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When a Spring Bunny Gets Dolled Up, It's Never a Bad Hare Day
April 7, 2012  | By Eric Gould  | 2 comments
 
bugs-bunny-drag-top.jpgSpring is almost here, and new life is on the way. Fertility signs abound, with marshmallow chicks and pastel eggs stocking the shelves. There are chocolate bunnies. But the warm weather also brings out some lagomorphs that aren't all about innocence and rebirth. One is a particularly adept provocateur -- a con man, illusionist, escape artist.

Bugs-hillbilly-gal.jpgA master of disguise, he's gotten out of tight spots costumed as a barber and a circus clown. He's not above coming out as a farmer's daughter, a nurse or a ballerina.

It was Dana Carvey's Garth Algar, Wayne Campbell's sidekick in 1992's Wayne's World, who once pondered the appeal of Bugs Bunny in drag...

Garth asks Wayne, "Did you ever find Bugs Bunny attractive when he put on a dress and played a girl bunny?"

Then, after the awkward pause that follows, he quickly backpedals.

"Neither did I. I was just asking."

But who among us hasn't wondered: Was it us, or did Bugs really blossom as a hillbilly ingenue, square dancing in a midriff blouse, ears pulled back in a pretty bow, a bright stroke of red lipstick underneath batting, mascara eyelashes? You could almost overlook the buck teeth.

bugs_bunny_in_drag-matrix.jpg

Garth's ill-adjusted sexual impulses aside, if you Google "Bugs Bunny in Drag," you'll come up with over 2 million hits -- a number of them dedicated to serious compilations of all the various outfits Bug got gussied up in. (Click HERE for a hare-raising sampler.)

At a Santa Fe gallery, dedicated to the work of one of Bugs' main animators, Chuck Jones, there's even a timeline display of them, mapping out some of the get-ups over the decades.

Here -- hare -- are just a few:

Bugs-Drag-Timeline.jpg

One website even postulates that Bugs, disguised as a female, was the ultimate Libertarian-Anarchist, disarming traditional power simply by dressing as a woman and overpowering targeted victims with unexpected, and distracting, big wet kisses.

With that in mind, Bugs just might be one of the great folklore archetypes. Always able to outwit the hapless dupes who pursue him, there are a long line of like-minded cunning trix-ters behind him. If we start with Br'er Rabbit of the Uncle Remus stories and work backwards, we find a chain of related hares that can slip out of any dilemma thanks to wit and foolery, rather than physical prowess.

And winning by brains over brawn is always a good lesson -- especially for kids in front of cartoons. (And for the adults sitting alongside them, too.)

Within those traditions, Bugs has employed a long list of techniques to get out of the trouble that usually finds him first. (He's usually minding his own business when hunters and other yokels figure to do him harm.)

Bugs-in-Drag-opera.jpg

That he's also got a good selection of women's clothes at the ready isn't such a far stretch, considering he can burrow to Scotland, stick his arm up a shotgun barrel, or jump into a wood stove and not get burned.

When Bugs is repeatedly challenged, he sometimes loses his good humor, and is forced to ratchet up his game.

His catch phrase, "You realize, of course... dis means war," doesn't mean all-out physical combat. Instead, it signals that he's been forced to reach down into a mighty entourage of deception and deceit, courtesy of the madcap two-dimensional world made for him by co-creators Jones, Tex Avery and others.

And often, that means lipstick and a dress.

Female make-up on a smirking lapin, as unseemly or titillating as you might find it, might also make it worth looking at Bugs, dolled up, alongside rituals that used masks as part of celebrations and ceremonies.

masks.jpg

As a folklore device, the mask heightens the difference between unassuming everyday perception versus the nature of things unseen. Joseph Campbell taught us to look at these purposefully distorted faces as a method of taking us out of our ordinary way of seeing -- challenging us to think about what's behind them, and by extension, what's transcendent and hidden behind things all around us.

They ask us to look behind the curtain, while reminding us that the curtain isn't even always there to be noticed. They might be provoking us to look at the difference, for example, between what someone is saying as opposed to what they might really mean.

And everything else in between, including spotlighting the difference between the nature of the sexes. Or, at least, the difference between the feminine and masculine impulse -- since there is maybe nothing more alarming than a man in women's makeup -- surpassed only, perhaps, by those around him unaware of the obvious difference.

Berle-and-Lucy.jpg

(And speaking of alarm, have a look at the late Milton Berle, venerable comic, actor and regular on-screen cross-dresser, as he appeared opposite Lucille Ball in 1959. As Bugs would say, "It's moidah.")

Pretty heady stuff to put on the shoulders of a rabbit in Brunhilde's pigtails and breast plate -- but I think Bugs is up to it, Doc.

After all, he's proven himself time and again.

The Muppets has just rebooted for a whole new generation, and Bugs has been able to do the same, with a run of new cartoons, starring himself and the other Looney Tunes characters, having premiered last year on the Cartoon Network.

bugs-belle.jpg

That makes Bugs a veteran of shorts, feature-length films, and multiple TV shows that have been playing for over 70 years since he debuted around 1940. The Looney Tunes shorts of the Fifties remain virtually timeless for their slapstick pace and ingenuity, and show no signs of dating at all -- except for some infrequent cultural references that slip in.

That is one venerable hare -- deserving of all the distinction he's earned over the decades, even though he's often found smacking a dwarf cowboy with an over-sized wooden mallet.

And maybe Bugs Bunny was the first Hollywood celebrity famous for his vegetarianism, decades before it was hip. Take a look at the beginning of Rabbit Every Monday, where he sings his ode to carrots:

"Oh, carrots are divine, you get a dozen for a dime, it's maaaaagic;
They fry, a song begins; they roast and I hear violins, it's maaaaagic..."

Enjoy the video, and, if you wish, sing along:

Now there's a singer and a performance artist whose reemergence each spring, regardless of what he's wearing, should make us very hoppy indeed.

That's all, folks.

 
 
 
 
 
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2 Comments
 
 
Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work!
Mar 4, 2023   |  Reply
 
 
I'm just glad when I think about the fact that spring is almost here - because it's the most magical time of the year. Spring is also the perfect time to look into wedding guest dresses canada and buy them. Spring is indeed perfect for so many reasons!
Feb 25, 2023   |  Reply
 
 
 
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