Becoming Bugs Bunny

How to stop trying to be “The Man” and just be a man.

Happy Hardaway was born in Brooklyn in 1940 under unassuming circumstances. Like his older colleague, sometime antagonist and lifetime friend Daffy Duck, his youth was wild, turbulent. No one, including his creators could have predicted he would become an American icon, an international star with more than 175 films to his credit, an Academy Award winner, and the acme of calm, collected, cool.

Every so-called self-help guru on the planet will tell you to “believe in yourself” and every self-appointed relationship “expert” preaches the value of confidence, but exactly how does one acquire it? How do you go from being shy, maladjusted and socially awkward to suave, debonaire and sophisticated?

You become Bugs Bunny.

♦◊♦

Beginning in the spring of 1939, the hare who would become king appeared in a number of shorts where, despite his character being largely undefined, he became wildly popular. In the summer of 1940, he starred in “A Wild Hare”  assumed a pseudonym that was simultaneously tough yet cuddly, and “Bugs Bunny” was born.

In his first of many co-stars with Elmer Fudd, many of the hallmarks we recognize about him are already present: the carrots, the white gloves, the signature tagline “What’s up, Doc?,” and above all, the ability to utterly infuriate an opponent. But this is not the Bugs we know and love. He’s brash. He’s obnoxious. He’s annoying and LOUD. He’s melodramatic.

And his acting skills are questionable, at best.

Like many of the Greatest Generation, he was called into military service. His civic duty began in 1942 when he made a vaudevillian request to buy war bonds. In 1943, he joined the Marines and was appointed an Honorary Master Sergeant. A wrong turn at Albuquerque landed  him in Nazi Germany instead of Las Vegas, where he met (and humiliated) Hitler.

Bugs returned from the end of the Second World War a changed rabbit. He’d become self-aware. He realizes his world exists inside a cartoon, and frequently breaks through the fourth wall. It’s the beginning of his evolution.

Veteran Bugs encountered all manner of antagonists, assembling an impressive rogues gallery. Hunters, cowboys, martians, witches, monsters, mobsters, djinn, wrestlers, pirates and even The Yankees opposed him. None of them stood a chance. His  understanding of cartoon physics made him indomitable: he could alter reality at will. If provoked, Bugs acts with the petulance of an immature Godling. He is cruel and sadistic, frequently torturing his adversaries.

This abuse of power reaches its pinnacle in Duck Amuck, 1953, where he demonstrates his mastery over time and space by changing (in rapid succession) the scenery, props, music and even the actual frames in which Daffy Duck appears.

To his credit, Daffy shows his acuity as an entertainer, moving with ease from one characterization to another. He’s a Musketeer. He’s a farmer. He sings and plays ukulele. He’s a cowboy, a sailor, an airplane pilot.

It is Bugs at his most unsympathetic.

♦◊♦

Something changed in Bugs after this over-the-top display of superiority. His bravado is replaced with genuine self-assurance. He’s got nothing left to prove. He knows someone’s writing the script; he’s done it himself. He’s unconcerned with the outcome. You can point a double-barrel shotgun in his face and he doesn’t act; he reacts, casually, with grace and humor. From this point on he uses his omnipotence rarely and then judiciously. He’s outgrown the need to overpower his opponents; he realizes he can simply out-smart them.

This Bugs is kinder, gentler. He’s got some experience under his belt and he’s learned from it. He’s unassuming, gracious, and self-effacing. He reeks of unstated power and oozes confidence.

This newfound aura of insouciance manifests in the classic Duck Season/Rabbit Season Trilogy, 1958. Displaying a mastery of pronouns (and cross-dressing), he deceives Daffy into convincing Elmer to shoot him, repeatedly.

Incidentally, unlike Wile E. Coyote, Elmer has no desire to eat either Bugs or Daffy; he’s a vegetarian and hunts simply for sport.

It’s worth noting that Daffy Duck also served in WW2, going as far as smashing Hitler in the head with an oversized mallet. He also comes home a changed duck, albeit not in a good way. He’s bitter. He’s arrogant. He’s massively insecure and jealous of the affection slathered over Bugs.

Although he’s older and has similar experiences, he never matures. Whereas Bugs becomes self-aware, Daffy remains self-conscious. He’s as talented as Bugs and equally smart; maybe smarter. Sadly, unlike Bugs he craves attention, acceptance, and validation. We pity Daffy for the same reasons we admire Bugs.

