Bugs Bunny: The Heart of America

It was a typical Saturday morning, in the harsh winter month of January, year 1998. Beep, beep, beep, the alarm rang. An eight year old kid jumps out of bed and gets ready at an astonishing rate. Now what could be so important that would entail complete readiness on a lazy day at a lazy time on a Saturday? Why, Saturday morning cartoons of course! He flips on the television and starts to surf the channels looking for a good show. But, “oh no, episode 5 of Power Rangers is coming on again on Fox Kids. What to do, what to do? Aha! Found a show. Who is this funny rabbit and what is he…watch out, he is right behind you, oh no, yes! Wow, are carrots really that tasty?” The boy loved the antics of the rabbit in the show so much he continued to watch the marathon till the afternoon. This little kid jumping around on the sofa with a half-eaten cracker in his mouth watching television is me. The moment described is the first time I saw Bugs Bunny in all his comedic, lazy, chain-carrot eating, glory, and I was hooked. To me, Bugs Bunny was the height of hilarity – he was funny, hysterical, and sarcastic.


What is it about Bugs Bunny that steals the heart of every American? From the “What’s up Doc?” to the “That’s all, folks!” what keep people rooting for the cute little bunny? As some would say, it’s all in the attitude. Bugs Bunny acts every bit the true American that it’s hard not to cheer every time he outsmarts his opponents. When he stares down the end of a gun barrel and garners the astonishment of the villain, Americans see him representing the bravery that is in the heart of every American soldier. When he outwits his opponents, he represents to the audience the intelligent and shrewd mind of every business man from coast to coast. His flippancy and calmness in the face of adversity keeps the audience on the edge of their seats while laughing along with his antics. For the longest time, Bugs Bunny has been seen as the ‘True American’ because he represents the satiric and hectic lives that describe so many people across the nation.


Since his creation in the 1940s, Bugs Bunny has always been going about in a “whirlwind of activity” that astonished even veteran viewers. He was the epitome of action and none of the idleness that is described by Carl Jung that leads to degeneration. The idleness described here that would lead to degeneration is having a particular setting that Bugs Bunny would be confined in. Instead of the rabbit being able to run free all over the world exploring and meeting the locals, it would have degraded his character if for example the creators decided to only depict him in a forest setting and always nearby his rabbit hole. Not only that, but it would lower his natural ability to endear the hearts of all those he meets because he would not be taking part in their culture.


Bugs Bunny has never had “black blood” that Updike uses to describe Mickey Mouse in relation to America because it was the black blood that originally constituted him. He was made by the imperfections of America coming together in one perfectly meshing form. He is neither male nor female, bull-fighter nor a whack-a-mole, learned or barbarian, black or white, unanimously loved or hated, and yet he is all of that and more. Everything that describes Americans, describes him. Bugs Bunny jumped, hopped, ran, talked, played, ate, tricked, trumped, and too many other things to count with so much energy and enthusiasm mixed with equal amounts of laziness, that it’s a wonder he is seen as a laid back kind of character when he is almost as active as the Tasmanian Devil. Americans in general are a very paradoxical race themselves. They watch the rabbit run around doing his everyday shenanigans so full of life and energy that they forget how they are watching – like royalty; sitting back lazily on the sofa, hand in the chips bowl, and all the remotes within easy reach. When they decide to rest, then come rain or storm they will have it their way. And when they really get motivated to work, the workload of a week is done in three days. The determination and efficiency of the average American is something that has been well-observed in the rabbit as well. When he wants something then by God he will have it in his hands, and when he is lazily chewing on his carrots, not a soul came distract him for long. It is as if Americans unconsciously channel the bunny in their everyday abstract lives. Everyday becomes so different that it begins to be the same and surprises become the norm.


Bugs Bunny has always had the attitude like that of America. The values and beliefs are simplistic, yet all important. The rabbit is all about survival. Outwitting and defeating the enemy before it defeats him. In the so simple representation of the American culture, he defines every aspect of America. Actively defending his rabbit hole when its in danger of being taken from him, calling war on the offender when he is in danger, using gibe and trickery to keep two steps ahead of his opponents, multiplying himself many, many times to show his might and right. All of these and many other moments help define his outlook and the way he acts. The fact that he usually comes out on top and is almost never beat at his own game endears him to the populace of America and raises his standings in the eyes of the people because the people see some parts of themselves in parts of Bugs.


During the Second World War, Bugs Bunny’s attitude led him to be represented as an aloof soldier, and that gave him the one thing he needed to reside in the heart of every fighting soldier and their families back home: a connection. Being pit against common villains in his cartoon shorts and adhering to America’s ideals, gave Bugs the popularity he needed to be known nationally as well as internationally. Success is a powerful tool and gives a hefty vote of confidence to the viewer, and which the creator’s of Bugs Bunny’s used to their advantage; they depicted the success of Americans during the war over their eastern enemies by pitting Bugs Bunny against them and coming out on top. This of course inspired in every American’s heart the images of victory and future prosperity and they liked Bugs Bunny because of it, because he gives them hope for the safe return of American soldiers and the prospects of the war. Being so seen as so small in front of those who would wish him harm, Bugs Bunny’s ability to clash with his opponents and then come out on top, endeared him to school children because his enemies represented the bullies every kid encounters on the schoolyard and in the classroom, and his escapes represented one finally getting the one-up on the bullies. It is curious as to how Bugs Bunny is still very popular with the younger generation today just as it was in the past six decades. There is almost no child who does not know the bunny, if not by name, then the face. Almost every person whether they are an adult or a child as had at least once owned Bugs Bunny related articles, ranging from t-shirts, plush dolls and wall posters.


From his opposition to Hitler and the Japanese to his satirical comments that always seemed to get him into trouble, Bugs has always had a polka dotted career. Although he is now sixty years old, he seems like a modern-day rabbit. His sarcasm and wittiness is what one would expect from characters incepted in today’s times but it is something he has always had. Unlike Mickey-Mouse whose career was over in less than 15 years, Bugs Bunny is still going strong. Nowadays however, it is very rare to see Bugs Bunny shows, because he has now become the exclusive icon of the Warner Brothers which is why there are rarely any more episodes starring the bunny. However Bugs Bunny has always been the tricky kind of bunny, and one sees him when they are least expecting him. He has always been and will always continue to be a large part of American culture, because he is one of the most important and influential cartoon characters of all time.


Devansh Bajaj