Archive for category Uncategorized

CHILDHOOD REVISITED – The Proud Family

Let’s talk about chicken and waffles.

The Proud Family logo

When, in the intro to Disney’s The Proud Family, Oscar begins to chow down on a plate of chicken and waffles, I cried fowl. It’s impossible to not point out how this show came out along side Kim Possible in 2002. These two shows had different core premises, but ultimately focused on two young teen girls in a family that seemed oppressive but loveable. Kim, of course, had access to everything, enjoying a sense of privilege that Penny Proud did not. It’s wholly tempting to suggest that Disney, which always has its pulse on the attitudes of the nation’s youth, foreshadowed the cultural divide that took shape in early 2000 and created two similar but distinct shows to explicitly exploit the two different groups. Kim Possible enjoyed the top tier of talent, from animation and staff, while The Proud Family got the short stick, the BET-ening of Disney love and attention. So seeing Oscar chowing down on chicken and waffles seemed like Disney gearing its urban demo in the worst, most racially insensitive way, all on the cheap.

But then I watched a number of episodes. And I got to thinking about TV, about the golden age of TV and about the new, emerging interest in TV history and engaging in the past stable of television shows. Renewed interest in television’s past is a wonderful thing, but there’s a dearth on interest in what we’d probably would call black TV shows – shows with predominantly black casts. There’s a couple of things out there about The Jeffersons (which tends to be lumped into the Norman Lear opus, since it was a spin-off of All in the Family), but everything else is ignored or cast aside, like Roc or Living Single. Early goodwill about comedians Martin Lawrence, Steve Harvey and Jamie Foxx ultimately became contempt, and their FOX/UPN shows didn’t help matters. Everyone Loves Chris, The Bernie Mac Show, and My Wife and Kids were critically great, but now its as if those shows never existed. And look what happened to The Cleveland Show. Are you surprised that finding all the episodes of The Proud Family is nigh impossible?

And so I looked at the chicken and waffles. Specifically, I looked at the scene that contains the chicken and waffles. Oscar is about to chow down on that plate of chicken and waffles as the theme song plays. Penny distracts him. As Oscar looks away, Penny gobbles up the chicken and waffles in a goofy, cartoony way. Oscar glares are her daughter. Penny returns a sheepish, “did I do that?” look of affection. It’s a scene that has been done to death millions upon millions of times in cartoons since the silent era. Here, they just happen to use chicken and waffles. And then I realize the show is trying to be “…funny.

The Proud Family isn’t funny. But it’s not racist. At least, it’s not trying to be. It’s trying to be “…funny,” which is probably best explained as being comical in its own terms: in this case, through a specific, culturally black worldview. If we were to think about the most resonate black shows in the public conscious right now – The Chappelle Show, followed by The Boondocks (Key and Peele is getting there, but not quite there yet) – we could argue their success is couched in a direct engagement with the race issues they satire. They confronted race head on, which both critics and audiences loved; yet, oddly enough, not Dave (and, if the rumors are to be believed, nor Aaron McGruder). These shows had to punch audiences in the face with context, and still people didn’t get it, which caused Dave to leave the show and The Boondocks to remain an Adult Swim oddity.

All of this raises a question: can a black show stand on its own without being some sort of scathing satire? The Jeffersons, perhaps, but that was some thirty years ago, in an era of change and conflict. The Cosby Show? That’s an interesting case. Bill Cosby made it perfectly clear he wanted to make a show depicting a successful black family, which aggressively kept it in a upper-class position and distinctly kept itself at arms length away from ideas and concepts within middle or lower-class black communities. Maybe The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? It’s depth and power has been overshadowed by its meme-ification and post-contempt of Will Smith (yet another black comedian pushed to the edges – although I will agree that a lot of this was spurred on my himself). Regardless, this show has been removed from the critical conversation as well. [Note: recently, it has been slowly propped up more and more, as a number of black people confided in me how this show helped them to confront their blackness in a world surrounded by whiteness, balancing a dangerous side of urban culture – the world where Smith’s character comes from – and the upper crust society in which he’s thrown into. The interplay and intersections of both worlds, of white and black, of upper and lower class, and the conflicts they create, may truly be something that is worth exploring in this show. That’s an issue to explore later.]

