Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Vale Tom and Jerry

America is often slagged off for the pernicious influence on world culture, the way its icons push out local favourites. Sometimes it is just the overwhelming marketing that creates the push, but just occasionally it is the sheer brilliance of its product. With such a vigorous culture-production industry, it's bound to happen. When I was a kid, I loved Tom and Jerry, so I was sad to read that Joe Barbera has died. Animation becomes more sophisticated year on year but storylines and characters cannot match technology. The vicious, eternal squabble between cat and mouse, like some hand-drawn Zoroastrian fable, is still beautifully eloquent, touching something the child can respond to. Well, let's be honest, it's something the adult can respond to as well: the little guy fighting against the odds, using his wits to defeat strength that would, given the chance, crush him. And yet, who could really hate Tom. Pity rescued us from hatred. How beautifully created that cartoon was, that rather than slide into one-dimensionality, the characters were allowed to appeal to us each in their way, and we could sympathise just a little with Tom's failure at the same time as celebrating Jerry's success.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Sour Grapes said...

The only time my father ever laughed, that I know of, was when Tom and Jerry used to be shown on the BBC whenever they had a spot to fill -- I don't quite know how that used to work. He'd sit in front of the TV hour after hour, not reacting to it, and pointedly not reacting to anything else. When T&J were on he would suffer paroxysms of laughter. But when he laughed, everything was pushed inwards, as if he'd been ordered not to, sub poena. He never laughed out loud. I suppose it's a tribute to Hanna-Barbera that he ever laughed at all.

December 20, 2006 at 9:30 AM  
Anonymous Looney said...

Late to this one, but well said. There were a lot of brilliancies created by Hanna & Barbera, but Tom & Jerry is one of the most timeless. It's almost surreal watching my boys laugh like hyenas at these cartoons, most of them a little older than I am. The Cartoon Network has a sister channel called "Boomerang" (It's all coming back to you!) which plays a whole slate of the "oldies."

Barbera was a classic...

December 24, 2006 at 5:27 PM  

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