I had been thinking of reviewing Tuck, by Stephen Lawhead, and thus completing my review of the King Raven Trilogy, but I just haven’t been in the mood this week. I want to do something lighter.
So let’s talk about 1960s children’s cartoons. I first saw Go Go Gophers a year or so ago. (For a sample episode – less than five minutes long – go here.) The show is a continual conflict between the Indians (the gophers) of the old West and the fort’s soldiers (coyotes, for some elusive and possibly ironic reason).
The humor of the show varies from the silly to the absurd. A dose of extravagant slapstick shows that it was written for children; occasional touches show that it was written by adults. The inept colonel, obsessed with regulations to the exclusion of common sense, comes from an adult world – and appeals to an adult humor.
Four characters fill the dramatis personae: The colonel, blundering, clueless, and vain; his long-suffering sargent, offering dry comments in a dry voice, and following even while the colonel walked over his good advice; Running Board, the chief of one brave and the final judge of crazy schemes; and Ruffled Feather, who was small, nearly incomprehensible when he spoke, and had an effective, violent solution for every problem. He reminds me of my nephew.
My sister-in-law does not read this blog.
Go Go Gophers would never be made today. It makes fun of Indians, the political correctness police would say. It’s ethnically insensitive.
And it does make fun of Indians. It also makes fun of the soldiers and their army. “Begging the colonel’s pardon,” begins the sargent, “but I think – “
“Think?” exclaims the colonel. “Think? You’re in the army, sargent; you’re not supposed to think. Regulation 387 – o – 5 expressly forbids it.”
If this show paints a stereotype, at least the brush sweeps both ways, and the gopher Indians get the better of it. They certainly get the better of the soldiers. The colonel is like the various villains faced down by Underdog and George of the Jungle: He always, invariably, irreversibly loses.
But to keep the score is to miss the point. Go Go Gophers is no more a social statement than it is a history lesson. It’s all silliness and fun – and it’s harmless, the wigwam jokes notwithstanding.