That’s All, Folks

Day 12. 59 pages, 27,261 words.

“Riddle me this, Hatboy.”

“Preparing to riddle.”

“Bad guys in cartoons.”

“With you so far.”

“They try to catch the good guys. A lot of them actually try to kill the good guys. Oh, I know they don’t often say it in so many words, but can we agree for the sake of argument that they do intend to kill the good guys – that Wyle E. Coyote intends to kill and eat the Roadrunner, that Sylvester intends to tear Tweety to shreds and leave him in somebody’s shoe, that everyone in Duckberg is a homicidal-”

“Anatidicidal.”

“Okay, I’ll grant you that one-”

“Bent on waterfowl play?”

“Yes yes.”

“Quackers for murder?”

“Hatboy, please.”

“Sorry, Creepy. Do carry on.”

“Now naturally, the bad guys fail. The good guys, completely oblivious to what is happening around them, sometimes protected unawares by a plucky junior associate or associates, wander on by while the bad guy falls victim to his own elaborate death-trap.”

“The ACME rocket explodes, leaving poor Wyle standing there with the charred remains of his UH OH sign in his hand and a surprised expression on his face.”

“Exactly, Hatboy. Exactly. The bad guy always survives.”

“Well, they’re cartoons. They can’t really show characters dying. It would make it really difficult to air the next episode. Plus, I think it would traumatise the kiddies.”

“Bah, to your kiddies. If they’re taking cartoons at face value they should be learning that dropping an anvil on somebody’s head will leave a four-mop cleanup job and an eye tooth that just won’t pry loose from the floorboards.”

“That was a worryingly specific example.”

“But let’s leave aside the issue of real-world consequences of cartoon violence and Mr. Bottweiss from across the street for a moment. I’m talking about the far more troubling issue of in-universe mortality dynamics.”

“Because that’s a matter of extant and legitimate concern.”

“We’ve each of us been trapped inside a cartoon before, Hatboy.”

“Thankfully not the same one at the same time.”

“Still lends legitimacy to this concern, which is my driving point here.”

“Fair enough.”

“The bad guy invariably survives. Daffy Duck, who is – shall we say – an antihero of sorts?”

“Well, I did always think of him as the yin to Donald’s yang.”

“Well let’s agree that he was an unsympathetic protagonist at best, certainly when placed in juxtaposition with Yosemite Sam.”

“Wasn’t it Elmer Fudd?”

“They’re the same guy, Hatboy. Incarnations of America’s gun culture in different guises according to the justification profile of the month – cold-dead-hands rowdy maverick gunslinger and I-need-my-guns-for-hunting-ducks … look, can we come back to this? One quandary at a time.”

“Fine. But you’re going to have to explain how Fudd and Sam can be in the same room together if they’re anthropomorphic manifestations of the same socio-cultural construct.”

“Five Doctors.”

“Sustained.”

“Thank you.”

“You were saying, about Daffy Duck?”

“Well, he takes a double-barrelled shotgun blast in the face and at worst all that happens is his bill winds up on the other side of his head, requiring him to flip it back around.”

“Hilarious.”

“Oh, nobody’s questioning the hilarity. But it’s worrying. Because we’re left with two possibilities. One, that the tools the bad guy is using to kill the good guy are not actually lethal. Whether the bad guy is aware of it or not, the ACME products are flawed. Our bad guy would never be able to effectively murder anyone with them.”

“The second possibility?”

“Before I get to that, first let me say that the non-lethality argument doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny when you have things like a thousand-foot drop followed by a twenty-ton tip-of-a-cliff falling onto your head from the same height. Those are not product failures, they’re breaches in basic natural laws. Or think about the assorted cat characters who fall afoul of the dog in his kennel. Did you ever see a twenty-kilo dog get hold of a three-kilo cat, Hatboy, and just punch it in the face a few times?”

“Can’t say I have, Creepy. And I’ve seen a lot of things get punched in the face.”

“Which leaves my second theory.”

“I’m almost afraid to ask. So I won’t.”

Two, that the bad guys would in fact be quite capable of killing the good guys with their plots, if they ever caught a break. If Roadrunner ever hit that rock face with the painted-on tunnel, the last thing to go through his mind would be his entire spinal column. If the Beagle Boys really did bury Scrooge McDuck under his money, it would barely take a thousand dollars – call it a hundred thousand, if they’re using large-denomination banknotes instead of coins – to crush him fatally. A duck’s ribcage is not nature’s most robust creation, Hatboy.”

“A fact I know all too well.”

“Good guys can be killed, but they survive only due to pure luck.”

“Well now hang on, in plenty of cartoons the good guy will get pasted by something and then just walk it off.”

“Only as a result of his own ineptitude. Not often because he is hit as the bad guy intends. Times have changed – there was a time when cartoons showed violence in a more balanced and less-sanitised way. But that’s another issue. These murderous traps are more than capable of killing good guys, otherwise the bad guys would have stopped using them by now. But they merely inconvenience the bad guys for a short time. And why?”

“Tell, tell.”

“Because bad guys are functionally invincible. They can’t be killed by any means. Evil, Hatboy, is eternal.”

“Just as well it’s also inept.”

“Well, as to that, I wouldn’t be so sure. The more times the bad guys fail but survive, the more likely it becomes that sooner or later one of them is going to notice that they never seem to get killed. The bad guy’s false sense of mortality, and the misconception that his actions can ever feasibly lead to fatal consequences, are the only thing keeping him from more ambitious acts that would assure the destruction of every non-evil element in his environment. Crossovers where multiple bad guys get together only increase this risk.”

“As, I would imagine, do re-runs.”

“You jest, Hatboy, but the bad guy clearly never remembers his failures or learns from his mistakes. It’s only the inherent lack of continuity in the tooniverse that has saved us.”

“Wait, ‘us‘?”

“Of course us. In this universe, evil is a socio-behavioural construct. It isn’t something to which many unabashedly put their names. And it certainly isn’t accompanied by invincibility.”

“Unless the bad guys from cartoons could get here.”

“Exactly. And if they realised that flying full-speed into a wall using rocket skates didn’t kill them, Hatboy, they might just turn their attention to the fourth wall.”

“What can we do about it?”

“Nothing, Hatboy. Absolutely nothing.”

“Then why did you just channel-hop to the cartoons?”

“Just making sure they’re still there.”

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12 Responses to That’s All, Folks

  1. stchucky says:

    “The ACME rocket explodes, leaving poor Wyle standing there with the charred remains of his UH OH sign in his hand and a surprised expression on his face.”

    Although I do want to add that this phenomenon raises its own issues. When did he make the sign? Do bad guys in cartoons have some sort of limited precognition that helps them prepare for inevitable failure, but never actually avoid it? Are these bad guys actually already dead, and in Hell of some sort? This, if nothing else, would explain their immortality.

  2. dreameling says:

    Brilliant.

    the last thing to go through his mind would be his entire spinal column

    Gold.

  3. brknwntr says:

    What’s the last thing to go through a bugs mind when he hits a windshield. His butt.

    It’s an old joke, butt a classic.

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