Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Devil Wears Chains

June 19, 2008 - Bugs Bunny had it tough. He was expected to dress in dresses, flirt with a short bald dude with a shot gun and a hankerin' for Hasenfeffer, and keep his eye on a small devil (a Sarcophilus harrisii) named Taz. But though Bugs had it bad, Taz really had the short end of the stick.

It seems that the Looney Tunes were not in Australia, so Taz was most definitely the only Tasmanian devil on US soil. Found only in Tasmania, this devilish marsupial is an endangered species. After being hunted down on Australia's mainland for the sake of the livestock, they finally got a bit of protection as a species, and were only declared endangered last month. Recently, there is a new threat against devils. They are being wiped out by a tumour - a cancer - of the face. They weren't the prettiest of animals to start with, but with this new development, Bugs could never have set Taz up with a lady devil.

As a cartoon, Taz didn't get an easy ride either. After making his debut in the "Devil May Hare" on June 19th, 1954 - Taz fell victim to a studio exec who felt he was too obnoxious.1. There was a bit of backlash, and in 1957, he re-emerged, re-styled and ready to take on the big screen in a career comeback. After that, Taz appeared in many other shorts, had a protege, Dizzy Devil, and finally hit the big time with a series of his own on Fox called Taz-mania. In his new series, Taz's character really grew, as did his family - thus increasing the population numbers. The devil was no longer an endangered cartoon. I bet that without Bugs, Taz would never have met his she-devil and quite possibly never have come back from obscurity (read: rehab) - something so many other Hollywood celebs have failed to manage. In honour of the great Tasmanian Devil first big screen appearance, today shall be declared Taz Day. To celebrate, mumble, grumble, growl, spin around, screech... and give a few raspberries to any rabbit that gets in your way.

Taz was really just looking for acceptance and a meal. Yet he had one hell of a battle. Imagine if you will, what it must be like to be enslaved - owned - by the white folk, and merely be looking for the ability to live free. June 19th is also Juneteenth. Juneteenth is a day to commemorate the freedom of African Americans. But more than celebrating freedom of ancestors, it is also a day to put emphasis on education and African American achievements. Senator Obama has the potential to be the first African American (read: American) President of the United States with African American heritage. This is certainly an achievement. It wasn't that long ago that the emancipation of slaves was being fought. Now, what would be an even bigger achievement for ALL North Americans would be to drop the description of people based on their heritage. In Canada, there are Aboriginal Canadians, there are African Canadians, there are Asian Canadians, there are Indo-Canadians... Likewise in America...

If we really want to celebrate Juneteenth, maybe we can finally just be Americans, Canadians... Humans. We share the same earth, the same air, the same water, the same DNA, the same basic needs, and the same visions of success. Whether you are black, white, beige, we all want people to care about us, respect us for who we are, appreciate our uniqueness and our sameness. If Bugs and Taz could learn to live with each other and appreciate each other, why the heck can't intelligent individuals do the same? And when we get to that day, are we going to create a day to celebrate or finally give away the one-day holiday for a lifetime of success?

1. Looney Tunes producer Edward Selzer didn't think much of Taz and stopped Taz's appearances in any more shorts. There was backlash. Taz came back. Wikipedia
2. has more info on today's history

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