HBO’s motives are worthy but misconceived. Threats of violence are inherent in the classic cartoons. Without plausible risk, nothing is at stake, and there is nothing to celebrate when the unarmed heroes use cleverness to defeat the stupid villains. And it was firearms that made the danger believable.
The weird thing is that Browngardt kind of gets it about the need for the heroes to be in actual danger. “We can do cartoony violence – TNT, the Acme stuff,” he told The New York Times. “All that was kind of grandfathered in.”
So the new series will continue to use dynamite, anvils, axes, giant slingshots and boulders. Elmer Fudd will run around trying to slice Bugs Bunny’s arms off with a scythe. Yosemite Sam will be like Crocodile Dundee in New York.
Michael Ruocco, one of the animators for the new series, said on Twitter: “Think about context, about what’s going on in the world, and how long ago our show started production. Late 2017, early 2018. Right on the heels of a record number of mass shootings, particularly the horrific one in Las Vegas. NOBODY wanted to touch guns working in media.”
The sensitivity is understandable. But HBO fails to recognise that in the original cartoons, portraying the villains with rifles added an extra element – social commentary. The Warner animators weren’t embracing the right to bear arms; they were satirising it.
Apparently HBO worries that the original cartoons promoted America’s gun culture to impressionable youngsters. In fact, the kids could immediately see that the gun toters were morons, always outsmarted by the animals.
That kind of satire was what made the original Warner toons so superior to the bland and cutesy Disney variety – at least for anybody over the mental age of five.
David Dale teaches media at the University of NSW and tweets @thetribalmind