Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why is Bugs Bunny so popular?” Good question. Timely too. (Besides, it beats answering the question: “Why did Mickey Mouse divorce Minnie?”)
July 27, 2015 marked Bugs Bunny’s 75th birthday. This makes Bug Bunny as big of an enduring American pop culture icon as the likes of Superman and Batman. He has been seen in comics, cartoons and movies.
But why is Bugs Bunny so special? What is the secret to his longevity? Our guest speaker Kwame Opam, contributor to the Verge, had some thoughts: “(Bugs Bunny is) “a legend; many of us, along with our parents, grew up with him. He even has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “
(Let’s not forget his creators!) Opam agrees: “If you want a semi-formal study on why Bugs (is) great, you should . . . start with Chuck Jones. Jones was one of the most important animators of the last century.”
He reports that the Oscar-winning animator “Jones gave us the classic Hunting Season Trilogy along with What’s Opera, Doc?, which is widely considered one of the finest cartoons ever made.” He agrees there were others responsible for Bugs Bunny’s popularity as well.
He agrees there were others. “Friz Freleng and Bob McKimson also directed classics like Knighty Knight Bugs and Devil May Hare, respectively that expanded on Bugs’ character. Each one built on the myth. “
There is genius simplicity to Bugs Bunny too. Opam confirms this was “Bugs, minding his own business, would run into some adversary who wanted his hide. Faced with a challenge, Bugs would inevitably triumph with wit and grace.”
In fact, Bugs Bunny is a unique mix of everyman, underdog and individual. Opam explains that unlike Homer Simpson, “(Bugs Bunny is) the person you want to be — the smartest one in the room who’s still effortlessly cool. He’s quick-witted, funny, and even a little cruel, but only to his tormenters.”
Opam adds Bugs is also “the guy you want in your corner when the bullies come calling, because he didn’t need brawn to win. In effect, Bugs embodies a kind of American icon that’s simultaneously exceptional but still the underdog. So often, he’s lost and disoriented when the bullets start flying. But he is uniquely able to take on the establishment and win.”
In today’s PC environs even Bugs Bunny’s hare-raising penchant for cross-dressing doesn’t stop him. If anything it makes him more popular.
Opam explains: “Bugs’ love of drag lends credence to the idea that he is possibly one of the most progressive cartoon characters ever created. Dresses don’t make him weak. He’s somehow even more powerful when dressed as Scarlett O’Hara, and manages to break down our assumptions about the gender binary because he never needs to pass. To borrow from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, put a wig on his head, and suddenly he’s Miss Midwest. And it always works flawlessly.”
He concludes that while Bug Bunny might be a company mascot, we “know his voice. He’s what Americans are but also what they wish they could be.”
Why is Bugs Bunny so popular? Now you know.
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