Despite the protests of many gun-lovers in the wake of the new Looney Tunes show’s no-guns policy, Elmer Fudd does not need his signature rifle.
Many fans of the classic Looney Tunes cartoons were upset by a recent announcement that Elmer Fudd would not be using a gun in the new HBO Max series and are now threatening to boycott the show. This seems illogical, as gun ownership has never been an essential part of Elmer Fudd’s character, which has always been more defined by his baldness and buffoonery than his arsenal.
While no reason has been given for why HBO Max’s Looney Tunes has a no firearms policy, it is presumed that it is so the animated series will better suit modern sensibilities regarding imitable acts in children’s programming. The general standards regarding what level of violence can be depicted in children’s shows have become much stricter in recent years and many of the classic Warner Bros. cartoons have been edited for content in the past few decades. Some Looney Tunes cartoons have been banned from broadcast outright, due to racist content.
Like many of the classic Looney Tunes characters, Elmer Fudd evolved considerably before solidifying into the familiar form that is so beloved by animation aficionados today. Originally known as Egghead, the character that became Elmer Fudd went through several design changes from 1937 to 1940 before making his first official appearance in Elmer’s Candid Camera. This animated short was the first to feature Elmer with his trademark speech impediment and the first cartoon to pit him against a proto-Bugs Bunny, who pestered the aspiring wildlife photographer as he tried to take shots that had nothing to do with firearms. Other early Looney Tunes shorts featuring Elmer and Bugs saw Elmer attempting to go camping or pan for gold, only to have his efforts at relaxing or finding his fortune thwarted by “that scwewy wabbit!”
Elmer Fudd didn’t turn to hunting as a hobby until the short A Wild Hare, which is considered by animation historians to be the first true Bugs Bunny cartoon. While many of the Looney Tunes shorts that followed cast Elmer in the role of a hunter, he was portrayed, as in earlier shorts, as being the sort of hobbyist who was overly dependent on books and expensive equipment, and more concerned with appearances than practicalities, no matter what hobby he was engaged in at the time. What made Elmer particularly loathsome to some hunting enthusiasts was that he had no intention of eating what he killed, confessing to Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in the 1951 short Rabbit Fire that he was a vegetarian who only hunted “for the sport of it.”
Given that, there seems to be little reason for anyone to be upset over whether or not Elmer Fudd is carrying a gun as he tries to chase down Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Elmer was never meant to be a portrait of responsible hunters or gun owners. Quite the opposite, in fact. Besides, today’s Looney Tunes writers can prove their creativity by avoiding the same old gags involving misfiring shotguns and find new ways for Elmer to show off his excessive nature along with his incompetence, buying every useless gadget the Acme Corporation can foist upon him.