Fresh Prince might be the most analogous show to The Proud Family – as the Fresh Prince engages in its sitcom tropes, retooled to work in its more black social aspects, so too does The Proud Family engage (or more accurately, tries to engage) in its animation and cartoon tropes, as taken through a black lens. So it’s probably best to think of The Proud Family as Bebe Kids: The Show. It’s not racist, but it is racial – and the show exhibits a confidence in being both animated and black, despite the quality of the show being extremely lackluster. The Proud Family knows what it wants to do, and that kind of confidence is ambitious and admirable, even though the execution is questionable. Which goes to explain the chicken and waffles scene in a nutshell: a typical scene that has been done over and over again, retooled to fit in a black paradigm, which fails in the long run, but rather bold in its initial attempt.

It took me a while to note the connection between both Bebe’s Kids and The Proud Family – after all, Bruce W. Smith was the head man in charge of them both. Bruce Smith is a capable animator, but I’m not sure I could quite categorize him as a capable director. Bebe’s Kids pulls a lot of strings to stretch out the late Robin Harris’ comedy routine about four mischievous kids from a mysterious, notorious figure named Bebe. The hidden theme about neglect and lack of role models in Harris’ routine seems lost to the film, save for an ending that emphasizes Harris’s transformation instead of the kids’ comprehension of the truth of their situation (yet another black issue misconstrued by cultural and executive forces at large). As a result, Bebe’s Kids is random and wild, stretching out the film with inane love stories and unearned musical cues. In other words, the perfect precursor to The Proud Family.

Here’s the thing: there is a distinct difference between a show knowing what it wants to be, and a show knowing what it wants to be about. The latter point is about the premise; the former is about the approach, tone, and execution. Smith, both in Bebe’s Kids and The Proud Family, know what he wants his works to be about, but struggles mightily to explain what he wants his works to be. Like, do you want to do something that’s really just a slightly-exaggerated vision of realistic characters, somewhat like Recess, Hey Arnold, or Rugrats? Do you want something slightly over-the-top and with an snappy edge, like Powerpuff Girls or Gravity Falls? Or maybe you’re looking for something loose and free enough to really be wacky, emphasizing physicality and meta, self-aware comedy, akin to Phineas and Ferb or the Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy? Neither Bebe’s Kids nor The Proud Family knows, so they both take a personal approach, grabbing an assortment of everything and ultimately doing it’s own thing in a “throw it all against the wall and see what sticks” manner. It’s an admirable idea, but it’s also a wildly flawed approach.

It’s hard to fully describe what I mean. The Proud Family just wiggles itself into its own niche and direction, seemingly unfettered by any Disney notes to broaden itself. It wallows in its black trappings with a smile on its face. It embraces its “sassiness,” enjoying its urban style of dialogue and black, witty references, rarely loosening itself up for younger audiences. When a character says, “Look, JJ, the good times are over,” I chuckle, more surprised that the show was allowed to let a joke like that go. Likewise, when an effeminate character named Michael dresses up like Luther Vandross for Halloween, but is quick to mention he’s dressed like “skinny Luther,” I laugh, not only at the joke itself but the gall to spout a gag like that, in 2002 no less. Sometimes, that snappiness can reach some inspired moments, such as letting guest star Kobe Bryant speak fluent Italian, since he grew up there. No show, animated or live-action, would engage in that.

Yet, those kinds of references (among other issues I will get to shortly) make it hard to really advocate for The Proud Family. If my sources are correct, Disney was more or less letting Smith and his team do their own thing – a creator-driven approach – which isn’t necessarily a good idea if the creator is too scatterbrained to focus on one, single direction. Let’s look at the pilot, “Bring it On,” where Penny Proud first meets her new neighbors and oncoming antagonist, Lacienega Boulevardez. Already we have to slow the fuck down. I mean, we have a character here named after a major road in Los Angeles, which seems like the kind of joke that might have been tossed around early in pre-production, but the fact that they kept it in the show is bizarre. But here we are, introducing the new kid as a stuck up, self-centered, manipulative jerk, the perfect conflict for Penny to go up against.

The pilot, in its own, insular way, defines the kind of show we’re watching, which, again, revels in its own comedy, its own worldview and approach, completely indifferent to its audience. There’s a scene where Lacienega sniffs the air in Proud’s kitchen, asking aloud, “What’s that wonderful smell?” To which Penny replies, coldly, “Chitlins.” Okay, we need to slow the fuck down here again. First, how many people (kids) even know what chitlins are? Second, a black middle-upper class family (who frequently mention that they’re Republicans, which opens up so many bizarre observations and commentaries that it’s worthy of its own separate essay) making chitlins for dinner is highly unlikely, so it’s the kind of joke that’s less character-based, and more social-based, because it would be funny if “that smell” was “chitlins,” cause “chitlins” is a funny black word, right? Thirdly, chitlins don’t really have a smell, so Lacienega shouldn’t be smelling anything! See? Like, if that chicken and waffles opening scene was confusing, perhaps the chitlins joke would give it more context?

