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Monday, March 9, 2015

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

I watched this movie for the first time since my kids stopped watching it this week for my son's film class and I learned two things that I had not known or seen when I viewed it long ago.

The first is that it is a film adapted from a book--the adaptation is loose, and the movie is far superior to the book (which is a nice change of pace), but there you have it.  The idea for people and toons cohabitating was not an original one, just a well done rendition of the story.  The thing that I still don't quite agree with is that it is a noir film.

The basic story for the five people who haven't seen it is that Roger Rabbit, a cartoon character, is accused of killing R.K. Maroon, a human.  This is a crime punishable by death and no trial is required.  Toons are second class non-citizens.  Eddie Valiant (ably played by the late great Bob Hoskins) is a well known hater of toons, but he is won over by Roger and his protestations of innocence, which turn out to be quite true.  The thing that I still had trouble seeing even after reading about it is the subtle but clear parallel between toons and other marginalized populations.  The justice for toons is very much like that of a lynching in the American South.  Roger gets drunk after one drink, can't control his behavior, and is overall depicted as a lesser being.  The problem is deeper still in two ways.  One is that cartoons are for children.  The acceptance of unequal treatment can be learned early.  The other is that once that is innoculated, it is hard to see, even when it is pointed out.  Not good.  Take another look at the movie and see what you think.  Racism is deep deep down, and sometimes very hard to look at.

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