5 Dark Backstories Behind Famous Characters
To be a child watching cartoons is to live life in sweet, naïve bliss. Basically, kids are dumb as hell, and their little minds can only comprehend what is directly in front of them. They don't need backstories or context in their TV shows and movies. If the talking dog saves the day in the end and the bad guy falls in the mud, they'll give two thumbs up to any old show aimed at their tiny eyeballs. Meanwhile, adults are able to read between the lines and see all of the messed-up scenarios unraveling in the background of shows meant for younger minds ...
Patti Mayonnaise’s Family Is Sad
If you came of age in the mid-'90s, odds are Nickelodeon's Doug held your hand along the way. Doug was a cartoon about the titular Doug Funnie and his adventures in junior high. Like any typical 12-year-old, a lot of Doug's daydreams and plots centered around a love interest; in this case, one Patricia "Patti" Mayonnaise, his classmate, friend, and amorous pursuit throughout the run of the show.
In the original run of the show, Patti is a kind-hearted, friendly, athletic sixth-grader who Doug falls for almost immediately after moving to the town of Bluffington in the state of Undisclosed. While the series centers on Doug's adventures, Patti appears in almost every episode, usually in a daydream as a damsel in distress whom Doug must save. Which is completely conflicting with the badass that Patti is in real life. But every so often, we get a peek into Patti's personal life, her home, and her family. During the show's run, Patti is only ever been shown to have one relative in her father, the wheelchair-bound Chad Mayonnaise. We learn much later in the series -- after it had moved from Nickelodeon to Disney -- that Patti's mom has passed away sometime after she was a little girl. In the episode Patti's Dad Dilemma, they actually go to visit her grave.
While the episode was very direct in its efforts to help young kids understand and cope with feelings of grief, some read-between-the-line details provide a bit more information about Patti's mom's fate. For instance, during a flashback where Patti remembers her mom, Chet is shown without his wheelchair, meaning his paralysis happened after this.
You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes or Smash Adams to connect the dots. In one timeframe, the Mayonnaise family is living happily and healthy. Fast-forward to the present, and we're down a mom and a set of legs. One can then presume that whatever paralyzed Chad is the same thing that killed Patti's mom. This seems to be confirmed by any wiki page you check, where they mention a car accident as the culprit. Eventually, Patti's dad starts dating again, and she learns that moving forward into the future does not mean letting the past go. It's a heavy message for kids, which gets even heavier when you consider what went on behind the scenes for Patti. You won't find this entry in Doug's journal!
Wreck-It Ralph Is The Good Guy. Government Is Bad.
The children's movie Wreck-It Ralph asks the existential question of "What if video games were sentient?" What if Donkey Kong could get sick and tired of your donkey crap? What if Mario was secretly hanging out with Toejam and Earl after you went to bed? What if pixels had an agenda?
On the surface, it seems like a pretty cut and dried premise: After 30 years of being the bad guy, the bumbling Wreck-It Ralph decides to leave his game and see what else is out there for him. This, of course, causes turmoil within the game universe when Ralph's game, Fix-It Felix Jr., is scheduled to be shut down, leaving Felix and the other Nicelanders without a home. It's a bummer of a situation that would have never happened had Ralph not thrown a little fit about his job and just stayed the course.
But hold up just one goddamned second! How does one even get the job of VP In Charge Of High Rise Destruction? What are Ralph's motivations? Just what turned him so bad? Well, it turns out Ralph has every right to be pissed off at Felix for fixing the building and for the Nicelanders even being there in the first place. See, towards the beginning of the film, we're shown Ralph's home (which is a tree stump, somehow) being bulldozed away to make room for the apartment complex. That's about all the back story we get on Ralph's situation. It is not until the second song of the ending credits where we're introduced to the nonexistent prequel to Wreck-It Ralph.
Eminent domain is when the government pays an individual and seizes their private property to convert it for public use. Eminent domain is a spicy topic of debate if you're looking for something to talk to the family about over Christmas dinner this year. One side says it's great for the economic value of an otherwise dilapidated area. The other side has a major issue with the demographic displacement that always follows. The latter is the case with Ralph. He did not ask to be moved from his home and was perfectly happy to live out his days sleeping on (in, around?) his magic stump.
Plus, as far as we can tell, Ralph was never paid for his land. He was simply given the boot so a bunch of rich jerks and a magic building super could prevent him from ever doing anything about it. It lends absolute credence to the line from the film, "You are a bad guy, but this does not mean you are a bad guy." #ZangiefWasRight
All Garfield Comic Strip Characters Are Near Death
Garfield isn't a complicated comic strip. The cat has the same three comedy bits throughout the entire run of his comics: food, sleep, and abuse. This approach has allowed Garfield to coast through newspaper comic sections for over 40 god damn years! And we're not talking 'cat years' here; this is four decades of the same four jokes ad-infinitum until the eventual heat death of the universe. And Garfield's creator Jim Davis never shies away from celebrating Garfield's birthday every June 19th, reminding us each year of the fat cat's longevity.
