Thursday, January 29, 2009
One of my favorite cartoons is a long running show on the Cartoon Network titled Courage the Cowardly Dog.
In every episode, Courage, a lavender mutt, and his two elderly owners, Eustace, a toothless crank, and his wife Muriel, a treacly sweet white haired codependent in an apron, confront the most unlikely of paranormal dangers. The three live in an isolated house in the middle of Nowhere (really) where they attempt to carry out a regular existence. Eustace natters about, muttering and cursing while Muriel bakes cookies and smooths it all over. Courage wants nothing more than a good scratch, a meal, and a nap.
Inevitably, a paranormal antagonist intrudes into their lives and sets
in motion a life threatening adventure that can't be avoided. It comes
in the form of an alien space robot who has been trained to destroy
worlds, or a mummy freed by an archeologist and now spreading the mummy's curse, or a microbial infection that turns the victim into a giant pustulant foot, or a possessed automobile, or, well, you get the picture.
Eustace and Muriel navigate each episode sometimes barely aware of the incredible dangers that are threatening their lives. But Courage sees it all. His animal self is the first to notice the monster at the door, and it terrifies him. In comic visual excess he yowls in fear, shaking and trying to point to the oncoming danger. Usually no one else is paying attention. And in every episode, with his knees knocking and his teeth chattering, Courage sees the danger for what it is, acts without thinking, and in the end saves everyone from an inventive menu of sufferings and terrible deaths. His thanks are more taunts from Eustace, a warm meal from Muriel, and a nap. Just long enough to get ready for the next bizarre intrusion.
In contrast with the name of the show, Courage is anything but cowardly. He is honest, and what he sees terrifies him. As an animal, his instincts keep him aware of his immediate surroundings while Eustace and Muriel have long ago buried their instinctual selves underneath their roles as codependent partners in a marriage that you may recognize from some of your own relatives. But Courage never fails to act in the face of that fear, and it is his open eyed relationship with the world that in the end saves the day for everyone.