It’s probably not weird to have a cartoon childhood icon. I know that I had several. What might be slightly more weird is the fact that it’s Jessica Rabbit.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? came out when I was seven years old and I was completely enthralled. I wasn’t an idiot, I understood the difference between cartoons and reality, but I didn’t understand how they could possibly occupy the same space on the screen in front of me. The story that human beings and Toons could live together in the real world completely blew my mind. I thought it was excessively clever and wished that Dumbo would show up at my window looking for peanuts. I didn’t know what Film Noir meant, but I knew I liked the pace and feel. But above all that, I really really liked Jessica.
Jessica Rabbit may not be the best role model on the planet. She is, after all, playing pattycake with men who aren’t her husband, slutting it up on stage at the Ink & Paint Club, and towards the end it’s pretty clear she’s not wearing any underwear when she get thrown from Benny the Cab. Still, there’s something to be admired in Jessica, I think. After all, she says it herself; she’s not bad, she just “drawn that way”. And it true. I’m not entirely sure how Toon romance works, but she’s most certainly all woman (I’m pretty sure her breasts have Barbie beat by a landslide) and the chick married a rabbit. I think that’s supposed to be surprising. I know that my seven year old self really expected her to be a rabbit as well. It’s her last name and we know that Roger quite literally is. Bob Hoskins is certainly expecting a leporid entertainer to emerge for her performance and is stunned into mouth dropping when Jessica takes the stage. So, why did a woman who looks like that marry a rabbit so ridiculous he almost gets on my nerves? He makes her laugh, of course. Girl has her priorities in order. Just saying.
Jessica’s painted (no pun intended), from the beginning, as the femme fatale of the piece. Of course when I was seven I didn’t have any ideas about femme fatales. I didn’t know how noir worked. I didn’t quite get that pattycake is apparently some kinky stuff in Toon Town so I didn’t really understand that she was meant to be betraying her husband right off the bat. I got he was upset, but it’s just pattycake, right? Right? I’m clearly not a toon. Children are optimistic, so I never saw Jessica as a cheater, and I believed her when she said she was doing all she was doing for her husband and for the best. Kids believe things. So I wasn’t surprised when it turned out that she did love her husband and was loyally trying her best to protect him. Like everyone else in the story she was a pawn in someone else’s great scheme.
Now, I think it’s amusing. In most noir films the femme is not trusted, then trusted, then not trusted, then trusted again until we discover it’s been her plan all along and we were right to not trust her in the first place. Of course, by then, she’s manipulated the main character into a false sense of trust via love affair. Here that’s not the case. We assume it will be, but just like the first time you saw your first noir, you’re surprised. And that’s good, cause who doesn’t like a good surprise? And carrot cake, cause I really love carrot cake.
Plus, well, all kids are pretty much obsessed with sex (as if that really ever changes) and there ain’t nobody that can deny Jessica is dripping with it. Everything she does is sex, from her performances to just walking down the street. She can’t help the way she was drawn, but she certainly uses it to her advantage sometimes. And why not? After all, in Jessica’s own words, “You don’t know how hard it is being a woman looking the way I do.” True, but I wish I did.