Tempest’s Downpour – It’s Not Easy Being a Toon

Posted on Apr 17 2011

Warning: if you haven’t seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit, not only am I about to spoil it for you — I will hunt you down and force you to watch it ala that scene in Clockwork Orange.

Continuing April Fool’s: Stuff That Isn’t Exactly Anime Month, I’m focusing in on my favorite animated character of all time: Jessica Rabbit.

Everything about her screams sexy: from her large, red lips to her impossible waistline to her huge… uh… “tracts of land.” All that with a sultry voice and slinky dress has made her the number one “Sexiest Cartoon” on many countdowns.

Jessica Rabbit and her impossible curves.

But Jessica is far more than just a pretty face (amongst other body parts): she is a glimpse into a society we humans love, yet barely understand. Jessica Rabbit’s experiences teach us about American cartoons, as well as the animations from other countries that we love so dearly. She begins teaching us at her very first appearance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Upon seeing her for the first time, the unwilling protagonist, Eddie Valiant, begins the following exchange:

Eddie:She’s married to Roger Rabbit?”
Betty Boop: “Yeah. What a lucky girl.”

And indeed, Jessica is lucky to have Roger’s affection. Think of it this way: a person is typically considered attractive for the qualities the society favors most. For example, big muscles on men and big breasts on women are prized in America. What do American Toons have to offer? Laughs.

By that standard, Roger is one heck of an attractive stud. On top of that, he’s incredibly successful and probably makes a lot of money. He has his own series and, though he claims not to be at Goofy’s level, his program is probably shown in theaters across the United States and enjoyed by thousands of people.

Jessica, on the other hand, is a failure by American Toon standards. She isn’t funny, rarely engages in slapstick and her assets seem to lean more towards alluring than funny. Strangely though, she is capable of a few Toony moments, like when she hits Roger over the head with a frying pan “so he doesn’t get hurt” and when her hair curls and eyes bug out at the sight of Dip.

Jessica works a degrading job at a night club that caters SOLELY to human customers. In other words, Jessica doesn’t attract Toon admirers. And why would she? What’s the point of big breasts in Toondom if they don’t make “honk” noises?

To make matters worse, look what happened to poor Betty Boop: she’s the last of a dying breed of Toons that sought to combine allure with comedy. Betty was a star with a career and now the only work she can get is as a waitress in a dingy night club. She’s the one who responds to Eddie’s question, and seems truly envious of Jessica for wrangling in a catch like Roger.

Jessica: “You don’t know how hard it is being a woman looking the way I do.”

The above is played for laughs, but think about how true that is. It’s hard enough to find a career as a woman in the 1940’s. Added to that is the fact that she is a Toon as well, in a world where Toons are second-class citizens that are segregated, prohibited from living amongst humans and instead live together in a ghetto called Toon Town. If she were particularly gifted with humor, she could have gotten a job alongside her love, Roger. Seeing as how she doesn’t have much of a funny streak, she might have been able to find a job as a one-hit-wonder princess in some Disney movie, if not for her unusually sexy appearance. She is not family-friendly, so that leaves her in a hellhole nightclub.

Because Jessica Rabbit looks, talks and breathes allure, she is forced into the role of Femme Fatale and immediately becomes the main suspect in Eddie’s investigation. She is incapable of clearing her name until near the end of the film, even at the insistence that she loves her husband dearly. To make matters worse, she had a part in creating this whole mess by playing “Patty-Cake” with Marvin Acme, which she would never have done if Judge Doom hadn’t threatened the life of her husband if she didn’t comply.

The photo of Jessica playing Patty-Cake with Marvin Acme.

Given that Toons don’t seem to age, we’ll assume she’s still alive, healthy and sexy as ever. It’s a new world with new entertainment: The Simpsons helped open the door for more adult-oriented cartoons, and Adult Swim programs like Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Family Guy have made a niche for comedy programs targeted to an older market.

But Jessica Rabbit still isn’t funny, in a country where laughs or family entertainment are the only marketable features of a Toon. However, there is one place that would appreciate her looks, her depth and her style: Japan.

