I-con-o-clast (noun) a person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions.
Either my late father or Bugs Bunny is responsible for turning me into an iconoclast. My father, a dentist who had retained his Brooklyn accent and distinctive New York attitude, was overshadowed in my childhood by another Brooklynite, Bugs Bunny, whose cartoonishly exaggerated accent and attitude were strikingly similar to dad’s, and much, much more entertaining. Dad would read the paper and rail against Republicans, the War, whatever the Times had going that morning. Bugs would fill the piano with dynamite.
I think it’s safe to say that in my formative years I spent more time with Looney Tunes than I did with my parents, my older siblings, or the procession of Jamacian housekeepers who leveraged new technology to make the old job of babysitting much easier. So my brother and I spent much of the 1960s parked in front of the (eventually color) tv for hours of Bugs Bunny run over and over again, until we could differentiate the period, directors, artists, and could say the words in sync with the characters. Sure there were re-runs of “McHale’s Navy”, “I Dream of Jeannie”, and “Dragnet”, but nothing spoke to our as yet unnamed suburban ennui better than Bugs who, like a kid, appeared to have no job, but unlike a kid spent his time meting out justice to those who deserved it: authority figures (Yosemite Sam), hunters (Elmer Fudd), and idiot neighbors (Daffy). Bugs Bunny was the ultimate iconoclast. He threw himself not only at his aggressors, but at the symbols they represented.
My entire life has been spent with Bugs inside me, trying to get out. Like my hero, I never met a situation that didn’t deserve a smart remark, much to the delight of my classmates, whose entertainment was apparently my personal calling, a service for which I have trying to get paid ever since.
Bugs wasn’t the only wise-cracking know-it-all in show business in the 30s and 40s. Bogart’s roles were typically taciturn men, strong enough to live a life of adventure, circumspect enough to crack wise when the going gets tough.
“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” says Bogart to corrupt police chief Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) as they quit Casablanca to join the Free French army in West Africa.
Funny how the wisecracking hero flourished during the conformism of the 50s and 60s. No one could touch Bugs. Maybe eventually Robin Williams matched his manic wit, his chameleon-like quality, and his supernatural means of bending reality to his will.
The iconoclastic wise guy was hardly limited to cartoons or television. Roy Lichetenstein, perhaps America’s most famous modern artist, deconstructed print media, yet he revered its populist appeal. It takes the mind of a satirist to turn a medium back on itself to create new meaning. Who raised Lichtenstein? Not Bugs Bunny. His grandfather. Comics.
iconoclastic — attacking or ignoring cherished beliefs and long-held traditions, etc., as being based on error, superstition, or lack of creativity.
When one of my professors told me I was an “archetypal iconoclast” I laughed. And then secretly raced to the library — no internet then — to find out what it meant.
No one who sets out to make anything, a painting, a web site for making and sending memes, a Broadway musical, anything, without being a true iconoclast, tearing at the edge of reality, trying to create the slightest chink of sunlight, so the light that illuminates the reality of our times can peek through to show something truly new. We rail against reality. We expose the man behind the curtain. We give birth to the new because we hate the old.
I always entered the stage as Bugs Bunny, the guy who was going to change everything, rail against false gods, and construct new ones. The new guy has a license to criticize and question everything, throwing over idols, and asking why, why, why about everything. That works for six months, maybe a year, until suddenly you’re not the new guy anymore. Now you have ownership of the thing you’re there to kill.
I got my job at AOL in 1995 because of the job I did at Disney. The job I did at Disney I did because I was raised by Bugs Bunny.