A Revisionist Role Model
I never liked cartoons much when I was a kid.
I hated the silliness and the weird ping-pongy background music and what was basically the same plot over and over: Tom and Jerry, RoadRunner, Bugs Bunny – “Chase me, but I’m smarter than you.”
Oh, give me a Real Story any day. With Real People, not cartoons. I so preferred Spin and Marty on the Mickey Mouse Club as opposed to Mickey himself.
Oh, I did like some of Disney’s animated features – “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs” especially. But NOTHING could top “Pollyanna” (which I wrote about here)- a Real story with Real people.
One cartoon I especially disliked was Popeye.
Popeye was ugly, aggressive, and weird. And who could understand a single thing he said, anyway? Plus I never could figure out why the bad guy was sometimes called Bluto and sometimes Brutus. Because I was a kid, was I not supposed to notice? (Just FYI, the studio thought they might have a copyright problem with the name Bluto, so they changed it. But since the cartoons were never shown in order, Bluto and Brutus skipped back and forth, making me quite irritated.)
And worst of all – to me – was Olive Oyl. How I detested her.
But I was wrong.
Last night, I was reflecting on the role models I had as a kid. Pollyanna – good. Gidget – maybe not so good (although she wasn’t afraid to learn a “boy’s sport”). Cinderella – pretty bad.
And during my ruminations, I experienced a revelation.
I should have identified more with Olive Oyl.
Oh sure, she needed Popeye to save her a jillion times, and I don’t admire helplessness. But when you think about it, Olive probably got into such predicaments because she was never afraid to take a chance. Or more likely – because she always had her mind elsewhere, and so never realized the danger she was walking into. I totally get that.
And then there’s her inability to pay attention to her child. Now I never had children myself, but I am fairly certain that’s the kind of mother I would be. Lost in my daydreams while shopping for the best zucchini while my kid has climbed out of the shopping cart and into the potato bin.
You have to admire Olive’s fashion sense – in that she found a style that she liked and she stuck with it. How can you go wrong with a red blouse and black skirt? Timeless. The yellow stripe at the hem of the skirt just goes to show you that she’s unique – it’s not your average black skirt. And the big brown Doc Martens – can you be more ahead of your time?
Olive never had a lot of hair, but not too many women can carry off a bun that sticks straight out. It doesn’t get messy no matter how dire the circumstances. It even curves upward when you are in the mood for love – now that is a hairdo with a message!
Speaking of ‘the mood’… I can never hear “I’m In The Mood For Love,” without hearing it in Olive Oyl’s screechy voice. Yes, the memory of her voice has lasted more than sixty years for me. I always wanted to be unforgettable. Olive has achieved that with one song.
And most of all – her looks. When I was an immature kid, I disliked Olive Oyl because she was homely.
How short-sighted! I should have been cheering for the skinny, flat-chested, thin-lipped, gawky woman with huge feet, who still managed to see herself as sexy and alluring.
Why, Olive had men fighting over her. Constantly.
It doesn’t come from big boobs, blond hair, and high heels.
It comes from CONFIDENCE!
What a great concept.
Olive Oyl, I wouldn’t mind being just like you.
Actually, I AM just like you.