lost to the mists of time. And my poor organizational skills of ten years ago. Also: we apologize for the lack of updates this week. We take our update schedule very seriously.

I hope you were referring to The Brave Little Toaster (a 1987 Disney-affiliated cartoon movie) and not its parody, “The Brave Little Trailer” (a 1994 ten minute short on Animaniacs). The latter I know for sure starred a male cartoon character because at the end you see the Trailer as a grandparent with a white beard and the Pooh-bear voice of cartoon vocal-master Jim Cummings. But at any rate the first film does fail to meet your criteria for deducing the gender on cartoons for a number of reasons.

First off, you’re talking about appliances here. They have no clothes either way. In fact, going over the movie several more times I found no instance where the animators hinted of clothing on any of those characters; possibly to keep them subliminally apart from the human characters. And supporting my theory. (Yes there was that Hawaiian projection scene during that song but I’m talking about hints of clothing that was actually fused onto the characters kind of like Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast.)

Then you’d probably like to discuss color coding. Alas, it holds all too true for the stereotypically (hot pink) female examples, but remember- out of a million billion cartoons, I’m only evaluating the Toaster. Subliminally, I didn’t notice gender because the Toaster has chrome silver and black (those aren’t even really colors) which are exactly what all classic toasters are like. Hence, this character has passed the color coding test by avoiding it altogether.

Let’s see, the Toaster is seen dutifully and enthusiastically tidying up the cottage and minutes later is replacing burnt fuses and hot-wiring a car battery for a chair. Two opposing stereotypes=nothing.

The eye-detail doesn’t lead you much in any direction here. The Toaster has got the dinner plates thing but that’s because, being a toaster, it’s whole face is also it’s body (it’s sort of a verbal to visual pun). Absent are the eyelashes and that ever-alluring white glare found endlessly in Japanimation. To top it off, the Toaster has dark brown irises which not only transcends gender-specifications but ethnicity as well.

In dealing with the voice-issue, that one is totally arbitrary. In my case, I sit next to this student in my Algebra 2 class I would’ve sworn, for the rest of my like, was a full-fledged tomboy had I not heard someone speak his name.

Moving onto emotional status, examples grow increasingly murkier (as I would expect). The Toaster does briefly display what could be conceived as maternal instincts toward Blankie halfway into the movie- though by the end doesn’t mind sitting flat on him like a frat boy on a beanbag chair. Personally, I think that electric blanket is gay for several obscure reasons as well as those flagrant one (a scene where Curby “unloads” his bag of dirt, the Toaster wants Blankie not to gawk- my take on it is the Toaster also has a form of “unloading” like with breadcrumbs on the real appliance and since Blankie has none, he isn’t allowed to intrude this sacred act- it’s almost like a third gender! But now I’m really going off).

How about suggestive hints? If you want to think dirty you could say the Toaster has those slots on its head suggesting female genitalia (and the bread to toast process as pregnancy) but you will also notice the Toaster is the one with the inserting mechanism for those baked goods and, most obviously, it has a nice long power cord sticking out. Do you suppose that represents male genitalia? But rather than go off on a tangent rant of why this cartoon is suggesting of a hermaphrodite, it would be far better to just say “Hey, it’s toaster that happens to talk, okay?”

There was one scene that really, really had my gears turning and that was the otherwise meaningless encounter the Toaster has with a flower in a secluded, almost romantic setting. Well, my thoughts (as I’m writing this) are that the flower softly throwing itself at the Toaster symbolizes someone giving away their virginity- often associated with girls. But, then the flower seems to go into despair and wilt when it is told it was looking at a reflection (the Toaster clearly doesn’t want to get involved in anything here). Does this mean the flower was basically trapped in this romantic setting all alone and believed it found true love in the form of a reflection… or just a companion at all? Comments are welcome- either way, it still keeps the intrigue of my claim alive and well.

I was so convinced of my theory that I decided to view that sequel The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars. I shuddered when I heard it existed and I shuddered more at each passing minute of seeing it- this is the marriage of mediocrity and bribery at its worst, folks. But in the end, I got just what I wanted- more proof the Toaster has no gender. There is yet again a scene where they were supposed to refer to it by third person (by some gigantic refrigerator?) but it could have very well also been referring to the Radio or Lampey. I know it gets rather cumbersome to dissect a movie so thoroughly but to me, it’s increasingly obvious that the animators took great lengths to avoid the issue (and possibly the children’s book this was all based on). The simple fact of the issue is they refuse to give the audience any definite truth on the Toaster. However another totally different possibility is they’re letting you chose the specific gender of this utterly neutral character with an utterly flawless design. I choose neither side for all those reasons stated above. Of course, you can still choose male… if you want to believe that.

From the archives: African-American Crows

March 11, 2008


Contributed by Trotman.

dumbo.jpgI’d like to point out something I’ve noticed about older cartoons: Crows are almost unanimously represented as African-American, and vice versa.

The best example I can think of is Walt Disney’s Dumbo. In the film, Dumbo and his little mouse friend wake up after a night of drunken revelry in a tree, and can’t figure out how they got there. After climbing out, (if I remember correctly) the mouse hypothesizes that Dumbo used his huge ears and flew into the branches. This concept is suddenly and loudly cat-called by a gang of crows on a fence. These crows speak in an urbanized dialect, are dressed everywhere from snazzily to shabbily, and loud. In an especially poor showing of sensitivity, I believe the leader was named “Jim.” As in Jim Crow. (For those of you that were educated by the public school system, “Jim Crow” is the nickname given to segregationist laws ratified in the Southern states after the Civil War and during the Reconstruction.)

The crows are the typical late-vaudevillian stereotype of blacks: raucous, like-minded, and quick to gang up on isolated non-blacks. The crows have a good laugh at Dumbo, reiterating over and over how stupid the very idea of a flying elephants is and making jokes at Dumbo’s expense (“An elephant, fly? I dunno ’bout that… but I seen a dragon fly!” “I seen a horse fly!” “Well, I seen a house fly.”) And naturally, because they’re “black,” they sing a song and do a little dancing. But then, I must say, Disney surprises me.

The crows suddenly seem to warm to the little elephant, and are actually instrumental in his mastery of flight. This would make them seem to be protagonists in a film heavily populated with antagonists. Very odd. Because of that, I have surmised that the “Black Crows” of Dumbo are in no way malicious portrayals, but are simply presented for their comedic value, and augment the film with plot development and a few cheap laughs. Besides, the time period in which this film was created is not renowned for it’s accuracy in racial representation.

Far less tactful is the use of “Black Crows” in the Ralph Bakshi film Fritz the Cat, based on the cartoons of Robert Crumb. Here, the crows are are regarded with a mix of contempt, fascination and mystique. They are shown as stiff competition for pretty young women, frustrating a horny Fritz, and alternately shown as quick lay for the cat, no less in a scrap yard. Not exactly complementary. Then again, Fritz later initiates an orgy in a bathtub with a number of women, none of which are crows. (There is something lacking in general in the treatment of women in Bakshi films, but that’s a whole different rant.)

I believe the crows in this movie are not shown the way they are for racist reasons, though. One has to remember that Robert Crumb wrote the original “Fritz.” Everyone is portrayed rather badly in his cartoons, and that would naturally translate into the movie.


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