Woody Woodpecker – Knock Knock
Posted: August 8, 2010 Filed under: arts
Deconstructing Woody Woodpecker
We see here an allusion to Poe’s “The Raven” where a the lead character is seen “pouring over…forgotten lore” (Andy Panda reading a racing sheet) then is interrupted by a knocking on the door. Unlike Poe’s protagonist, this one is not grieving over a lost love but is busily ignoring parental responsibility by not paying heed to his son’s inquiry on a matter of truth. The son panda seeks knowledge on the matter of whether or not pouring salt on a bird’s tail would capture it. After some initial confusion over the source of the knocking, it is revealed to be a woodpecker (Woody, of course) pecking holes into the roof. Despite all efforts to capture it, including palpable threats of bodily harm to the son panda should he attempt to place salt on the bird’s tale, an interlude wherein a time bomb takes on the form of female bird that attempts to seduce the woodpecker (note the irony of his name in this instance) but nevertheless fails to destroy him. At the end, the son succeeds in pouring salt on the bird’s tale rendering him helpless. At that moment, we see a deus ex machina intervention from some “sane” woodpeckers who warn Andy Panda about the fact of Woody’s insanity. But it turns out, they are also insane and as the story ends we are left wondering if the Pandas will be able to deal with the ever increasing insanity interfering with their lives.
The story is rich in symbolism. Unlike Poe’s bird, who lacks agency, Woody is in control of the story throughout. This control over our lives indicates that he symbolizes our anxieties over our own lack of control in life. Andy Panda’s guilt over this is sourced in his gambling addiction, which obviously explains his lack of parenting skills. It is understandable that the little panda is unhappy and seeking attention. His life in a single parent household creates for him an interest to extend his knowledge towards measures of control over anxiety (pouring salt on the bird’s tale). The bird is able to resist all attempts at capture — our anxiety becomes ever present. Even an attempted resorting to technology (the femme fatale bird) only delays the onset of further anxiety. It is only through Salt that the bird can be controlled. Salt in Latin is “salarium” whence “salary” therefore symbolizing the rewards of work. So this cartoon is really a reinforcement of the illusion provided by the work ethic; that by our work we will achieve our desires. But note how the seemingly rational result of the “sane” woodpeckers turn ironic. Despite our work, it turns out that our anxieties cannot be controlled and we are doomed to experiencing Angst.
Okay, please stop looking at me that way and pass the salt.