Never is this more evident than in Show Biz Bugs, 1957. Although their performances are identical, the audience can smell Daffy’s desperation, and they despise him for it. Daffy is so overly ingratiating, so desperate for approval, he commits a stunt of self-destruction so heinous it is banned from American television. The live audience loves him for it, but (un)fortunately, suicide is an act that cannot be repeated.

♦◊♦

The stark differences drawn over the decades between these anthropomorphic cartoon animals are a valuable (and entertaining) lesson in building self-confidence and the science of attraction. The process of becoming self-aware takes time. All of your life experience, good and bad, contributes to your becoming a whole individual. There is no skipping ahead, no fast-forward, there are no short cuts or quick fixes. How you process your experience determines whether it remains knowledge or transforms into wisdom.

Wisdom: the practical application of knowledge acquired.

The evolution Bugs experiences is circular, as he goes from being unaware to self-aware and finally back to unaware. He grows into a person who genuinely cares for others and is mildly detached from concern over his own well being. The confidence he exudes isn’t manufactured and so doesn’t feel disingenuous. He’s unfazed by mundane concerns and unflappable in the face of danger. He’s not looking for trouble but he’s not going to let anyone screw with him, or his friends.

We trust in Bugs because he trusts in himself. He accepts himself fully for who he is, huge buck teeth and all. He’s sexy because he doesn’t care if you think he’s sexy.

Unlike Daffy, Bugs stopped trying to be THE man and decided being A man was sufficient. Effortless cool, the difference between Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny, and a defining characteristic of attractiveness.

—Photo tumblr

Sponsored Content

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Jackie Summers

Jackie Summers is an author and entrepreneur. His blog F*cking in Brooklyn chronicles his quest to become a person worthy of love. His company, Jack From Brooklyn, Inc. houses his creative and entrepreneurial enterprises. Follow him on Twitter @jackfrombkln and friend him on Facebook

Comments

  1. I love the breakdown for exactly why and how bugs bunny got to be so damn sexy. Not fabricated confidence, but the deep kind born of total self acceptance having gone through some tribulations eyes wide-open. Now, that’s hot!

  2. Love the analogy – and bringing it all together at the end. It takes time to become self-aware, to have that calm, cool, confidence.

    Great post, Jax!

  3. Great article Jax. We could all learn a thing or two from Bugs.

    • Skye I think we could learn a thing or two from Daffy too; intelligence and talent are still unattractive if you’re bitter and insecure.

      JFB

  4. Tom Matlack says:

    Jackie great work my friend and welcome to the family. We are truly lucky to have you as part of the GMP community!

  5. Nicely done Jacks!

  6. Love the connection between Bugs Bunny and self assurance. But it makes perfect sense when you think about it. Next time I sit down to watch one of his many cartoons (yes, I still sit down to watch The Bugs) I’ll certainly look at it in a new light.

    Good work, Jax!

    • The really interesting part is he wasn’t born with it. He went through his jerk phase and came out a better person, not everyone does. The value of genuine introspect: you live and hopefully, you learn.

      JFB

  7. You nailed it with the main point of this article, that I think many people overlook: “The process of becoming self-aware takes time. All of your life experience, good and bad, contributes to your becoming a whole individual. There is no skipping ahead, no fast-forward, there are no short cuts or quick fixes.”

    We want to constantly jump ahead instead of respecting where we are, both our strengths and hindrances at this very moment. I think awareness is key – can we be truthful with where we are at right now? Can we look at our issues with confidence and be honest about our insecurities without melting into a pool of victimhood? Can we focus on getting rid of the bravado so as to naturally be brave?

    I understand it’s hard for men in this society – they want to come off cool and strongly masculine because that is what is expected of them. But the man who can show his vulnerabilities while facing the world with assurance (a tough combination? Yes. Impossible? No) is part of the evolved breed.

    And, somehow, they’re always yummy. Even without the carrot stick.

  8. Christine I agree: knowing how to objectively examine ourselves is a launching point at which we can begin “the work.” The process is arduous but no real growth takes place without discomfort.

    JFB

  9. Melaina Phipps says:

    Thank you for pointing out the very important difference between being THE man and being A man. It’s a distinction that should be more widely recognized!

