Anne Kolbe

Who is Bugs Bunny?


I am not weird. I am a limited edition.

Bugs Bunny starred in more than 160 cartoon shorts produced between 1940 and 1964 and has since appeared in countless series, music records, comics, games, amusement park rides, commercials – and in more films than any other cartoon character. He is the 9th most portrayed film personality in the world and has his own star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Wikipedia). As the ultimate mascot of entertainment, he is one of the most recognizable characters in the world. I have tried to wrap my head around this cultural icon I think so highly of for quite a while now. Here’s my attempt so far.

Bugs is an anthropomorphous rabbit without clothing, except for his two white gloves. Being the ultimate hedonist, Bugs obstinately mooches a carrot whenever he feels like it. Despite his lack of clothing, Bugs likes to cross-dress as a queer parodic diva, making him a modern trickster. Although Bugs seemingly is a flat character (his actions and traits are very predictable and he has no substantial character development), his multiple dimensions make up for what he literally lacks in depth.

He tries to outwit his opponents in both stupid and clever ways, by often catching them in the very traps they set to get their hands on him. He torments and hurts others, and does not recoil from using aggressive means. He doesn’t seem to care about anything or anyone other than himself, except his carrot. He is smart, lazy, vicious, careless, lacks morals and practices the ultimate fack-you-attitude. He even admits to his own shadiness: “Gee, ain’t I a stinker?”

Much like others of his sort, though not in the fucking-like-rabbits-sense, Bugs can multiply himself. He in fact bends the laws of ‘nature’ in all sorts of ways. He dives into holes that he doesn’t fit into. He disappears into them and comes out the impossible other end of space. He can even pull himself out of hats and can smash through walls, leaving a him-shaped hole behind.

Bugs can also conjure up random objects and costumes out of thin air. He is a master of disguise (dressing as fakir, baker, policeman, and so on…), but seems to have a certain preference for the female disguise. He has fooled his enemies playing (i.a.) a sexy bunny, bride, female hunter and granny. Although we are always effortlessly able to recognise Bugs underneath these layers of mischief, his enemies are truly deceived time and time again, making them look all the more stupid – and Bugs all the more intelligent.

Not only is Bugs subversive to gender roles, he also disrupts narrative conventions. He often breaks the fourth wall, providing explanatory subtext about what is going on or what will happen. In Wabbit Twouble (Bob Clampett, 1941) his enemy Elmer Fudd reaches for a towel, because his face is covered in soap. Bugs deceives him with the towel on the end of a branch and tells the viewer: “I do this kind of stuff to him all through the picture.”

One could conclude that Bugs doesn’t care for social norms and standards. Virtues such as kindness or sharing seem to mean nothing to him. Instead this subversive hero teaches us not to accept the actions of bullies, or people whose place in society or authority is based on nothing more than their own bluster, and that such people need to be taken down by outwitting them. A well-taught valuable life lesson, I believe.

That’s all folks.

One of many profound philosophical statements by Bugs Bunny:
“The way I run this thing you’d think I knew something about it.”