Thinking as a Hobby

Get Email Updates
Email Me

Admin Password

Remember Me

3477918 Curiosities served
Share on Facebook

The Roadrunner and the Coyote: A Critical Analysis
Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Read/Post Comments (4)

James Lileks has a pretty funny entry today, in which, among other things, he talks about showing Looney Tunes to his daughter for the first time.

Hmm. Well. There are four discs. We watch the first Road Runner. Belly laughs. Absolute delight. And she prefers the Coyote as a comic character, too. “Because he’s funny.” And she’s right. Who is the Road Runner, anyway? An idiot bird blessed with speed, he personifies not ingenuity but luck. You can’t tell me that he somehow figured out how to avoid triggering the Coyote’s various traps. If anything, he didn’t set them off because he was light and / or fast, and I concede that the Coyote should have taken those things into consideration. But. But. We’re talking about a dog here, a canine capable of constructing explosive devices one day, pantomiming elaborate deceptions the next, to say nothing of operating – however inexpertly – complex machinery. If he’d been up against something stupid and slow, he would have been fat and happy.

Okay, well, something stupid and slow not watched over by a sheepdog.

In an alternate universe there is one Road Runner cartoon, because at the end the Coyote brought him down with a revolver at 30 paces, and roasted his meat for a light midafternoon snack. It would be a less amusing universe, but perhaps one more just. That said, I’ll take this one.

Well, sure. But why is the coyote funny? I think there's something of an anti-intellectual strain at work in the cartoons. The roadrunner is pretty much oblivious...dumb as a post, and very innocent. And the roadrunner, as the prey, is the underdog. The coyote is the predator, and as such is the intellectual (predators are most often more intelligent than the prey they hunt). He's also an engineer, scientist, and snobby connoisseur all rolled into one.

But snobby thinkers, while a little funny, especially if they take themselves too seriously, still aren't that funny. What makes the coyote so funny, I think, is that he drastically overthinks and overengineers everything. He doesn't use revolvers, but rocket-powered roller skates and elaborate net guns. And that's funny (combined with the underlying silliness of spending millions of dollars on elaborate ACME products...why not just order a chicken dinner?).

But underneath that silliness is a basis of distrust for intellectuals, and for science and engineering. It would be an interesting survey, to see how most people view themselves: Do you consider yourself more predator or prey? I think it's pretty obvious how most children view themselves in this respect, so of course they're going to root for the roadrunner. Just by being dumb, lucky, fast, and sometimes just plain nonsensical (remember, the roadrunner never studied law, so he's not subject to the law of gravity), you can beat the erudite uber-scientist, sitting in his lonely cave, not just thinking, but overthinking everything.

Read/Post Comments (4)

Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Back to Top

Powered by JournalScape © 2001-2010 All rights reserved.
All content rights reserved by the author.