Why is America having a debate on the morality and validity of same-sex marriage? That issue was addressed more than a half-century ago, when Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd became the first same-sex couple joined in matrimony at the end of the 1950 cartoon “The Rabbit of Seville.” If you don’t believe me, tap into YouTube and see for yourself!
Many people might believe cartoons are strictly for kids, but “The Rabbit of Seville” (even by the standards of the Warner Bros. animators) was fairly mature – and not just because of its sophisticated parody of the Rossini opera. In the course of less than eight minutes, we witness razor blades being slashed across a face, homicidal chases involving axes and guns, a serpentine electric razor attempting to mutilate Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny using a hammer and chisel to break off a clay block balanced on Elmer’s face, and the indiscriminate use of chemicals atop Elmer’s scalp. One could imagine Tobe Hooper getting the director’s credit instead of Chuck Jones.
But, as any movie lover knows, you can’t have violence without lacing in sex. Bugs Bunny, ever the iconoclast, scores points for both alternative lifestyles and Latin pride when he dons the guise of the “little señorita” (complete with projectile tits) to dance a seductive flamenco with scissors taking the place of castanets. Elmer Fudd, representing the average American male in lust with the exotic seductress, blushes and crosses his legs (perhaps hiding an erection?) while the she-male Bugs snips away at his suspenders, causing his pants to drop to his ankles. Elmer’s lowered pants and his subsequent discovery that the Latina temptress is a rabbit (and a male rabbit, no less) creates a double dose of humiliation: his sexual frustrations are exposed while his emotional infatuation is shattered by the discovery that the new woman of his dreams is no woman.
Yet Bugs has not trapped the sexually frustrated Elmer in a theater of cruelty. The climax of “The Rabbit of Seville” provides a groundbreaking clarion call for the love that traditionally dared not speak its name. After Bugs disrupts their endless violence with gifts of flowers and candy, Elmer reacts to what may have been the first overt act of romantic outreach in his life. He happily agrees to become Mrs. Bugs Bunny, pulling out a wedding dress to join his newly beloved in matrimony. With a black-robed figure with a Bible conducting the brief ceremony (whether he’s a judge or a minister is not clear), the union of Bugs and Elmer signals a new era in screen coupling.
While Bugs proved to be a less-than-worthy mate (he immediately dumps Elmer head-first in a huge wedding cake after the ceremony), his union with Elmer sends a socio-political message that resonates in today’s raucous environment: if Bugs Bunny supports same-sex marriage, then who is Mitt Romney to contradict him?