Bugs Bunny was complaining to us about his eyesight. “Remember that episode,” he said, “where the doctor asked me to read the eye chart and I read the fine print at the bottom of the page? That wasn’t acting — that was real.”
He blamed his freakish vision on all the carrots he’d eaten over his career. Hundreds of short films, endless re-takes with Daffy, walk-on cameos, photo shoots for t-shirts and coffee mugs, modeling for stuffed animals and amusement park costumes — all done while sawing away at carrot after carrot with his two buck teeth, orange shards flying furiously into the air.
The carrot was part of who he was. The carrot was who he was, Bugs was saying to us, in that distinctive Leporidaen accent of his. His image, his character, his art, his entire representation of self made manifest in a phallic vegetable. It was both his security blanket and magic sword, an Excalibur that lent perfect timing to the signature line that made him an icon. And here, just to make his point, Bugs said, “What’s up, doc?” Without the usual pregnant pause as he chomped on a carrot and the snotty insouciance of talking while chewing his food, the line sounded like just another empty catchphrase.
Sans carrot, Bugs wasn’t clever, he was just another rabbit with ADHD.
So the whole carrot thing took on a life all its own, Bugs was saying. I was thinking: addiction perpetuated by psychosexual dilemmas. His life was his work, and his work was his life, his work was carrots and carrots were his life. And if he had an especially long day at the drawing board? If he had to shoot those emotionally complex persecution scenes with Elmer? He’d chew through two or three bunches a day, easy, Bugs was saying. But only because it was expected of him.
And what had it all been for? Sure, he was rich and famous beyond his wildest fantasies, lived and vacationed in all the finest holes, banged any piece of cottontail he wanted. But at what price? “Carrots are good for your eyes, kids, it’s true. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing,” Bugs said, but he seemed to have lost sense of his audience and was clearly wiggin’. “Alas, mine eyes have grown mutated from carotene. And they now bug out as if I’ve been thwacked in the back of the head with an Acme baseball bat”
Here Bugs digressed into a mumbling tangent I could barely make out, something about Chuck Jones and the WB boys knowing all along about the long-term effects of carotene abuse, that they named him Bugs as a sick, prescient joke…
Suddenly Bugs recovered and regained the momentum of his oration, as if he’d remembered what he really wanted to say:
“Ah, but the greatest horror — my undying curse! — Carotene has burdened me with ultimate sight! I can see all! Superman would turn evil and rob banks to pay for the Lasix surgery necessary to acquire even one-tenth of my ophthalmic powers! Through layers of the Earth’s soil, the walls of my very home, through the thickest synthetics and most elemental metals — I see! — through stone as well as flesh!
“Oh, flimsy flesh that dissolves before my super-eyes! My days now are filled with nightmares, horrific visions of sinew and tendon, mucus and marrow.
“Oh, the ugliness of people!”
Bugs Bunny was saying all of this, standing in profile, a neatly worn white glove cupped to the side of his face, hiding it from us. And us from him.
That’s all folks.