It’s no secret that America’s favorite cartoon character Bugs Bunny has one very popular go-to trick for deceiving his enemies, particularly that hillbilly Elmer Fudd. A master of disguise, Bugs Bunny has never shied away from wearing women’s clothing to best his rivals and save his life. He ferociously bats his eyelashes and gets uncomfortably close to their face to distract them, daring to kiss them sometimes.
Throughout his 75 years on air, Bugs has transformed into everything from a southern belle to a mermaid to Little Red Riding Hood—each time momentarily stealing the heart of his rival, then usually giving himself away by turning around and exposing his tail.
And not to be outdone two other favorites, Mickey and Donald, use their feminine wiles to amuse us. There’s something to be said for the “good ole days”
The following is a reprint from Kristelle Watkins’ blog, The Transitioner’s Primer, A blog about transgender culture and history. She writes about Bugs in her article, “Bugs Bunny: Transgender Inspiration…Or Insult?
Cartoons have been a staple in culture since the 19th century. They have been used to show the hypocrisy and corruption in our political environment, economic policies, and religious beliefs as well as for general entertainment to escape those same problems in our culture. In the world of cartoons, no idea is safe from criticism and no subject is taboo. Over the years many cartoon characters have crossdressed, mostly to escape the shenanigans of the episode’s antagonist or strictly for a laugh. But one character throughout the history of cartoons embraced the practice of cross-dressing unlike any other. That character is Bugs Bunny. I’m pretty confident that Bugs is such an icon in modern culture that I don’t have to detail the extensive history of the character. However, a brief summary should be appropriate.
Bugs was created in 1940 and appeared in various episodes of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies produced by Warner Bros. During the golden age of animation his popularity surged and he was assigned as the official mascot of Warner Bros. He is one of a handful of animated characters that have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is the first animated character to earn the honor. He has been portrayed in more film than any other cartoon character. And is the ninth most-portrayed film personality in the world. Three episodes he was portrayed in were nominated for Oscars, the third of which won.
While the character is identified as a male, many episodes that Bugs appeared in portray him dressing in drag to escape the clutches of his antagonists. It is a trait he has exemplified throughout his entire existence. In one of his earliest episodes, there is a scene in which he is in a dressing room and begins to explore dressing as a woman, admiring himself in a mirror as he progresses in donning a feminine form and identity. In many of these early episodes, he would yelp or give a frightened shriek when discovered dressing as a woman and eventually began to dress in “public” regularly without embarrassment. In these early years, he did a relatively poor job at portraying a female but, as time passed his skill at impersonation greatly increased. His makeup skills improve, his shape becomes more feminine, and his mannerisms become exponentially more sensual over time. His latest appearance in the full-length feature film Looney Tunes: Back In Action, there is a scene in which he is dressed in drag with a resemblance to Marylin Monroe. (He’s absolutely gorgeous, a picture from that scene is below.)
Creators, producers, and writers for his various appearances have maintained that Bugs’ portrayals in drag were simply to register a laugh from the audience. One went as far to say “We believed someone in drag was one of the funniest things a person could see in real life and it would translate well into our cartoons.” However what many of these creative people fail to realize is how they built the character. Bugs loves dressing as a female often portraying flamboyant female archetypes, until Space Jam, he resisted the advances and showed no interest in female characters, and unlike many of his looney costars, Bugs portrayed his femininity with a style and grace that exemplified the idolization of the feminine form…rather than mocking it like his counterpart Daffy Duck. Even when efforts were made to introduce female versions of many of the Merrie Melodies bunch, Bugs’ counterpart Lola eventually embraced his feminine ways and became the one who “wore the pants” in the relationship.
Now in some circles in the transgender community, the debate over whether Bugs is an insult to our community or an inspiration persists. In my own personal opinion, Bugs is an inspiration. To best understand why I believe this, one must view the character through the eyes of a child that is experiencing gender confusion. When I was a child, seeing Bugs dressed as a female gave me consolation that what I was experiencing was ok. Even when Bugs was around other characters dressed as a female, he was accepted and believed to be a female without suspicion. This gave me hope that eventually, I would experience the same acceptance from those around me.