Burning Down the Clubhouse

December 2009

I want to torch the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

Generally, I’d never consider resorting to violence when it comes to cartoon characters, but having repeatedly watched several mind-numbing episodes of the Disney Channel show, I think my desire might be justified.

I’m not a big television viewer. I pretty much stick with movies, hockey and Charm School. (Yes, I’m kidding about that last one.) It’s not that I’m anti-television or a TV snob, it’s just not how I prefer to spend my limited free time. When I was growing up, my parents watched every program that featured gun fire, and I suspect I developed some type of cop-show burnout because of it. Bernadette watches “24” but has banned me from the family room when it’s on because she’s tired of hearing me criticize Jack Bauer for not shooting out the tires of the weekly getaway car.

With Penelope, Bernadette and I limit the amount of time (one hour maximum per day) and the television programs that our daughter watches. In fact, the only three shows we allow her to view are Sesame Street, Little Einsteins and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

Recently, Penelope and I sat down to watch “Mickey’s Camp Out” before bedtime. Perhaps it’s an unhealthy dose of cynicism that impels me to look for veiled messages in seemingly innocuous cartoons, but I noticed something peculiar.

To earn “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Campout Badges” the gang — which consists of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald and Daisy Duck, Goofy and Pluto — must travel to a park and set up a tent. Now, I was confused right off the bat because if it’s Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse then who is giving out the badges? Is Mickey a puppet master who gets a rise out of jerking his friends around? Or is there a mysterious hidden power lurking behind the clubhouse pulling the strings?

The gang travels to the park, and Herr Mickey figures out sleeping arrangements. Since there are three tents and six campers, they break into groups of two. Donald Duck is immediately pissed off because he has to share a tent with Goofy. Now I suspect Donald is upset for two reasons. First, if there’s one clubhouse member who’s gay* it’s Goofy, and Donald isn’t wearing any pants. Second, I’m convinced Donald’s got some Shunga erotic massage oil and a mojo bag hidden in his cap, and he’s got his beady little eyes fixed on Daisy. But naturally, Mickey the Killjoy puts Minnie and Daisy together. A sexually frustrated Donald storms off by his lonesome, refusing to bunk with Goofy.

Now, on each episode Mickey has a device at his disposal called a “toodles,” which contains four Mouseketools to help him out of a jam. For example, he’ll have a fishing rod with a hand on the end of it, or a set of keys or an ice cream cone that he’ll use to plug a leaky boat (yea, like that’s gonna work). I’m not exactly sure what kind of lessons in responsibility and preparedness are being taught here, but I’m Mickey Mouse clueless when it comes to these matters. Actually, I would have loved a “toodles” when I was in college as long as it contained beer, pizza, cigarettes and truck-stop speed. (Note to my sister: If you are going to pass this blog along to our parents, please excise this paragraph. Actually, maybe it’s best if we keep this one to ourselves.)

Anyway, long story short: All the tents except Donald’s meets some tragedy, so everyone is forced to bunk in Donald’s crib. Donald, of course, is as happy as a Porky Pig in mud because he’s hoping to take Daisy on a ride to his magic kingdom.

But, I bet things don’t end as Donald hopes. Daisy’s the smartest egg in the clubhouse. In another episode, Daisy, Mickey, Pluto and Goofy travel to Mars to meet a character as annoying as Mickey Mouse: Yep, it’s Martian Mickey Mouse. For some reason they bypass Daisy and elect Goofy to captain the ship. I was thoroughly incensed and clamored about sexual discrimination. I mean who picks Goofy to run anything! Granted this country elected Goofy president twice, but I expect my animation writers to be smarter than your average voter.

I think Donald would have better luck with Minnie, but I’m not sure how the whole mouse-on-duck love thing would work. Species rightfully tend to stick together. Even in that crappy song by America from the 1970s, it was: “Muskrat, Muskrat candlelight.” You didn’t hear them singing: “Muskrat, Hermit Crab candlelight.”

Besides, if I were Donald I wouldn’t trust Minnie. I’d never trust a woman who owns only one pair of shoes and those are two sizes too big for her feet.

The other cartoon Penelope watches is “Little Einsteins.” Each episode features a piece of art by, say, Monet or Degas, and a classical composition by Mozart or Beethoven. That idea for the show I find clever, but I’m not so sure sometimes about the brain power of the four Little Einsteins. The kids travel around in a rocket ship which they never fly when they get stuck in a jam. For example, they’ll have to find a missing puppet in a maze and rather than fly over the maze, they’ll drive around in it. So, I have a hard time thinking of these kids as a couple of Einsteins. Then again, I guess no one would let their children watch a show called “Little Dumbasses.”

Look, I realize I’m watching these shows through the immature eyes of an adult, but would these Einsteins have had a prayer if confronted with the likes of Dick Dastardly and Muttley? I doubt it. But what do I know? Thanks to Martin Zellar, I still think Lancelot Link could have captured Osama bin Laden five years ago.

(*Note: I cast no sexual-preference asperions here. I just wonder about Goofy from time to time, that’s all.)

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