Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cartoons as real life reflections in "Ghost Dog"

Watching the movie "Ghost Dog" you will notice that the characters watch a lot of cartoons. Almost anytime you see a television the character is watching cartoons: Felix the Cat, Betty Boop, Woody Woodpecker, and even Itchy and Scratchy.

 You'd think with this being a blog about animated series and cartoons it'd be easy to make a connection to the two. I found the opposite to be true however. It took my brilliant professor and some research for me to realize that all the of the cartoons in the movie either forshadowed or reflected the previous or upcoming scene.

 My thought initially was that these mobsters were laughable at best and that the cartoons only exhibited that. I can't honestly say why he did this, but Jarmusch's use of cartoons is actually pretty freaking brilliant. He's showing throughout the movie, what I've been saying in this blog all along. Animated series are a reflection of our real lives. It's often symbolic, but with the examples of the shows I use in this blog it can also be pretty in-your-face.

 Every blog up to this point has shown that the lives that exist in animation are reflections of the way we look at subcultures, hip hop, gender, families, homosexuality, etc. Even in series where the characters are not people they relate on these issues.

 Perhaps the most symbolic example of this in the movie "Ghost Dog" is the final showdown scene between Louie and Ghost Dog. (Spoiler alert if you haven't seen the movie). They use an scene from Itchy and Scratchy show, a fictional cartoon series within the cartoon series "The Simpsons." The Itchy and Scratchy episode has the typical back and forth fighting between the animated cat and mouse, each one grabbing a bigger weapon. Eventually they grab guns and each one grabs a bigger gun until we see the planet Earth and the guns are bigger than Earth. Eventually someone has to lose, it turns out to be Scratchy. Who symbolically is the bigger guy (and he's black, just like Ghost Dog) not sure if this correlation was intended? But the cartoon result ends up exactly how the movie ends.

 What you can ultimately read from this that the winner is not always gonna be the biggest guy in the room. Its gonna be the person with the most powerful weapons. That weapon can (and usually is) the biggest physical weapon. But we also see in pop culture examples where the mind can be a metaphorical weapon. It was the person who was able to outsmart the situation that is ultimately victorious. Or the one with the biggest heart, who wanted it the most. In that instance the heart and the desire to achieve is the weapon. It can vary from film to film and situation to situation.

 (Spoiler over)

 As a cartoon lover, I loved what Jarmusch did with the cartoons. I think it was a fantastically creative and unusually genius move for a film of this kind. I also imagine it took lots of time to find the clips.
I was able to track down the Simpsons episode where the movie clip shown, click here to see it.

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