We Need Bullwinkle Today

Mr. Chairman, I am against all foreign aid, especially to places like Hawaii and Alaska,” says Senator Fussmussen from the floor of a cartoon Senate in 1962.

In the visitors’ gallery, Russian agents Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale are deciding whether to use their secret “Goof Gas” gun to turn the Congress stupid, as they did to all the rocket scientists and professors in the last episode of “Bullwinkle.”

Another senator wants to raise taxes on everyone under the age of 67. He, of course, is 68. Yet a third stands up to demand, “We’ve got to get the government out of government!” The Pottsylvanian spies decide their weapon is unnecessary: Congress is already ignorant, corrupt and feckless.

Hahahahaha. Oh, Washington

…It wasn’t that Bullwinkle the character was especially compelling. He was an affable doofus with a loyal heart, if limited brainpower. Rocky was the more intelligent straight man: a less hostile Abbott to Bullwinkle’s more secure Costello. They were earnest do-gooders who took every obviously shady setup at face value. Their enemies were far cleverer, better resourced, and infinitely more cunning, but Rocky and Bullwinkle always prevailed. Always. For absolutely no good reason. It was a sendup of every Horatio Alger, Tom Swift, plucky-American-hero-wins-against-all-odds story ever made.

What we didn’t know in the ‘70s, when we were watching, that this was pretty subversive stuff for a children’s program made at the height of the Cold War. Watching this dumb moose and his rodent pal continually prevail against well-funded human saboteurs gave me pause to consider, even as a kid, that perhaps it is a silly idea to believe that just because we’re the good guys we should always expect to win…

…Bullwinkle’s playful critique lives on today in “Spongebob” and “The Simpsons,” shows whose creators openly acknowledge their debts. (Spongebob’s Squidward’s voice is Ned Sparks; Plankton is Walter Brennan. All the male Simpsons have Bullwinkle & Rocky’s middle initial “J.”) These shows are a loving critique of the ways American ideals and American reality are often out of whack.  And it’s a good thing, because suddenly the original great theme of Bullwinkle -—fear of nuclear annihilation—- is back.

We Need Bullwinkle Today

Something to say...?