Sunday, July 18, 2010

Political Rodents

Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone

I was deprived as a child. My mother wouldn’t let me watch television. Okay, so the Wonderful World of Disney and Wild Kingdom were exempt but, as for the rest, she was convinced the evil tube would rot my delicate brain and I’d grow up to be, I don’t know, a writer or something. It wasn’t all her, of course. We lived in the country with three channels. One didn’t come in without significant snow even in summer. One was a regular station where programming seemed endlessly pre-empted by a show called ‘Center Ice.’ This is a program where for hours at a time the coach of the college hockey team would talk endlessly about, well, hockey. They didn’t show games or even clips. They just talked. And talked. And sometimes, on a big day, they’d bring in an expert trainer or the water boy for their take on the metaphysics of hockey. Did I mention hockey was big? Which left one station – PBS. Fortunately for me, along with Kermit and Oscar the Grouch, PBS showed the only cartoon worth watching – Rocky and Bullwinkle.

R & B was the Shrek of the seventies. Kids could watch it with or without supervision. I mean the aw-shucks moose and the flying squirrel, complete with aviator cap, were frothy and fun. No one made fun of Bullwinkle for his slow demeanor or slower brain activity and Rocky was the mainstay of the morality tale (and tail), zooming in at the last second to save the day. He had the wisdom of Solomon, the certitude of Winston Churchill and the flying oh-so-cool of Charles Lindburgh. Even at a young age you knew that femme fatale Natasha was up to no good and Boris, well, who trusts a guy named Boris?

On the other hand, like the subtextual green ogre of more recent vintage, Rocky and Bullwinkle worked for the savvy adults, too. Because of that, it is even a little gut clenching today. It is a cartoon about foreigners usurping American society. Hello terrorist cartoon. Replace the black leather trench coats for the scary garb of the day and you get an animated version of fear as political compass. My grown up self appreciates how Rocky’s world, like ours, still seems to need individuals, even those who aren’t the sharpest moose in the herd, to step up and participate or the big picture of our bucolic lives will suddenly go mushroom cloud shaped. I can even feel myself placing eBay bids on goggles when FOX news hails the recent rash of conservative ideal mandates from behind the Iron Curtain of the Supreme Court. Rocky and Bullwinkle had it figured out decades ago. Stereotyping and conclusion jumping are only weapons if you sign up. And being different, in outlook, intellect or approach doesn’t mean you can’t hang out at the watering hole after you’ve worked together to save the day. Isn’t that the American way? And is there anything that screams America more than the Saturday morning cartoon?

Maybe I was sitting close enough to the television.

Thanks for reading.



Shane Gericke said...

I love me a bunch of R&B, Gabi. Classic cartoons, and I still watch them occasionally. Fun fact: in Banff, Canada, there is an intersection of Moose and Squirrel. True story, I even took a picture. LMAO!

Kelli Stanley said...

Ah, Gabi, you write about one of my favorites ... so much so, in fact, that I've got a couple of seasons on DVD.

I LOVE June Foray and Boris and Natasha, and (most particularly) Fractured Fairy Tales and Sherman and Peabody. (Let's hear it for the Wayback Machine).

And while we're confessing ... Wild Kingdom was also a must in our family. Did you have a crush on the Australian guy, too? :)


Gabi said...


Send the picture. I'd love to have it. It's nice to know my virtual friends (until I actually get to meet you in person) are as subversive as I am!

Gabi said...


I'm jealous of your DVDs. I do have a Bullwinkle watch, however.

Wild Kingdom is where I learned that I have a serious weakness for all accented men. Wild, indeed.

Terry Stonecrop said...

R&B was another one of my favorites. Natasha and Fract Fairies, especially.

I so enjoy your comments during the week, I have to make time on weekends to read your posts.