Sunday, August 31, 2014

Cartoons, Silent Films, Plot Tropes, Oh My!

The similarities of "Dudley Do Right" and the collection of silent films depicting the typical damsel in distress are fairly obvious, but cartoon chooses to highlight similarities to the film clips in a way that brings out somewhat unexpected qualities of an overused plot device. In the introduction of the cast of "Dudley Do Right" the narrator specifies that male protagonist's love interest is not interested in him but his horse. Prior to this scene-setting Dudley is pictured riding backwards on his horse, making him seem silly and somewhat useless as a hero. You cannot skillfully steer a horse facing backwards, and in this case, the horse is doing more work out of the pair. Similarly, the driving force to capturing the villain at the end of the cartoon is also Dudley's horse, who sustained more injuries than the hero himself. These characteristics or the horse and Dudley parallel with those of the dog and the "hero" in the silent film. The dog finds the damsel first, the dog delivers the message, the dog warns the train conductors of the damsel tied to the railway. The hero, consequently, does almost nothing at all. The dog is even more capable than the man as he pulls both their weights while the man is on the bike and is the first to jump into the water when the "hero" is unable to. Both the silent film and the cartoon accentuate the idea of an underdog (ha ha) overshadowed by a flashier, more acceptable hero.

A similar cultural commentary is presented between "Rocky and Bullwinkle" and the second silent film. The cartoon takes some key ideas revolving around the seemingly mandatory "happy ending." Again, an overused plot device is re-depicted in the cartoon. This time it is a form of deus ex machina in which the criminals conveniently falling off a cliff, making the hero's life that much easier. At the end of the cartoon, Rocky and Bullwinkle even bring up the idea of a happy ending vs an unhappy ending, the former being one in which the hero succeeds against the odds while the latter is one in which the hero fails.

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