Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Hip and Unhip Cartoon Icons

I was talking with the uber-talented Pauly D about which cartoon character was the most annoying, and my first pick was Donald Duck.

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Is Donald Duck funny? Absolutely not. Is he a stupid duck with a speech impediment? Yes.

Ironically, the first writing job I had when I moved to Los Angeles was writing for a Donald Duck cartoon. In case you didn’t know this, the Disney Company is very aggressive about the copyrights of their signature characters. They once got a second grader from Topeka, Kansas imprisoned for 20 years when she was caught drawing a likeness of Minnie Mouse on her schoolbook cover. (that’s a joke, Disney lawyers)

Because of their strong hold on their characters, Disney doesn’t just let you write for Donald Duck. They first give you what seemed at the time to be a 600 page “Bible” — a book of what Donald Duck could and could not say. Now, If you know anything about Donald Duck, he doesn’t really talk. He quacks in a high pitch voice about two and a half octaves higher than anyone can comfortably hear without damage to the ears. Until I read “the Donald Duck Bible,” I didn’t know that some quacks are allowed, and others verboten. For instance, he can quack something like “Aargh,” but he would never be allowed to say “Oy.”

And you still think Jews run Hollywood.

Donald Duck wasn’t the star of the show. The “demographic” effect of the growing youth culture had now changed cartoons forever. It was assumed that kids didn’t want to see adult cartoon characters anymore. They wanted to see other runts like themselves. So, no more Bugs Bunny. Now, it was Baby Bugs. No more Donald Duck as the star. Now it was his three obnoxious nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie. To make things worse, Huey, Dewey, and Louie were “updated” to be more current. They were now three hip-hopping rap dudes/ducks with their hats on backwards.

You can see the irony here. Disney is so worried about someone messing with their precious characters, but they themselves were dressing the nephews in the latest fad — one that would be old hat in two years. If breakdancing was in today, would Mickey be breakdancing down Main Street in Disneyland? Probably.

One cartoon character I always liked was the advertising icon, Charlie the Tuna.

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Now that tuna was hip — always with the beret and sunglasses! He didn’t have to fake it, like Huey, Dewey, and Louie. I was sad to learn that Charlie’s creator, advertising copywriter Tom Rogers, died recently in Charlottesville, Va. He was 87.

Starkist’s website does not have one mention of the man who pretty much made their company a success. I think we should boycott Starkist until they mention copywriter Tom Rogers on their website. Until then, I’m only eating Bumble Bee.

I’m glad they never changed Charlie the Tuna. I wish they never changed the Brawny Man.

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I know the old Brawny Man looked a little like a 70’s porno star, but the new guy is just way too clean-cut. When I use my Brawny paper towel, I want to think of that big ‘ol lumberjack guy chopping down that tree with his big ol’ hands. The new Brawny guy looks like he just walked off the “Queer Guy” set. This new “sensitive” guy never chopped down a tree in his life. I bet you he gets his hands manicured. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s even an environmentalist who doesn’t even believe in chopping down trees. Today, I was in my local “99 cent” store and I saw a whole pile of the new Brawny paper towels. That’s right, Brawny paper towels in the “99 cent” store! ‘Nuff said.

Sometimes, it is necessary to update a icon. Betty Crocker has been selling cake mixes to housewives since 1936.

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(Betty Crocker in 1936)

Life magazine recently posted several of the various “Betty Crocker”s, to show how Betty has changed through the decades — to match the image of what is considered a “modern woman.”

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(Betty in 1955)

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(Betty in 1965)

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(Betty in 1969)

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(Betty in 1972)

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(Betty in 1980)

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(Betty in 1986)

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(Betty today)

As a guy, my preference has to be the 1986 Betty Crocker. She has a “devil-may-care” attitude in her eyes. She’s the only Betty Crocker that I can visualize having sex with her assistant chef, banging against the Masterchef Oven while she waits for the angel food cake to finish baking.

Betty today looks like a boring assistant manager at Bank of America, someone who might go on a date with the new Brawny man after meeting him on Match.com.

30 Comments

  1. How do you manage to make me literally laugh out loud every time I read your newest post? This was hilarious!!

    BTW, Modern Betty and Modern Brawny – what a perfect match! ha!

  2. It’s hard to decide if I want a giant gay man or a giant porno star to represent my paper towels. Maybe I’ll just stick with Bounty for the time being.

    And as far as obnoxious cartoon characters go, I’ll have to vote for the original Woody the Woodpecker, the one that just hooted like an owl suffering a psychotic break and bounced all over the place. I even found him annoying when I was a kid.