The show dives into gags like that with nary a concern. It doesn’t bother to ease its audience into its worldview, its approach, its references. Which, to be fair, is something that many critics and audiences want more studios to do – let creators do their own thing. However – would this approach be appreciated and acknowledged by the critical and/or the mainstream media at large? Like, could a black showrunner create a “black show” of its own design, sans explicit satire, and hope to appear in any critic’s or lay person’s top twenty favorite TV shows?

This is why I find The Proud Family more fascinating as an idea than the actual show itself. In watching it, it’s clear that, while the show was given carte blanche to do whatever they wanted, it wasn’t under Disney’s Eye of Mordor. The Proud Family wouldn’t have been allowed to reference Marion Barry, the Washington DC mayor arrested for illicit sexual behavior. And it wouldn’t have allowed for the really sloppy, tonally random episode “A Hero For Halloween.” It starts off well enough, with Penny giving up on Halloween because she believes she’s too old for it. Then it gets wildly off-track when a ghost arrives to repossess the Proud house, and somehow Penny gets superpowers and fights him off, which causes Penny to realize she… isn’t too old for Halloween? The episode doesn’t connect these two threads at all:

(Oh, and that animation. Not every episode is as stiff and listless as that – I mean, look at those walk cycles! – but this gets into the budgetary constraints I alluded to earlier. The sound design, in particular, is atrocious. While the clip above sounds terrible due to the Youtube copy, Luis’ laugh has been an auditory sore point in the entire run. It’s clearly a different voice, but it’s so goddamn loud and scratchy and completely unconnected to the final mix, and they don’t actually fix this until late into season three. It’s clear that the show isn’t working with the same resources as Kim Possible.)

This actually happens again in “Camping Trip,” where the kids (consisting of Penny, Dijoney, Zoey, and Lacienega, who is suddenly hanging out with them because…?) complain excessively while on a camping trip. Suddenly, there’s a disaster, which basically turns into an Oscar and Felix (those names though) cartoon, the two falling into wacky shenanigans while searching for help and food – which include being fed by a pterodactyl. By the end of the episode, the kids learn to appreciate nature, but they didn’t earn that appreciation. Or take “Adventures in Babysitting,” where Dijoney tricks Penny into babysitting her siblings (all named after spices, seasonings, and condiments, because black names are funny I guess). The lesson Penny learns is while she can’t trust Dijoney, she can still be her best friend, which is the most absurd, tonally-off kids lesson in the entire world, to the point that it’s almost like a parody or subversion of such lessons.

And yet… there’s a sad truth to it. I have to admit that my mom has “friends” that she hangs out with, yet you couldn’t trust with your life. There’s a certain lower-class social paradigm that The Proud Family gets, whether getting the tone of a Soul Train show right (called Hip-Hop Helicopter) or overplaying a post-Michael-Jordon-like hold on corporate enterprises (Wizard Kelly, voiced by a consistently-underused Aries Spiers). There’s an episode where Sticky joins a gang of singers called The Altos, which is ridiculous but comes from a understandable place – Sticky’s parents are divorcing. The show doesn’t delve deeply into the struggle of young people from complex homes who fall into dangerous crowds, but it understands that, which is something you wouldn’t see in animation, really.

To be fair, the characters at an individual level work, but their interplay rarely do. Sugar Mama’s sassiness is funny although it’s odd that she hates Oscar so much and prefers his brother, Bobby, who is basically the show’s best character, the epitome of 70s funk music. The mother, Trudy, starts off as the put-upon nag, but later on she breaks out and becomes an aggressive, take-no-bullshit female (too bad her voice actress can’t really handle the change all too well). Sticky seems to be some kind of nerd/inventor, but they don’t make him into a social outcast with a whiny voice (but they also don’t commit to his inventor side, which is weird but on par with the show). In fact, The Proud Family’s approach to nerd characters is wildly refreshing. When a rumor implies that Penny is dating a nerd character named Myron, Myron doesn’t shell up or grow uncomfortably obsessive over her. He becomes a miniature pimp, a confident little lady’s man. I want desperately to watch “Who You Callin’ a Sissy,” where Michael, who’s always been portrayed effeminate, tries to be more manly. I’m wildly curious how the show would approach the idea of black men not fitting the tough-guy role. Sadly, this episode is impossible to find.