  10. Melaina, thank you for your comment. It’s the difference between bravado and being brave, between machismo and being masculine. You never trust the person who tries too hard because it’s obvious they don’t trust themselves. The guy who puts you at ease is usually the guy who’s already at ease with himself.

    JFB

  11. Hah. Bugs has swag for days. There was a set of super hero Looney Tunes figurines I had when I was a tyke and Bugs was Superman and Daffy was Batman. Maybe my feelings about Daffy’s chip-on-his-shoulder approach to life was cemented that day. Also, you ever noticed how poorly he treated Porky Pig? I do have to say that Duck Dodgers in the 24th and 1/2 Century was pretty good.

    I feel we should point out that if Freud is the father of modern psychology that Bugs is likely the father of modern reverse psychology.

    Good post, Jack.

  12. Absolutely brilliant way to draw parallels from pop culture.

    “All of your life experience, good and bad, contributes to your becoming a whole individual. There is no skipping ahead, no fast-forward, there are no short cuts or quick fixes”

    Absolutely true. We do not *become* wise, mature adults in a day. As the wise Yoda says: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Yet we are constantly learning and growing in our roles. We learn as much from our downs as we do from our ups, perhaps even more so.

    • What I find really interesting is how, given similar circumstances, people can react and thus evolve in completely different ways. The only reason Daffy isn’t as beloved as Bugs is, he was written differently. In our cases we are the authors of our own scripts.

      JFB

  13. By far the best post I’ve read this year. As an avid looney tunes viewer – even to this very day – i found this article both amusing and intellectually stimulating. Great comparison of my two favorite cartoon characters and the dissection of their respective personalities. This post made me think of my progression thus far from being a brash and bitter teen to a more self-aware adult. Once again thanks for the great post.

    • ChaCe it’s almost criminal that no one is attempting to make cartoons of such complexity and depth today. I’m certain the writers drew parallels from their own lives, which is what makes these characters so relatable. Bugs is study in human nature with a fluffy cotton tail!

      JFB

  14. This is a brilliant article! I have come to appreciate Bugs and Daff on a whole new level since having a kid. My son is SO Bugs, and Daffy’s shenanigans are played out over and over in our house… He has a little stuffed Daff a friend gave him years ago. The kid’s got his levels of pathetic down to a “t”… Hilarious!! This article is one of the best I’ve read in a very long time! Congratulations… And thank you!!

  15. Addi, it’s amazing how much we learn about the cartoons we watched as kids when we review them as adults. I always try to remember these cartoons were never intended for children; they were done by adults for adults, so it should be no surprise they carry adult themes in a humorous way. As an additional benefit, most of what I learned about classical music as a child came from watching Bugs Bunny cartoons!

    JFB

  16. Fantastic!! As I was reading this, I see myself in this Bugs Bunny character. Women can get quite a bit from your story. My fave part:

    “Although he’s older and has similar experiences, he never matures. Whereas Bugs becomes self-aware, Daffy remains self-conscious. He’s as talented as Bugs and equally smart; maybe smarter. Sadly, unlike Bugs he craves attention, acceptance, and validation. We pity Daffy for the same reasons we admire Bugs.”

    Bravo, this is fabulous! We all have the decision to make: becoming self-aware as we go through life or more self-conscious. I wanna be Bugs!

    • Kim you already ARE Bugs! You make an excellent point: becoming self-aware or remaining self-conscious is a choice, and the decision to overcome our insecurities is always more attractive than simply working harder at being attractive.

      JFB

  17. You know, Jackie, this is a great, great comparison. I wish I’d thought of this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to explain the concept of self confidence to people… You nailed it like Mary Lou Retton on Prom night.

    • The funny thing Alex is: we’re all in a cartoon world. The only difference is, some of us realize it and some of us don’t.

      i KNOW you get it.
      JFB

  18. AlexisT says:

    Love this! Great blog post. It really does come down to this: “He’s sexy because he doesn’t care if you think he’s sexy.”

  19. Awesome article, I’d lost my mojo (to say the least of late) due to money and marriage problems and this great article has helped a lot. Now checking out your blog for other gems of wisdom. Thanks Jackie :-)

  20. Lex Moran-Solero says:

    I love this! Bugs has always been my fave and I’ve learned a lot from him over the years – and you’re right, it’s that self-assurance that makes him sexy. I wanna be just like him when I grow up. Thanks for writing this. :)

Speak Your Mind