Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.
This week we look at a cartoon from 1943 entitled Red Hot Red Riding Hood. It was directed by Tex Avery. In 1994 it was voted #7 of The 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field, making it the highest ranked MGM cartoon on the list.
The story begins in the traditional manner with a young, innocent girl skipping through the woods, on her way to her frail Granny’s house while being pursued by a wolf. Suddenly the wolf breaks the forth wall and explains to the director that he doesn’t want to to tell the same boring tale again. The little girl and the granny concur and all refuse to act it out unless it can be told in a new, more interesting way.
The story begins again with the setting being upgraded from a forest to downtown Hollywood. We see the wolf (now representing more of a male sexual predator) cruising up and down the street in his limo cat-calling at women he passes. Grandma’s house is no longer a cottage, but a penthouse apartment complete with neon sign. Little Red has made the biggest change of all from small child in bloomers to sex goddess with the stage name Red Hot Riding Hood who sings at nightclub. This character is clearly the precursor to the curvaceous Jessica Rabbit.
The wolf follows Red to the club where she is performing, and goes mad with desire. He whistles and pants, pounds the table and howls and goes completely stiff all over with a *BOING* sound. It is said that the original animation was much more graphic. Tex Avery said censors made him edit out a shot where the wolf actually became physically aroused with lust. The uncut version was shown overseas to military officers who apparently went wild over it.
At the end of her set, he forcibly grabs her and brings her to his table and tries to woo her. She claims she is “terribly shy” and insists she is not interested. She excuses herself by saying she is going to her Grandma’s Place and points to the skyscraper. The wolf, off like a shot, manages to get there first. (His limo drives faster than her taxi.) It turns out that Red's grandma is an oversexed man chaser who likes a “bit of rough.” Upon seeing him, she whistles and says, "At last, a wolf! Yahoo!"
The Wolf tries to escape, but Grandma blocks the exit and asks him, "What's your hurry, hairy?" She locks the door, drops the key down the front of her evening gown, and poses provocatively for him. She chases him around the room, oblivious to his terror. Moments before the wolf was predator and now he is the prey. He does not like it when the tables are turned. The wolf eventually escapes by leaping out a window and crashing painfully on the pavement below. He hobbles back to the nightclub, bruised and bandaged vowing, "I'm through with women. Why, I'll kill myself before I'd even look at another babe." Immediately Red Hot Riding Hood takes the stage and begins to sing. The Wolf pulls out two handguns and commits suicide, but his ghost rises from his dead body and whistles and howls at Red as he did earlier.
The original ending was that the Wolf and Grandma were forced to be wed in a “Shotgun Wedding” with a caricature of Tex Avery as the justice of the peace. There would then be a scene of hybrid human/wolf children running around. This ending was blocked by the censors for implied bestiality and making light of marriage. Apparently sexual harassment was acceptable and not a cause for concern.
This film is interesting because it portrays multiple stereotypes such as the man who can’t control his lust and the sex starved older woman. Interestingly, despite being very curvy with a deep, smoky singing voice (but a baby speaking one) the least sexual character is Red Hot Riding Hood.
This film raises all sorts of issues, but I can’t decide if showing a woman who feels sexual desire is a good thing or not. It is a pretty unusual idea for the 1940’s that women have desires too, it is just a shame that they have to show it in such an exaggerated way. But either way, the sexual harassment and lack of consent worry me on both sides. No one should have to be pursued without their consent. I had hoped that the wolf would learn a lesson about what it feels like to be considered just an object. But alas, no.
Watch it for yourself;
Stay tuned next week or another Tex Avery take on this classic tale.