The Pursuit of Happiness according to Morality
What is the message behind many children’s cartoons such as Tom& Jerry Wile E. Coyote& Road Runner and Sylvester & Tweety? Are children’s cartoons cautionary tales about morality? are we teaching children to resent others for doing what is in their nature?
Reading Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morality lead me to question the types of things that we have been taught from a very young age. These messages have been taught to us through picture books, cartoons and stories like little red riding hood. The idea of morality is often presented to us in a very black and white manner. There is very rarely a grey area in which we define characteristics of good or bad. This is the very same content that we expose our children to. While watching this video clip I asked myself, are we teaching children to resent others for doing what is in their nature?
In our culture, this type of content is often considered comical from an entertainment standpoint. But why do we find it so comical? Do we somehow derive some type of sick twisted pleasure from watching Wile. E Coyote suffer? I would say, we do and according to Nietzsche Wile. E Coyote is subjected to the eternal state of suffering because of his natural desire to pursue a decent meal to eat. The ever elusive Road Runner is implied to take extreme pleasure in watching him suffer as he endlessly evades yet another failed attempt.
I ask again: to what extent can suffering be a compensation for ‘debt’? To the degree that to make someone suffer is pleasure in its highest form, and to the degree that the injured party received an extraordinary counter-pleasure in exchange for the injury and distress caused by the injury: to make someone suffer…
In essence, we are teaching anyone in our society who watches these cartoons to have a sense of resentment (or Ressentiment) towards the coyote for being bad and we’ve created a sense of morality for it. The morality is exaggeratedly defined by the constant barriers he faces in trying to catch Road Runner. Often times, the viewer is left with the feeling that Wile E. Coyote got whatever pain he endured as he deserved in his feeble attempts to hurt the other. It is at this point that Road Runner is really the one in control of the power and by his virtue is typically looked at as the good one. According to Nietzsche’s ideas, Road Runner’s power isn't about causing Wile E. Coyote to suffer at all but by having the power to make him suffer. By defining Road Runner as good we have negated the virtues and characteristics of Wile E. Coyote and by default have labeled him as bad.
This cartoon, like the many is a parallel illustration of the metaphor that Nietzsche presented about the lambs and the birds of prey. We as a people have learned to define our morality around the resentment of the other group. This idea of defining whether we are good or bad based off of our resentment of others is incredibly flawed because it is at this point the we begin to create a negative mentality in which we create segregation, based off of race, religion and gender. In worse cases we begin to create factions amongst ourselves and before we know it we are spreading some type of ideology that leads us to go against our own kind.
I do not think that it is a coincidence that we have so many different types of issues that stem from the idea of “us versus them”
mentality or that we have wars being waged in the world we live in because of the creation of factions. The conclusion I’ve reached is that cartoons are not cautionary tales about morality because we do not learn how to be better people from them. They are a direct reflection of the human tendency to do what it does best, create reasons for why we are good and they are bad. For this reason, we should be incredibly cautious about the content we put into our minds, and the minds of children because we could possibly be responsible indoctrinating future generations on how to create a false sense of morality.