  3. bring back Aunt Jemima too….

  4. Woody the Woodpecker is certainly up there in the top three, along with the Chipmunks. And Aunt Jemima looks like she’s been on Atkins lately… who wants a thin pancake syrup lady?

  5. My personal favorite is Charlie Brown. He may not be hip, but I always related to his Halloween trick-or-treat dilemma: “I got a rock.”

    Can’t stop laughing at the visual of you banging her against the oven while waiting on the angel food cake! Now that’s a cooking show I’d like to see on the Food Network for once. (After prime time when all the kiddies have been put to bed, of course.) But as far as which Betty to-do, if you look more closely at 1969 Betty, I definitely am picking up a wanton, “I’m in mood for love” look in her eyes.

    Thanks for making me laugh out loud before I’d even finished my first coffee! I love your blog!

  6. Charlie Brown is tres cool. And you’re right about Betty 1969. I love women who can bake!

  7. Personally, I’d love to see Mr. Clean and the “new” brawny man hook-up.

  8. Neil, you are so right about D. Duck. I was working for an independent school years ago, and I swear I am not lying, but there was a family who had four kids whose names were Huey, Dewey, Louie and Daisy. Luckily, their last name was not duck. Even so…

  9. My favorite thing is the ‘Barry White’ voiceover on the new sensitive Brawny Man commercials.

    And I have to say there is certainly something alluring about the hair flip in 1965 Betty’s picture, maybe I’ve secretly always wanted hair like that.

  10. I’d go for Betty in 1965 as long as she dyed her hair blonde.

  11. Scooby Doo is still one of my favorite cartoon characters, not that you mentioned him.

    Those Bettys just don’t do it for me.

  12. What about that creepy commercial where the new sensitive Brawny man makes a cake for Mrs. Parker, and then there’s a puppy for no reason, and then you see what must be a Brawny super roll stuffed into his pants? I thank my lucky stars I’m not Mrs. Parker. Eeeeeew.

    I like the 1955 Betty best. She looks friendly yet authoritative on the subject of cake-baking, and her blouse doesn’t date her — it still looks fashionable today. Today’s Betty looks too much like a middle manager, and like she hasn’t changed her hair since 1990.

  13. I think Betty today kinda has that flight attendant look. Don’t ya think?

  14. Betty in 1969 has that devil-may-care Mrs. Robinson look about her.

    She’s my favorite.

  15. I think we can all agree on one thing: Betty Crocker is “hot” no matter what decade she’s from and we all WANT her… badly. (except, of course, for the frigid modern middle manager/flight attendant Betty who cannot bake for her life and clearly has sexual and intimacy problems. She’s definitely someone who shakes a guy’s hand when she meets him on that first date.

  16. How come Betty never has long hair? And why does she wear such dowdy clothes? Whose ideal woman is this? Ozzie Nelson’s?

  17. Brooke, I’m disappointed. Of all people, you should know the allure of a woman who bakes. (Brooke was a chef).

  18. Am I the only one who thinks the Brawny man is hot?

    I think I just need to get laid.

  19. That 1965 Betty kinda does it for me… It must be the pearls.

  20. Megan — Brawny man is hot, but as “Cruisin’ Mom” suggested, he’s already partnered with Mr. Clean. Though rumor has it that there’s been some trouble between them, as Mr. Clean is always bugging Brawny man for dragging lumberjack dirt all over the new flooring in their Tribeca loft.

  21. The 1986 Betty Crocker does not look like she bakes cakes. How are you supposed to work in the kitchen with that huge bow in front of you?

  22. Where have you been, Leese? The 1986 Betty is more the sex freak than the baker. Her important skills are not in the kitchen.

  23. goddamn thats funny stuff, I heart your post.

  24. Oh, I like the 1969 Betty — she’s hot.

  25. Thanks Neil. 😉

  26. I want a punk rock Betty Crocker. Other than that, I say leave the classic childhood icons alone.

    I have noticed the disappearance of the Jolly Green Giant and Sprout. Did they give the appearance of something improper? Ho Ho Ho…c’mere, sprout! It’s broccoli spear time!

  27. Nichelle — What a great song!

    (Betty Crocker’s Bail by Clare Fader and The Vaudevillains)

    It made me hungry for some cake.

  28. I’m no Betty, but you’re welcome to my b’day cake “Kutuzov with one egg” (ask Sofia, why it’s funnier in Russian) on Saturday

  29. Thanks for the comments on Tom Rogers. He was my dad. Wonderful amazing guy. His only claim to fame is his death. Doesn’t that suck?

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