I bit into a healthy number of apples from the tree of knowledge.
I developed a crush on a cartoon character. It’s true. And it wasn’t the first time.
The first time, it was Tintin, the intrepid star of his own comic books. He was brave, noble and compassionate, adventuring all over the world righting wrongs.
Most Americans didn’t know about him until Steven Spielberg’s animated The Adventures of Tintin, which I didn’t care for because it failed to capture the almost-subversive humor and nuance of the books. Subversion is So My Thing that I’ll see it where there mightn’t be any, yet, even I couldn’t project it on to the spiritless film version. But I’ve been obsessed with the Tintin books since I was six years old and still living in Iran. I’ve read the comics in Persian, English, French and Italian, and even as an adult, go through the entire collection every few years. I may have been a Tintin groupie.
It never occurred to me that the diminutive, strangely asexual Tintin, with the funny-looking quiff, was a kid. And it didn’t matter, because when I discovered him, I was a kid too, and stayed a kid for a good many years before reaching the age where I’d be akin to his pervy old aunt – you know, if he weren’t a Belgian cartoon in plus-fours, and I, a flesh-and-blood Iranian New Yorker.
Besides, his innocence remained intact while I bit into a healthy number of apples from the tree of knowledge. Eventually, he proved too much of a goody-goody for my taste, and I outgrew my crush. But I remained devoted to his adventure books.
Enter my second cartoon crush, Sterling Archer, a self-destructive, hot-as-fuck spy with mommy issues. He’s inappropriate, immature, inconsiderate and an alcoholic. But lest we forget, Hot As Fuck. And his crystal blue eyes widen most innocently when it comes to his steely mama. Damaged, reckless and fun, he’s a lovable prick. So let’s just say, guys aren’t the only ones who see the merits of a “crazy” paramour.1 Plus, underneath his brash dickness, there’s that vulnerable, evolving heart. It’s an evolution that may take a million years, but the important part is that there’s motion. It might be a microscopic motion, but it only matters that you believe in it.
In the meantime, he is absurdly good-looking.
If he were a real person, people who care about you would constantly chide you for believing in him. He’s bad news, they’d say. But you’d know he’s an angel. They would look at you pityingly for your patience, and lecture you about not having self-respect in the matter. They’d forget that you yourself are pretty reckless and immature – I mean, you’d have to be immature to put so much value on “fun,” right?
They’d call you an idiot for forsaking noble Tintin and taking on emotionally stunted Archer. If Tintin and Archer were real people, to win your favor, one would try too hard, and the other wouldn’t try hard enough.
And both would annoy the shit out of you because of it.
But even if you could, you wouldn’t meld them into a Franken-cartoon of both, because the truth is, you love them each exactly as they are. Well, except the annoying parts. You could only judge so much though, since you’re no thornless flower yourself.
Sure, your friends would still feel sorry for you for stubbornly loving the selfish one in a carnal, can’t-get-enough of his absurd deliciousness way, and let’s not forget his microscopically evolving heart. They’d keep saying he’s beneath you, yet, they’d look at you like you’re a delusional peasant trying to sneak into a royal ball. (Why? Brainy, aging geishas can’t go out with good-looking spies?) And that’s just a mixed message on their part, not subversion. So they’d end up annoying the shit out of you too. Soon, you wouldn’t know anyone who didn’t annoy you.
“You” would, of course, be me. So good thing for me, Archer’s only a cartoon.
If I were a cartoon character, it’s possible I haven’t been drawn yet. But I decided to look.
I would’ve gone with Betty Boop because of the big eyes and short dark hair, but then I read somewhere that she’s known more for heart than brains. Why can’t we get heart and brains? Also, she’s too spilling-out-of-her-dress sex objecty. Sure, it really works for her in the cartoon realm. But I couldn’t walk into Rite-Aid in a little red dress and fishnets to fill a prescription for say, amphetamines, without the Bangladeshi guy behind the counter thinking I have a daddy complex, and besmirching the stellar relationship I do have with my father. Sorry little Betty, gotta pass in spite of your adorable haircut.
So I did a cursory search for “fierce female cartoon characters,” and was dismayed to find the paltry results included My Little Ponies. Is there a shortage of human female cartoons? And those rainbow ponies – fierce, really? The guys get to be skydiving, gun-toting savers of the world, but “fierce” girls get to be a…carousel ride?!
There was a Disney Megara, befittingly slanted-eyed and mysterious. But it was…Disney. And that’s just antithetical to me. Also, she dated Hercules who’s overly brawny for my likes.
Then I remembered The Matrix Comics. And stoic, fearless Trinity. Of course! When The Matrix came out, I had short black hair and couldn’t go to the deli without someone likening me to Trinity. It probably helped that living in New York at the time, I wasn’t big on smiling, and wore a lot of black.
Trinity. Perhaps a match.
Would I ever admit that this cartoon matchmaking is mild code with parallels to my real life? Of course I would. You know I don’t play coy. And of course it is. But first we had to get through the literary conceit.
I spend a lot of time puzzling out how people affect each other and why. I didn’t have a clear picture of where this post was headed, but it took on a table-turning / gender-bending shape that doesn’t displease me. You already know how I feel about subversion, so along the same line of sub- prefixes, if a post manages strata of subtext and sub-subtext, I’d be content to write even about a trip to the gas station. Any subterranean shuffling of dirt is bound to turn up a find.
In my parade of cartoon characters, I discovered the unintentional trail of too goody-goody, too much of a sex object, and too brawny, none of which are undesirable if you take away the “too.” The right pinch and dash of personality traits determine your chemical reaction to anyone. It’s the difference between your internal, who are you – go away, or I think I love you.
Obviously, it’s all subjective. I might respond to “fun,” when you, being you, respond to “respectable.” I might see “delicious” where you see “douchey.” What I look for – and find – even more than subversion, is goodness where others might see none. Imagine, then, how I’d swoon at the combination of goodness and subversiveness in one person. Or cartoon character.
Knowing I had a crush on Archer, you’d worry about me getting hurt. And if I were a pink My Little Pony, you might be right.
But I’ll just remind you that in the bigger scheme of cartoon analysis, whether in comics or animation, Trinity is an ass-kicker and Archer is a joke.2
– Fin –
- Maybe I got a little carried away. Getting carried away is fun.
- 1 “Crazy chicks are good in bed,” wouldn’t be offensive if you replace crazy with complex, and chicks with people.
2 By “joke,” I mean a literary conceit within this post, and not a cartoon character I don’t take seriously. I take my crush on Archer very seriously.
- Spelling everything out takes the fun out of double-meaning and subversion.
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