As of finishing this, only five episodes are accessible on Youtube, four of which are on the official Disney Youtube channel (the least offensive ones, of course). If possible, though, at least try to get your hands on The Proud Family movie, which represents everything great and terrible about this show. It has its references (Bessie Coleman!) and its commitments to loving your family, but it also struggles with its wackier plot involving a peanut-controlling, clone-creating mad scientist named Dr. Marcus Garvey Carver (of course, everyone gets the George Washington Carver reference but miss the Marcus Garvey one). The film, like the show, bounces wildly all over the place, never able to focus on one single theme or narrative thread. (A random dance-off with a few peanut clones exemplifies this – since black people love dance-offs? – but the show makes fun of this, yet doesn’t? So frustrating!)

That’s just it, though: Bruce Smith, through both the movie and the entire show, uses its black tropes (like dance-offs) to subvert, even break, animation cliches; unfortunately, both lacks cohesion and focus to make those broken cliches significant or meaningful in anyway. It fails to be self-aware of its narrative manipulations, taking its subversions in stride, which makes everything seem like a random mess. The Proud Family can’t decide on what it wants to be. It wants to be everything – familial, social, subversive, clever, referential, absurdist, wacky, musical, and so on – but it ends up being none of those things. Sad, too: with a little more focus, this show could have been something of which Disney could truly be proud.

[PS: “Why are the Gross Sisters blue?” The Gross Sisters are kind of a strange group. They’re bullies but inconsistent. Sometimes everyone scared of them. Sometimes everyone stands up to them. They’re used in whatever fashion needed to fit the narrative. Their blue color, I think, is due to the limitation of the animation and color palette. In the pilot, Sticky mentions the Gross Sisters being “very ashy,” which is something most (white kids) wouldn’t get. I assume it’s the animators way of portraying the “dry flakes on black skin” distinction, making a quirky weird blue color.]

Share

, , ,

2 Comments

On the Wave of the Recent CGI Announcements

If you haven’t heard by now, Disney is developing a CGI/live-action film of their classic Disney Afternoon series Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers. This happens to be on the heels of the recent announcement of a CGI film version of the video game Sly Cooper. This announcement came a couple of months after the first surprise announcement of a upcoming CGI Ratchet & Clank film. (The latter two are being animated by the same studio.)

Chip n' Dale Rescue Rangers

This is somewhat unexpected and unprecedented. Not because they’re adaptations of classic, well-known franchises, but because of the specific choices that were made here. In the case of Sony’s games, Ratchet and Clank and Sly Cooper seemed to be on their way out, the last bastion of an era of mascot-based games in a world of gritty, heavy shooters. The last two games were relatively well-reveiwed and probably made a decent amount of money, but it’s difficult to claim they did SO well as to spawn a movie. Yet, every film based on the big-hitter games – Uncharted, Halo, World of Warcraft – have all stalled and/or proven to be problematic. Both games have the potential to be interesting films (Ratchet and Clank moreso than Sly Cooper), but the idea always seemed lofty, the fandom’s unachievable wet dream. And yet, here we are.

Most likely, Sony saw Dreamworks’ heavy push into the animated franchise end of things, with its multiple films and TV shows and agreements with Netflix, and wanted a piece of that pie. If the films do well, most likely TV shows will follow (as for more games? Maybe, although that’s difficult to say right now). It helps that both films seem to be tied to those people who worked on the games, but films are a whole ‘nother ballgame with a less than stellar track record when it comes to video game adaptations. Still, I can’t help but hope – I have long wanted to see these iconic characters outside their gaming forms, reaching a broader audience. If this works out, perhaps more gaming companies (EA in particular – there isn’t a money-making scheme they WON’T try) will get back to creating mascot-based games, if the ultimate goal is to spawn a franchise across multiple media formats. Maybe, just maybe, those mascots will be pushed into next gen gaming mechanics, beyond idealized 3D platformers. Imagine playing a cute purple alien in a game with the sophistication of Deus Ex.

Disney’s take on a live-action Rescue Rangers somewhat fits along the same lines, but in many ways it’s wholly different. Disney is probably thinking more along the lines of Alvin and the Chipmunks and G-Force. This should give everyone pause. Rescue Rangers was quietly creative and clever, a fully realized miniature world that existed among the feet of humans. This live-action adaptations, which looks increasingly likely to avoid using anyone connected with the original show, may turn this group of flawed, complex rodents into comedic visual eye candy. (They also claim this will be an origin story – unless they basically do a CGI version of the “To The Rescue” five-parter, this probably will be terrible. They’ll also probably do that thing where the Rangers wear clothes but all the other talking animals don’t, which will be bullshit since the whole point is that the smaller animals DO where clothes. But I digress.)