Jessica singing at the Ink & Paint Club.

Jessica would fit in far better with Anime characters, rather than Toons. She has enormous eyes, if her eyelids are any indication, and her curves would be better appreciated in a form of art that recognizes curves from slight to extreme. There are anime characters who can make Jessica’s cup size look tame!

Jessica would be better-suited to low-key comedy or drama, which are prized in Japanese entertainment. Certainly a likely case scenario would be that she could get a career out of being an idol: worshiped for her sex appeal and beautiful singing voice. A life as a Japanese Toon (or Anime character, in this case) could make very good use of her talents and launch her into a career that rivals the success of her husband’s.

Jessica Rabbit’s autograph.

But if Jessica relocated to Japan, surely Roger would have to come along. What would become of his career?

Anthropomorphic characters with squeaky voices are not exactly rare in anime. Even a show that takes itself unnecessarily seriously, like Yami no Matsuei, has its own population of squeaky bird-like creatures (the Gushoshin).

The Gushoshin, based on characters in Japanese mythology.

Roger could get a job as a mascot character like the Gushoshin. However, mascot characters tend to be treated as secondary or unimportant. What they have to say may be relevant to the plot, but are rapidly ignored by the main characters. And certainly they provide amusement, though not the slapstick variety Roger is famous for.

Also, mascot characters are appearing less and less. Or at least they’re showing up as smaller, more robotic or angelic beings. There’s no room for furry creatures that wear clothes to be main characters. If Roger migrated with his lovely wife to Japan, he would struggle to find work and would always play second-fiddle in whatever role he gets.

Jessica in a cameo in Roger’s short film: Trail Mix-Up

Does Roger’s current success outweigh Jessica’s freedom? Would Jessica’s new career and lease-on-life benefit herself and her husband in the long-run? Tell me what you guys think in the comments.

All of my research comes from Who Framed Roger Rabbit and my extensive knowledge of anime.

For more opinions on topics like this, visit this TV Tropes page.

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  • Jubilee April 17, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    XD! I loved this…Rodger Rabbit is a classic!
    Also, the banner is win!

  • Gannon133 April 17, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    I have to say, Japan beats U.S. because they have more of an appreciation of cartoons. To me personally, I think that cartoons made back in the day in the U.S. have been a leisure style that doesn’t make things seriously and cartoons that aren’t in the laughable manner are not appreciated as much and just overlook them. Japan takes both sides of the issue but not really in a sense that all are appreciated equally. I can sacredly name any cartoons that are serious driven in the U.S. back then and apparently they are now going all dramatic these days with Gen. Rex and others like it but still behind Japan in that area.

    • Kibs April 17, 2011 at 9:43 PM

      From what I’ve seen of Japan, Anime is a little more integrated into their culture than cartoons in ours, but there are also a lot of similarities, I feel that children still watch anime more than adults. Just like in america, where there are cartoons for all ages, there’s anime for all ages over there. The differences being that American cartoons are more geared towards silly comedy (spongebob) not to say there aren’t silly anime (Azumanga), but I think there’s more serious shows, with more segregation between genders, where boys and girls love spongebob, boys in Japan have their own genre, as do girls.

      I don’t remember where I was going with this comment. TANGENTIAL THINKING!!!

      • nerdwerld April 18, 2011 at 8:59 AM

        Spongebob is popular in Japan and very much so. The gender segregation in Japan is mostly to do with marketing then it does culture.

  • Kayarath April 17, 2011 at 11:55 PM

    Wow, I never thought of it that way. Jessica really would fit better in an anime!

  • Zero Gravity April 19, 2011 at 1:50 AM

    This was one of my ALL TIME favorite movies, starring my favorite actor, Bob Hoskins.
    Jessica rabbit is such a tease 😛

    • Tempest Wind April 19, 2011 at 4:41 PM

      It’s my favorite movie of all time, up there with Jurassic Park, Nightmare Before Christmas and Scott Pilgrm vs. The World. It’s amazing how much hard work and thought went into those films.

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