Psychedelic Film Criticism for the Already Deranged

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Acid's Greatest Shorts: WAIKIKI WABBIT (1943)

That hair-raising hare, Bugs Bunny, is second only to Ms. Betty Boop in terms of psychedelic savvy, and of all the Bugs cartoons, few are quite as gone, daddy, gone as this psychedelic little 1943 masterpiece from Warner Brothers, WAIKIKI WABBIT.

I always had issues with this one just because, unlike Elmer Fudd who hunts only for pwesha, the two dolts hunting Bugs on this abstract tropical island are starving castaways. I empathize, that's my curse, even if they're drawings. I need a rationalization to cheer their humiliation at Bugs' paws, luckily there are several such rationalizations, as when Bugs hands them a fully cooked chicken disguised as himself and rather than attack it they get all cocky and set the table, even singing a round of "We're gonna have roast rabbit!" like bratty schoolchildren. And there's the issue of the carrots. Why can't they just eat carrots like our long-eared protagonist? They must grow on this Waikiki Island or else where did Bugs get his? In summation: the stakes are much higher here than with Elmer and his hunting license, and the savage Brechtian truth of "mankind is kept alive by bestial acts" has seldom been more poignantly illustrated.

The backgrounds are uncommonly surreal: psychedelic splashes of purple, red and yellow signifying foliage in the mind of a delirious, slowly dying castaway. Among the angry Kali-esque visions from the preliminary bardos: Bugs' po-faced tribal dance and a headless, cooked chicken rising from its plate to grab the starving fork away like an avenging angel of commercial produce to confront our castaways for their carnivore callousness.

Meat can be a gross proposition when you're tripping: you taste the ghost of your steak's dying mammal screams in every naked bite, while at the same time you're probably dehydrated and hungry and it's long past dinner, and probably even breakfast. So WAIKIKI WABBIT is there for you, guiding you gently towards vegetarian options even as it depicts life as a brutal prison of unending hunger and delirium, with the figure of Bugs as the last-laugh-having Kali avenger of the hunted and farm-raised animals of history. So either shed civilization's cocky coat of entitlement and learn to just bite down on anything you can grab without bothering to sing and set the table first, or even better grab a carrot and follow Bugs down the rabbit hole of veganism. And hurry, before the next burger you eat turns out to be your own juicy, glowing knee!

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