I had a sudden flash of inspiration this morning and for whatever reason I have a bunch of new Pop Culture Questions to ask (and answer, naturally). I also have Roy Orbison’s song “Only the Lonely” stuck in my head at the moment because I was thinking about making this edition all about lonely or isolated characters. But then again, a lot of these guys do make friends along the way, so maybe they aren’t really all that lonely after all. Either way, I think they are all great characters and certainly deserving of a little attention, so here’s my two cents on them.
Will Bolt be all right after the events of Bolt?
Disney’s Bolt tells the story of a dog who is the lead star in a hit TV show filmed in Los Angeles in which he is portrayed as a secret agent. Bolt has been led to believe that his fictional secret agent life is real (the show’s director surmises that, “If the dog believes it, the audience believes it.”), which has in turn caused him to become intensely protective of his owner, Penny (played wonderfully by Miley Cyrus, years before that whole “twerking” thing got out of hand). One day, the director decides to set up a ”cliffhanger” to increase the show’s ratings, and so Penny is “kidnapped” right in front of Bolt’s eyes (in reality, she is just taken off the set and hidden away from Bolt). The poor dog is heartbroken and determined to get his owner back, so he subsequently breaks out of his trailer, accidentally gets trapped in a shipping box bound for New York City, escapes his confinement, and goes on an epic cross-country journey to reunite with his owner. By the end of the movie (kind of a spoiler here, but since it’s a Disney movie, I don’t think it should be much of a surprise), Bolt has reunited with Penny and they both (along with her mom and a few tagalong friends Bolt meets on his journey) retire from acting and move to a ranch house in Oklahoma, far from roving TV cameras and any hint of danger, where Bolt can live out the rest of his life as a normal fun-loving dog.
I love this ending, but I have two major problems with it. One: Are Bolt and his family truly safe from the TV world? Who’s to say there isn’t some TMZ-type gossip monger out there looking to do a “Where Are They Now?” segment on Bolt and they’re slowly narrowing down the spots he could be hding in? I know from experience that once those cameras find him, they’ll just keep on coming and never, ever leave. In this age of Google Earth and elaborate information sharing and social networking, the odds of Bolt and his family simply disappearing from public view are, in my view, slim to none. Two: Is Bolt capable of thinking and behaving like a normal dog after all he has been through? He’s a TV dog who, until just recently, thought he was an action hero. He’s hard-wired to dodge bullets, subdue bad guys, and routinely perform extreme feats of derring-do. And you expect me to think that Bolt is just going to forget about all this stuff and go back to fetching a ball and sitting, rolling over, and doing all the normal things other dogs do? I can easily imagine Bolt one day snapping back into TV hero mode and nearly taking a bite out of the mailman who he perceives as an agent of the “green-eyed man.” One thing’s for sure, though: he’s definitely going to be the most athletic, agile pet on the block.
Do Garfield’s Halloween plans for this year include crushing loneliness?
Whenever Halloween comes around, I always seem to recall a particular sequence of Garfield comic strips I first came across in one of the orange fat cat’s excellent reprint collections. It first ran in newspapers from October 23-28, 1989 (check out all six strips in the sequence in this RetroJunk article) and is quite possibly the weirdest and most thought-provoking series of comic strips I have ever read. Garfield wakes up one fine Monday inside an abandoned, boarded-up version of his house. There isn’t any food in the house, and more disturbing, Jon and Odie are nowhere to be found. Garfield looks around a bit and discovers that the house has been sold and that neither he nor his family have lived at the house in years. By the end of the week, the feline has nearly succumbed to loneliness. In desperation, Garfield admits that he needs Jon and Odie. After he does this, things suddenly turn back to normal. Jon and Odie are back and the house is just as it has always been. Garfield embraces Jon and Odie and the week ends on a happy note.
These Garfield strips are very special to me. They are rather insightful about the human condition and the need we all feel (or should feel, anyway, I think) to depend on and help others to survive. As much as Garfield likes to belittle and tease Jon and Odie, he needs them in order to keep his sanity. Without them, he is just a cranky cat with a knack for routinely eating every morsel of food near him. Such a creature couldn’t possibly survive for long without a little help and love. Good thing Jon and Odie have plenty of love to go around. (By the way, the article mentions that the Garfield sequence bears a strong resemblance to the ”Valse Triste” sequence from the Italian film Allegro non Troppo. I really like this piece of animation with a ghostly cat wandering around an abandoned house; it makes a perfect companion to the comic strips, so check both of them out and tell me what you think of them.)
Does this Squidward “Alone” sequence from SpongeBob Squarepants truly stand alone as the greatest expression of loneliness in animation history?
Okay, deep breath here: the above clip from SpongeBob episode “SB129″ features Squidward Tentacles standing in a white void (well, it’s not entirely white: there are a few colored squares off in one corner and an astonishingly weird series of sound effects filling the void slightly) and expressing satisfaction at finally getting away from the eternal (and yellow, porous, and spongy) bane of his existence. After he says he is all “alone,” he shrinks down into nothingness while versions of the word “alone” in various fonts, sizes, and shapes pop onto the screen. All of those “alones” shrink down and disappear, too. I have seen this sequence literally tens of hundreds of times since it first aired in 2000, and I still can’t figure it out. Is Squidward literally alone? Is he just imagining the void and all those people saying “alone” over and over? Where is this white void, exactly? What time and space does it occupy? According to the SpongeBob Wiki, it’s called “Nowhere.” I don’t know about you, but I sure think this place certainly takes you somewhere all right. Also, how would you know if you were in the middle of “Nowhere?”
How do you feel about loneliness? Do you feel better alone or with company? Do you like the Lone Ranger? Fill the comment box below with your thoughts; sentences make it feel less lonely.