08 June 2007

Animals should definitely not wear clothing.

Author: Judi Barrett
Illustrator: Ron Barrett

From the same warped minds that brought you Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, comes this cantankerous manifesto about the ridiculousness of animals wearing clothes. My favorite example is the moose getting thwarted by a pair of suspenders.

Animals wearing clothing is always a strange proposition, especially in the world of cartoons. This was at the heart of one of the most confounding questions of childhood--what is known as The Goofy and Pluto Paradox.

I'm sure you are all familiar with this: Goofy and Pluto are both dogs. Goofy, however, always wears clothes and walks and talks like a human, while Pluto is a more traditional dog who can only bark and saunters around in his birthday suit. Yet they both exist in the same world... how can this be? As a child, you are expected to suspend disbelief and take for granted that within the same world, one dog could be an autonomous being, while the other is a mouse's pet. Though I must admit that I don't ever remember Goofy and Pluto appearing in the same cartoon. The animators at Disney must have known that the idea of Goofy taking Pluto out for a walk was too much to ask, even of children.

When exploring the "Magical World of Disney," you find a common thread that begins to explain the difference between the more human animals from the less human. That common thread is clothing. Disney has built a strange mythology in which clothes act as the catylyst that unleashes the anthropomorphic potential in animals. (Apparently, instead of eating an apple from the Tree of Knowledge, all you have to do is buy a pair of slacks from Banana Republic.) In the Magic Kingdom, it really is the clothes that make the man. I mean, there is no way Pluto would walk around barking on all fours if they allowed him to put on a sweater vest and some Dockers.

A Few More Examples:

Chip N' Dale: In the early days, these two are a couple of mischievous chipmunks who have human characteristics, but are still very much animals. They don't talk, they just chatter in a way that seems vaguely human. They also do not wear any clothes.

It isn't until they start wearing clothes that they become Chip N' Dale: Rescue Rangers! Sporting fancy new duds, these mischievous chipmunks become fully humanoid and start their own detective agency.

And there is no way that they would solve crime without clothes... like Adam & Eve after putting on that first fig leaf, they are too much too self-conscious now. Once they've put on their first article of clothing, there's no turning back. They would be ashamed to go au natural, so they will be forced to wear clothes forever. (Somewhere, the snakes that run the fashion industry are laughing and rolling around in their piles of money.)

(Note: Further evidence can be found in the dehumanizing quality of Chippendales, an organization dedicated to men taking their clothes off and turning them into objects. )

Donald Duck: The humanizing power of clothing can also explain the trials of the tragicomic Donald Duck. Perhaps his debilitating speech impediment and inability to control his emotions can be attributed to the fact that he only wears a sailor top and no pants (though, to be fair, he's not the first sailor to be caught without any pants on). Maybe he cannot fully master the human art of conversation until he becomes fully-clothed. (It should be noted that Mickey wears a shorts but no shirt. So he technically not fully clothed either. But this is a much more conventional practice among humans. So there is no conflict there.)

Which bring up another question: How come Donald Duck never wore pants... but he would wear a bathing suit? What gives?! Where is the logic in that?! Rumors are that Finland, apparently fed up with Donald's antics, banned the Duck in 1977, citing indecent exposure. So... nudity is fine, but partial nudity is indecent. Apparently, Finnish laws are as confounding as the laws that govern the Magic Kingdom.

Plagiarism Disclaimer: It seems inevitable that a discussion about Donald Duck's lack of pants takes place in a Kevin Smith movie. It has to have been a side conversation in Clerks or Clerks II, but I don't know for sure. If you know of any such conversation, I'd appreciate the reference... and a copy of the DVD sent to my home.

A Quick For Your Consideration Note:

Consider the relationships of these four characters...

Does this sound vaguely familiar to you? Now check out the relationships between the characters below:

Uncanny, isn't it? Bizarro Jerry, meet Bizarro Mickey.


Chau Dang said...

lol, good thing i didn't get that Hawaiian shirt for my friend's dog.

Anonymous said...

You seriously just made my day!!!! Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs has been my favorite children's book since I was about 4. Love it! And now they've written another! Thank you! I"m ordering this one for my library shelves right away!

Unknown said...

i had COMPLETELY forgotten about the book "animals should definitely not wear clothing" which i must have read in my childhood. something about that porcupine illustration definitely strikes a chord in my memory. thanks for bringing some nostalgia into my hungover, overslept, legs sore from dancing mid-morning arrival to work!

vi said...

Let's not forget the classic example of "clothes make the man" with the story of Babar (or is it imperialism makes the man). Throw a hat and trousers on an elephant and all of a sudden he gets to ride in a convertible while his unsophisticated and naked wife follows behind on all fours. What are they trying to imply? That you have to be wearing pants to drive a car? I have no doubt George himself would get mighty angry about that one.

Larko said...

This is a great post Judi. But just for the record (because I do not think everybody is going to click to your link about Donald Duck being banned in Finland 1977 and thus do not get to know): the news about this ban is a sticky urban legend. Which I definitely know because I was one of the alleged banners.

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