One of the funniest and/or disturbing things about the Brer Rabbit and Uncle Remus tales is that Brer Rabbit almost always wins. Seems reasonable – he is the protagonist after all. What’s bizarre is that it’s often pretty questionable whether Brer Rabbit should win.
(Roofing and tails just look so much alike.)
I mean, flat out, he’s not particularly likable. He’s cunning, clever, and manipulative, consistently tricking others into doing what he wants. He rarely lives up to the “hero” part – as we typically define it – of the literary trope he represents: the trickster hero.
One of the originals, Brer Rabbit exists in a gray area between good and evil, where wit trumps all. He’s in pretty great company, though: think Bugs Bunny, an easy association, but even the likes of Robin Hood and Bart Simpson fall into the mix.
(Remember that crazy tailor? What a trickster! Also, vanity = bad.)
Technically you need to be an animal to be a trickster hero, but we can make this leap together, right?
What keeps us coming back to Brer Rabbit is that, for some reason, we find him (and the other tricksters) redeemable. Outwitting a murderous persecutor is something we can all relate to, and humorously!
The difference between the trickster and the simply tricky is obvious in most good storytelling, and usually makes for pretty blatant good vs. bad storylines. Or, in the case of the totally awesome movie Lain, Matt and I saw last night, Billy vs. Steve storylines.
People don’t always think of documentaries when they think of good storytelling, but that’s because they’re being dumb. As friend-of-Joel-Chandler-Harris Mark Twain once said, “Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.”
The highly recommended documentary I speak of is King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (trailer) (official site) about the quest of two men to get the world’s highest Donkey Kong score. Yeah, that’s right.
In the left corner we have Billy Mitchell.
To sum up, he’s not really someone you would want talking to your children, for fear he would teach them a rather skewed history of… everything.
In the right corner we have Steve Wiebe (pronounced wee-bee, for his sake and yours).
Steve teaches children professionally and you would probably trust him to do approximately anything.
You should absolutely see this movie, not only because it is a great example of storytelling, but because it’s just the kind of pulled up by your bootstraps effort we at this pulled up by our bootstraps house museum like to support…. and because you will learn the word “chumpatize”. Victory!