This isn't a situation like The Simpsons, where everyone has been the same age since 1987; in the comic universe of Garfield, everyone ages in real-time. That also means that Odie the dog, World's Cutest Kitty Cat, Nermal, and Jon Arbuckle, Garfield's owner (and butler?), also age in real-time. With this in mind, let's check the comic for December 23, 1980, where Jon tells Garfield he is 29 years old. We ran the numbers through our Cracked supercomputer, which is just a Ti-85 from 2003, and it revealed that John's age as of 2021 would be 71 years old.
If Garfield has aged one year for every year he has been in publication, so, too, must Jon. Even a quick google search for Jon's age tells you that his birth date is July 28, 1950. So the next time you see a modern Garfield comic, just remember the reason Jon thinks his cat can talk is that he's probably in the late stages of dementia at this point.
An Untimely End For Miss Gulch
If you were to boil down the plot of The Wizard of Oz, it is essentially a movie about a little girl who runs away from the mean, old lady trying to kill her dog. Some other stuff happens, but from a story structure standpoint, that is about the long and short of it. Of course, while running away, Dorothy and her dog Toto are stuck in a tornado that plows its way through her Kansas county, nearly decimating the young lady and her dog in the process.
After Dorothy gets absolutely bodied by some windows in her room, she is knocked unconscious while the rest of the film plays out in her head. She wakes up surrounded by her loved ones -- a little beat up but no worse for wear. Dorothy is happy to be home, and the film ends on as uplifting a note as it can for a country about to head into World War II. But that can't be the end of the story, right? Just because someone bumps their head doesn't mean their dog's criminal record is automatically expunged. Miss Gulch is coming for that dog, Dorothy. And from what we've seen of Gulch in the film, nothing is going to stop her.
Before Dorothy is whisked away to Oz, we're only introduced to a handful of characters in Kansas. There's Miss Gulch, of course. Dorothy's aunt and uncle, the three bozos who work on the farm, and some weird magician guy. At the end of the film, Dorothy wakes up, and almost all those characters are back; even the creepy, old illusionist guy managed to follow the young girl home to check in on her.
The only person absent here is Miss Gulch. This is because she was riding home on her stupid bike when the tornado hit. Think about it: Miss Gulch does not notice any weight distribution after a 14-pound dog suddenly jumps out of her bike basket. It also makes sense that this lack of spatial awareness prevented her from clocking a goddamn cyclone coming at her. Plus, we see Gulch and her bike inside the cyclone just before she turns into the witch, which we must assume is how witches are made. If you need further proof that Miss Gulch is as dead as that one Munchkin, you can check the archive of the official website where it previously said as much.
So sorry to all the Miss Almira Gulch stans out there. She dead!
Elmo’s Dad Is In The Military
The Muppets represent the best of us (except Beeker … We know what you did). And if there was a subsection of The Muppets that represented the best of The Muppets, that subsection is Sesame Street. All of us grew up with The Street, where we learned to read, write, sing, and play together. This was accomplished through a wonderful group of fuzzy, happy monsters whose only purpose in life is to teach kids while providing a friendly outlet from the harsh realities of the outside world.
Often at the helm of this friendship is Elmo, the little, red monster that spawned a bunch of stressed-out Christmases for parents around the world. Elmo is often the audience surrogate, asking questions of the grown-ups that all kids should know the answer to. Because Sesame Street works so hard to ensure kids have a way to understand everything about the world around them, sometimes the characters are forced to reckon with heavier topics. One such topic comes up during the 2006 DVD Talk, Listen, Connect: Deployments, when Elmo has to come to terms with his dad leaving for military deployment.
It's neither surprising nor peculiar that Sesame Street would release such a series of videos for kids during the height of the War on Terror. But the knowledge of Elmo's dad, Louie, being in the military brings up a whole slew of new questions relating to war, puppets, and the greater Muppet continuity. Did you know Muppets were on the front lines during the war? Did you ever figure that the father of Sesame Street's most prominent monster had killed before? Because we sure didn't, and it's kind of messing with our heads a bit. It's almost as gobsmacking as realizing Elmo's dad has a soul patch.
Muppets in the military have far-reaching implications in the Extended Henson Universe. Sure, the various Muppet shows throughout the years have parodied war stories and dressed the part. But Elmo's dad, as an enlisted man, is concrete proof that we're sending our puppets overseas to fight and possibly die for the country. While we're not given any glimpse into what this looks like, we can assume Sam the Eagle is a big part of it and that Saving Private Ryan in the Muppet universe plays out a little differently.
Top image: Richard Termine/Sesame Workshop