The birds, the bees, and cartoons on TV

SLOW DOWN, DILETTANTE - Jam Pascual (The Philippine Star) - March 31, 2017 - 12:00am

My first cartoon crush was Misty from Pokemon. Please understand, I was a wee lad and her getup was a cropped top and suspenders and there’s something about exposed belly buttons that makes me feel tingly. Then there was Lola Bunny from Space Jam, which was a weird phase to go through because she was basically a humanoid rabbit, but at least I can trace my attraction to Zootopia’s Officer Judy Hopps to a definite source. Then there was Ed from Cowboy Bebop? It was also weird because I didn’t know at the time if she was a boy or a girl? And also Jasmine from Aladdin. Again, belly buttons. I dunno, man. Don’t me!

I’m not alone in this. I know this, because in an interview on The Graham Norton Show, Eddie Redmayne said he had a weird crush on Nala from The Lion King. Golden Globe and BAFTA award-winning Eddie Redmayne, diggin’ on a cartoon. Not even he’s immune. Nala has… really nice eyes. And Simba was the first Disney crush of some girls. None of this is our fault. Even Anna Kendrick crushed on anthropomorphic fox Robin Hood. Disney should really stop making sexy animals.

I sound defensive but honest to God, this sh*t doesn’t really make sense to me either. If sexual desire exists in order to encourage the reproduction process and ensure the survival of a species, it doesn’t make sense for me to be attracted to an elaborate series of pen strokes. Or a humanoid rabbit. Charles Darwin, explain yourself.

At the same time, being attracted to a cartoon ain’t that weird anyway. As a kid, sure you get to interact with fellow human beings on the playground. But otherwise, your first meaningful exposure to human behavior happens through a cartoon character. You were too young to watch the news and maybe you weren’t really into noon time local game shows. So you tuned in to cartoon channels, where you didn’t just meet people, but also characters. Characters with definite goals and easy-to-decipher principles and mannerisms which may or may not have influenced what you look for in a person.

Let’s get a little more shallow, though. Let’s say you just like how a cartoon character looks, which is perfectly fine. Even if you don’t count personality, being attracted to a moving picture probably tells you a) what kind of features you’re into or b) what kind of aesthetic you like. These are nice things to know about yourself.

Because that’s always been the thing about stories — a good story can grant you a deeper understanding of who you are as a person. A journey or conflict can act as a mirror for you to see, in a better light, what your priorities and principles are. And if an attractive cartoon character can claim responsibility for your sexual awakening, well, that’s just good art, man.

This article was meant to resonate with the modern condition of geekdom-as-we-know-it. But this isn’t really an exclusively geek-related concern. The old masters of fine art have been doing sexy drawings since way before cartoons were even a thing. Katsushika Hokusai. Gabrielle d’Estrées. Humankind recognised the potential of art to arouse, so let’s stop pretending cartoons-with-clothes-on aren’t supposed to be attractive. It’s already a hell of a chore to navigate desire without feeling like a freak. But if a good piece of animation helps me with the processing, I’m all for it. And if buying a sexy action figure or a body pillow with your waifu on it is something you wanna do, well, we’re all allowed a few harmless eccentricities. I’d follow a cartoon character on Instagram if I could. Again, don’t me.

Also, let’s not pretend this sh*t only happens to kids and tweens. I’m willing to argue that sexual awakening isn’t just a thing that takes place during adolescence, but is also an ongoing process for as long as you’re capable of feeling arousal. If your sexual awakening is you finding out what you’re into, what happens when you keep finding out you’re into new things? For sure that happens with real people, so why wouldn’t it happen with cartoons? You like cat ears? Fine. You like… sharp teeth and forked snake tongues? That’s… okay I guess. Come on man, even the Snapchat dog filter is weirdly sexy. Why? Why is it always animals? I blame Disney.

Anyway, this isn’t going to end with me saying something like, don’t forget the real people! You’re not going to forget about the real people. Let’s just all agree that some cartoon characters look hella fine, and that’s okay. Be honest with yourself, but also don’t bother telling your parents. Damn. You know who’s hot? Daichi Sawamura from Haikyuu! So reliable. So caring! Also Makoto Tachibana from Free! So gentle, but also, ‘dem back muscles. Whew. Sorry, I’m done. BRB, gonna watch some AMV’s.

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