The original Rangers were a tight-knit group of flawed critters – Dale was too scatterbrained, Chip was too stuck-up, Monty was conceited, Gadget was absent-minded, and Zipper was insecure. As silly as the show was, they were characters. They had desires and feelings and flaws, and the original writers put in the work to make the characters and world of the Rescue Rangers feel “real.” With the likelihood of the original creators not being involved, there’s a chance that the creatives chosen to take up this film will take the easy route – a simple story involving kids and some adult that needs to “believe” or some shit, with a cringe-worthy dance routine. (TO BE FAIR, the original show had cringe-worthy dance routines, too.) But there is potential with fresh crew, in particular if they’re fans of the old show. There’s a chance that they can be respectful of the original series while pushing it in an interesting direction. Gadget going overboard with internet-speak will be terrible; Gadget quickly getting the hang of the internet has potential.

The question on my mind is – how is Disney going to approach this film in relation to the original series? That is, will Disney, at any point, acknowledge its relationship with the original show? Will they air (or at least put on their Youtube page) the original show? Obviously there’s a huge nostalgia angle that Disney is exploiting here, but the question is how far will they go with it. Alvin and the Chipmunks didn’t exactly inspire legions of people to see the originals, but then again, the cartoons and songs are already readily accessible if you know where to look. Disney is notorious for keeping a certain sect of its past output under lock and key.  So, I’m not too sure they’d jump aboard tying the film to its Disney Afternoon ancestor. If they did, they’d have to also deal with the question of it’s other DA shows – Ducktales, TaleSpin, Darkwing Duck, and so on. How far would that go? I mean, their later output – Goof Troop, Bonkers, Mighty Ducks, Quack Pack – isn’t so hot (I purposely skipped the shows based on Disney films for obvious reasons).

The fact that these films are coming out is kind of a big deal, though. There’s been growing appeal among CGI creations, both ironic and unironic, and while many people roll their eyes at yet another batch of talking pixels, the technology, and the realistic approach to that technology (not to mention that sweet, sweet green) has a lot of people excited. Some of the best CGI creations in the last few years – Smeagol in Lord of the Rings, the Navi in Avatar, that big ol’ ape in Rise of the Planet of the Apes – only has audiences and executives alike eager for more. Hell, ninety percent of the talk over Marvel’s new Guardian of the Galaxy film was centered around their talking raccoon. The people who scoff at “how silly” such a character might be seem to be more in the minority as filmmakers finally take them seriously and not comic relief iconography. How can these people be taking seriously when they ridicule a talking animal with a gun while rooting for a god from a magical planet wielding a massive hammer? This argument is pretty much invalid.

What’s next is still up in the air, mostly dependent on how well these films do. While there are some reservations about these announcements, there’s definitely potential, which is hugely dependent on who’s involved and their dedication to the material being adapted. I’m reserving judgment of the films themselves until the release date, but I’m more curious about what talking creature comes next, and whether it’ll be sincere or cloying.

Share

, , , , , ,

1 Comment

The Disturbing Nature of the Love Potion Episode

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought it’d be good to talk about “love potion” episodes.

Rick and Morty screenshot

Love potion episodes are when a character grabs hold of a potion or device that causes another person, usually the person he or she is infatuated with, to fall in love with them. It may be almost impossible for these types of episodes to not come off extremely rapey. Love potion episodes are the animation equivalent of “mind control” stories in comics, where villains take over the hero’s mind and body, then have sex to the hero’s girlfriend. Most comics portray this as wrong, but, like their animation brethren, downplay the vile nature of the non-consent-by-ignorance implication of the story.

I had made this observation after watching the Lloyd in Space episode “Love Beam #9,” in which Lloyd uses his friend’s invention to make his crush fall in love with him. It was supposed to be funny in a cute, overbearing way, and, generally speaking, all love potion episodes end with the lesson about being unable to force relationships to happen and the falsehood of making someone like you. Generally speaking, these episodes tend to shrug off the darker undercurrents of the love potion, in particular with “Love Beam #9,” which used the excuse of a love beam to open up deeper feelings between the two characters, instead of the harrowing reality that someone altered your mind just so you can go on a date.

