29 November 2007

BSB Flashback: Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing

8 June 2007

Author: Judi Barrett
Illustrator: Ron Barrett

From the same brilliantly 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 dare to 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 themselves 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 shorts but no shirt. So technically, he is not fully clothed either. But this form of half-nudity is much more conventional among humans. So there is no conflict there.)

Which brings 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.


Sara said...

Bizzaro, indeed. Now I'm wondering about the whole issue of people wearing Mickey ears. Is that clothing or not?

jama said...

Thanks so much for bringing up the issue of Donald without pants. I've been wondering about this for years, and assumed I was a pervert! My Pooh only wears a red shirt, no pants, either. Should I seek professional help?

Minh said...

I would have to reserve judgment on Mickey ears based on a number of factors: age, location, time of year, and amount of alcohol involved.

As far as Pooh is concerned, that's a whole other post altogether... stay tuned...

also, I wouldn't recommend professional help, but I would recommend that you don't use the sentence "My Pooh wears a red shirt" in public. If taken out of context, someone might force professional help (and hand sanitizer) on you.

Saints and Spinners said...

In Narnia, there were talking animals, and animals who didn't talk. At some point, it was explained that it was okay to eat animals that didn't talk. I think Disney took Lewis' theory to heart when he filmed "Disney's Christmas Carol. Toward the end, the ducks take part in a turkey feast. But who knows-- perhaps the turkey did indeed plead for its life.

Minh said...

Maybe the ducks heard the turkey say "Gobble Gobble Gobble" and took it literally.

That poor turkey... lost in translation.

david elzey said...

I'm not gonna dig out my "Complete Goofy" DVDs, but Goofy and Pluto DO appear side-by-side, especially in the earlier cartoons. The earliest appearance of Goofy looked more like a droopy-eared horse (or an ass, if you will) and in short order developed into the "dog" we know today. The Goof was originally more of a generic animal and not so specifically a dog which was how the Disney folks reconciled the confusion.

Sorry to nerd out on y'all.

plainy said...

You classify Minnie as an ambiguous love interest?


Where's the ambiguity? They even have the same last name.

Minh said...

According to Wikipedia, Goofy was originally introduced as Dippy Dawg before "evolving" into the goofy that we know today... which makes it even harder for me to wrap my mind around Goofy and Pluto actually hanging out.

But I guess if Donald Duck can eat poultry, then Goofy can play fetch with Pluto.

But then again, according to Wikipedia, Pluto is not just a dog, but the second-largest known dwarf planet in the solar system... oh wait, Pluto is not a planet anymore? This is getting more confusing by the second!

I think we can walk away with two things here: be wary of Wikipedia as a source of information and be wary of Disney is messed up... and we are probably messed up as well, since Disney shaped our young minds for so long.

Minh said...

and as far as Minnie goes, as a kid, i think was confused and couldn't figure out if Minnie was a love interest or some inappropriately flirtatious second cousin or something. I mean, they even have the same last name!

Laurel said...

Oh, how I LOVED this book.

Because a snake would slide out of it...

Thank you!


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