See What's New for details. Introduction When people reflect on old cartoons, strange things can happen. For instance, I heard a radio talk-show host confess on the air, "Whenever I watched a Popeye cartoon, I used to root for Bluto. Does that mean I'm weird? Do I need therapy? As a baby boomer, I grew up with a daily dose of Popeye cartoons. The Sailor Man was my hero. I pretended to be Popeye, even attempting in vain to choke down the spinach my grandmother prepared at my request.
Yet, in my playtime adventures, stories, and daydreams, Bluto would sometimes win. Then he started to win more and more. What was wrong with me? I didn't want to see my hero beaten - yet, somehow, maybe I did, too! I loved Popeye, wanted to be just like him, yet at the same time I often couldn't stand him!!
Was I nuts, or giving into a hidden mean streak, or was there some other explanation? A friend of mine in college where late night talk turns easily to such matters once got red in the face and, stammering as though he was revealing a deep, dark, shameful secret, said, "I know you're going to think this is really strange, but I used to lust after Olive Oyl.
Others have told me the same thing down through the years. Even before we were interested in girls, we were interested in Olive. And when we did get interested in girls, we fantasized about hugging and kissing her. And despite evidence that might initially suggest that she was a shameless flirt, we just knew her heart was pure. When we watched a cartoon, we could relate to Bluto, because we wanted to get Olive away from Popeye, too.
Each one of us knew that she really should have been our girlfriend. Each of us had a secret desire to bump Popeye off and take his place. Were we villains deep down in our hearts?
And why were two healthy young males on a campus where the ratio was three girls to every one guy spending time talking and thinking about a cartoon character, anyway? One problem, it said, was that today's cartoons aren't "sexy enough, like the old Popeyes. Why would anyone think that? Yet maybe that would explain why, even at a young age, I would feel slightly embarrassed if anyone came into the room while I was watching Popeye.
I never got that feeling in connection with Huckleberry Hound or Daffy Duck. It was the same feeling I got whenever the "mushy parts" came on during the war and cowboy movies: And as I matured and got knocked around by life and love, the things happening to me would all seem so strangely familiar somehow. I met more "Popeyes", Olives", and "Blutos" than I could count. I would often find my mind wandering back to my favorite cartoons.
Why has Popeye stuck with me all these years while the glitter on some of the other golden programs of my youth has definitely faded? The answers to all the above questions and the explanation for all those feelings, desires, and confessions can be found in the fact that many of us baby boomers grew up watching the Famous Studios' Popeye cartoons over and over again on TV.
In the area where I lived, they were on every weekday afternoon and Saturday and Sunday mornings. And, while the cartoons have much to commend them, repeated viewing of many of them can lead you to feel ambivalent about, if not downright annoyed with, Popeye. Bluto and Olive, not The Sailor Man, can easily capture your attention, imagination and loyalty. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing.
As you examine your feelings toward Popeye, Olive, and Bluto, and reflect on their actions and consequences, you can learn indispensable lessons about life. I don't believe that the creators of the films intended any of this. After all, they probably never dreamed their work would be viewed as an entire body, nor ever imagined that the films would be rerun endlessly.
Nonetheless, with the advent of television and syndication, their work had an unintended, cumulative effect on children. Certain repetitive themes became ingrained in our subconscious minds. And after dozens of viewings, we suddenly began to notice that sometimes Popeye acted really strangely. We also realized that Olive often looked happy as Bluto was about to kiss her. We began to question plot devices and twists that we had previously taken for granted.
Certain frames we hadn't noticed before jumped out at us. Our minds tried to harmonize every cartoon with all the others and form some sort of canonical "true history" of Popeye The Sailor Man. Popeye - Hero Or Zero? He single-handedly cleans up an old west town Tar With A Star. Popeye uses his superhuman strength to help the populace of ancient Greece Greek Mirthology. He buys orphans a brand new television set Punch And Judo".
And yet for all of that, in other films, Popeye is simply not that dynamic a protagonist, nor even, at times, a very sympathetic character!! Although Popeye professes to love Olive, in some cartoons, he has strange ways of showing it. Popeye has a tendency to throw Olive to the human wolves. The Island Fling has Popeye running off to pursue his hobbies of big game and treasure hunting, while leaving Olive alone all day with an obviously girl-hungry Robinson Crusoe.
What did he think they'd be doing all day while he was gone, playing tiddledywinks? Or did he bother to think at all?
In Pre-Hysterical Man, it takes Popeye an awfully long time to notice that Olive has fallen off the cliff into the hidden valley and is in the clutches of the cave man.
After Popeye beats the wild animals in Safari So Good, he takes time to congratulate himself and celebrate, even though Olive is locked in the tree house with the lascivious jungle man and has been screaming for help. If it were me, I wouldn't have cared that the cad was "nobility".
I would have decked him! But I suppose someone's got to woo Olive. And that someone obviously can't be Popeye! Maybe this went over big in the W. He makes a joke and then hurries off without a word or a backward glance to have a soak in a bathtub!!!
A square, old-fashioned Popeye, spoils Olive's hip party in Jitterbug Jive. Then he has to down spinach in order to be as cool as Olive and Bluto. Using only his own strength and normal personality, he can't be compatible with her at all. When Popeye and Olive go on a Vacation With Play, all Popeye wants to do is nap all day and he's perfectly content to let Olive go off by herself even though she's asking him to join her in sports.
When she decides to spend the day with Bluto, we can't feel too upset for Popeye. After all, he had his chance. And don't tell me he was just too tired from carrying the car.
We see Popeye perform superhuman feats of strength all the time without having to head for a hammock afterward. And in the rest of the cartoon, he seems to have energy aplenty. At the end, during a scene meant to convey the feeling that, Bluto being vanquished, the vacation is continuing, Popeye still wants to lay around and do nothing!!! It seems he really doesn't want to spend any quality time with Olive unless another guy expresses interest in her first!!
When Olive dreams of their wedding in Bride And Gloom, she envisions Popeye having to eat spinach in order to get through his vows and knowing the Famous Studios' Popeye, she's probably right!! Parlez- Vous Woo demonstrates that Popeye needs to eat spinach even just to be able to turn Olive on. Without it, he leaves her cold. When a girl returned my diamond, I can assure you that laughing was the farthest thing from my mind.
Popeye also shows little regard for Olive's physical safety. A Balmy Swami finds Popeye endangering Olive's life when he interferes with a hypnosis trick. Private Eye Popeye leaves Olive tied up while he chases a suspect around the world.
Popeye also seems to care little for her emotional and mental well-being. In A Balmy Swami, he doesn't seem to care that Olive is totally bored.
He's more interested in the performing seals than in her. In Car-azy drivers, Popeye mocks Olive as a woman driver. Maybe back in the 40s and 50s these attitudes were common, but viewed later, they make Popeye look like a male chauvinist of the worst kind.
Does this guy want a relationship with Olive or not? At least Bluto always knows exactly what he wants!! Does Popeye even know how to have a relationship? Isn't the hero of a movie supposed to be the best guy for the girl, the one "made for her"? There are legitimate reasons why Olive always jilts him. And speaking of Olive jilting him, how many times does it have to happen before he gets the message that she doesn't really like him, she's just using him to get out of uncomfortable situations?
Even if Popeye and Olive wind up together at the end of one cartoon, at the start of the next one, she'll jilt him again. Here's just a sample of the times she's done it: How can you respect and root for a guy who's such a glutton for punishment?
And he receives plenty of it, sometimes because he's too stupid to see the obvious - not a very heroic trait.