It’s fairly disturbing, brought to the forefront in the latest episode of Rick and Morty, “Rick Potion #9” in which Rick gives Morty a love potion to woo his own crush. This results in an absurd, frenzied, global disaster when the potion spreads and causes everyone to want to “bone down” the kid, male or female (and it gets increasingly surreal from there). Rick spells it out in the end, calling out Morty’s desire to essentially “roofie” his crush so he can go out with her. Really, though, it’s the underlying vibe for most love potion episodes, and it raises the question on whether a love potion episode can be done without coming off selfish, creepy, and all around horrible.

I don’t like speaking in absolutes. So a part of me thinks it is possible. But let’s break down the beats of a typical love potion episode. Character A crushes on Character B. Character A acquires the love potion and applies it to Character B, resulting in Character B, through absolute no will or consent of his/her own, to return the romantic desire, sans logic or reason. Nine times out of ten, Character B gets too obsessive over Character A, which then pushes Character A away, but Character B won’t accept Character’s A rejection. So an already non-consensual love story is made worse as the non-consent is return. It’s a rabbit hole of vileness, played off as silly game.

The worse love potion episode I’ve seen had to be Kim Possible’s “The Cupid Effect,” where Wade spends almost a third of the episode shooting Monique with a romantic ray gun so she stays smitten with him. It’s fairly bad because Wade is barely a character who’s never been really outside his room up until this point, and the first thing he does is lust after Monique. There’s also a thin racial undertone to the whole thing. While this might be the most extreme one I’ve seen, most love potion episodes tend to have the same sensibility, and in the era where the real concern of rape culture is front and center, love potion episodes represent the “lighter” dark side of this cultural issue.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic tried its take on the love potion episode in “Hearts and Hooves Day.” Here, the writers try to overshadow the creepiness via the Cutie Mark Crusaders applying the love potion to two separate, seemingly lonely people. Er, ponies. It’s a somewhat admirable attempt, and not as awkward as the episodes listed above, but there’s definitely a fairly large issue in causing random people with to fall in love, which is, what, rape-by-proxy? The CMC learn this lesson, but not really in the sense that their actions are wrong, but in the sense that the love potion is so strong that the two lovebirds are so smitten that they forget to function. A fairly okay episode, and the core lesson is there, but again, the episode downplays the horrific nature of the element of non-consent. (This also applies to the trolls in the film Frozen. While no love potion is involved, they do uncomfortably try and force Anna into a marriage without any real say on her part.)

Rick and Morty also pointed out the sexual divide of the typical love potion episode. When applied to people of the opposite sex, the love potion episode emphasizes romance and sexual tension, but when applied to same sex characters, it’s always just an intense friendship, and it’s always bullshit. To be fair, any overt homosexual relationships in a kids cartoon is a no-no from a studio perspective. But there’s another element here. It implies that heterosexual relationships are “allowed” to instill this rape-like vibe, yet homosexual relationships aren’t (and that they can’t even exist), which is bad for both sides. Really, there’s nothing good that can come from the typical approach of the love potion episode, not in this day and age.

The best way to handle love potion episodes is to go big and go ridiculous, where the love potion isn’t based on someone’s perverted desire but just an obstacle to overcome, a distraction that’s in the way of a bigger, non-love-related objective. Ducktales’ love potion episode, “A Ducktales Valentine,” already has a bitter Scrooge rallying against Valentine’s Day. It involves vengeful Greek gods, and no one is forcing people to fall in love with anyone – everyone involved is accidentally stabbed with Cupid’s arrows. Darkwing Duck’s “My Valentine Ghoul” is a bit creepier – Gosalyn tries to use a love spray to rekindle Darkwing’s and Morgana’s relationship. Yet Gosalyn’s motivation isn’t about forcing love so much as it’s about not having Morgana kill the Caped Crusader and keeping Negaduck out of the way. It also helps that 1) the effects of the love potion are temporary, 2) it’s literally just only two minutes of the episode, and 3) it’s one of the funniest episodes of the run.

Overall though, if the protagonist actively uses the potion to force the person of his affection to fall for him or her, we’re already entering dangerous territory. While the lesson is worthwhile, the method to get there is inherently couched in a mentality that is uncomfortable. If a love potion has to be used, the lesson should not be a simple understanding that romance is something you can’t force and that one should be yourself. The real lesson should be that love potions are completely and utterly wrong, and the very use of them is damaging to both parties involved. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a crime, but there should be consequences that stem beyond a small speech about respect.

Share

1 Comment