All Growl and No Teeth: “Alligators and Handbags” review

There are a lot of jerks in the world. Which is something I’ve mentioned before.

Often times, determining why this is can be difficult. And sadly, during the past four months, it wasn’t covered in my Intro to Psychology class. There was never a week during which we did a psychological analysis on an asshole. Which makes me feel a bit disappointed.

The best explanation I can come up with utilizes Maslow’s Hierarchy of Motivation. It starts with basic physiological needs (water, food, sex); then moves onto the need for a safe environment; before social needs; then personal self-worth; and finally, ‘self-actualization,’ which basically means being Buddha or something.

Basically, these needs fuel a given individual’s actions, and are ranked according to priority. You need to have food and water, before you’ll start worrying about personal safety; and you need to have personal safety, before you concern yourself with human companionship.

And since being an asshole does not generally have a positive impact on one’s social life, the only possible reasoning I can think of to explain assholish behavior is out of physical necessity, or outright fear. Fear that they’ll lose, fear that they’ll get hurt, possibly even fear that people will find out how fearful they really are.

Not that this excuses them. They’re still jerks. But it does help you do one thing: combat them. With a bit of knowledge, it can be quite easy to take these asshats down a few pegs.

Which brings us to a recent episode of Littlest Pet Shop, featuring two different breeds of the same kind of asshole. The arrogant bully, and the scared bully. See if you can figure out which is which.

The episode opens with Roger bursting into the pet shop with a big announcement. His flight from Switzerland was chartered by a cat. (A single cat? Seems inefficient.) And this cat is owned by none other Mona Autumn, the editor of a major fashion magazine. And since Roger’s an airline pilot, he started chatting her up. Long story short, he got her to agree to meet Blythe, and look over her work.

Such a fantastic opportunity. I mentioned this before as well. The chance to present your work to an industry giant, is not only a career boon, but an inspirational shot in the arm. But Blythe doesn’t seem to agree.

You see, there are a few rumours floating about Ms. Autumn. Basically, she’s a bitch. She verbally assaults anyone whose work she doesn’t like, and because Blythe is… well… Blythe, fear, and her own inferiority complex, takes over.

Because of this, she starts to design some new stuff, instead of just presenting something from the albums of material she already designed. Her plan is to tailor-make something that she thinks will appeal to Mona’s sensibilities. What are her sensibilities? “She likes designs that are long, but short; poofy, but flat; silky, but rough.”

You know, Blythe, I think Mona might just be schizophrenic.

So, after pep-talks from Roger, the pets, and finally a quick chat with Mona’s cat (which has the opposite effect), she meets the woman herself.

It doesn’t end well. Seems that Blythe’s desire to show this woman exactly what she wanted to see, merely resulted in exactly what she’s seen before. One hundred per cent unoriginal dreck.

But while all this is happening, the rest of the cast have their own problems.

Meet Wiggles McSunbask, the newest arrival at the Pet Shop, and resident force of destruction and intimidation.

Each time any of them try to talk to him, he growls at or threatens them. As if he just has a knee jerk reaction to be a dick.

And this comes to a head when he offers a truce, by dividing the room so he can have his own territory.

AH! THAT’S! WHAT!? YOU! Prick… I mean that’s just not on.

So, the pets begin their revenge fantasy.

What is that? A TRON parody? What the hell? I mean, it sorta looks like TRON doesn’t it? I mean… I don’t… I’m really not sure what this is.

Anyway, eventually the gator goes to sleep, so they retaliate by building a cardboard barricade around him… which falls like a house of cards.

So they try their second tactic, confusing him by acting as if the shit they’re wearing is magic.

That doesn’t work either, but he does let them out of their circle, and, since he liked that fort they made, employs them as slave labour.

Yeah, it keeps snowballing like this.

Meanwhile, Blythe arrives back from her meeting, and is too moapy to notice the pets are crying for help. She explains to her father what happened, and he’s shocked that she didn’t show Mona the petpack she designed at the beginning of the season. Blythe reasons that Mona is so difficult to please, that she should design something to appeal to the woman’s sensibilities, even if she hates them. But Roger reasons that if she’s that difficult to please, she shouldn’t even try, and just try to please herself-not in that way!

He also tells her to try again. Or as he puts it: “You can’t just give up the first time someone tells you ‘no.'” Which can be misconstrued out of context… and that worries me.

So she arrives back at Mona’s office, without an appointment, and decides to wait for Mona to come out. Making the receptionist very nervous. Irrationally so, actually. Is Mona secretly some kind of eldritch horror? What the hell? I’m surprised she doesn’t quit.

Anyway, eventually Mona does arrive, I assume after slipping back into the human skin she uses to disguise herself among the population, and refuses to even talk to Blythe. So she corners Mona at the elevator, and just as the doors are about to close, just throws the petpack in. Why not board the elevator? That way she’s trapped with you as you give your elevator pitch. That’s why they call it an elevator pitch!

She panics and runs down the stairwell.

Anyway, back to the pet shop, the pets are building the fort, just as Wiggles demanded. But then, a line is crossed. He starts yelling at Penny Ling, she starts to cry, and Zoe snaps. She gives the alligator a good bollocking.

Place your bets! The dog versus the alligator! My money’s on the dog.

But this is when something strange happens.

Meanwhile, Blythe catches up with the lift, and this is when something strange happens.

Wiggles bursts into tears, and Mona bursts into excitement!

It’s at this point both characters reveal why they’re such dicks.

Mona explains that her attitude is more of an act, and she uses it as a test, to see who’s an ass-kisser, and who has a spine. Well, that makes perfect sense! Though it doesn’t explain why her assistant is such a nervous wreck. You’d think she’d be in on the joke, or fired.

And as for Wiggles… well, he’s just a dick. He acted like an asshole because he thought he could get away with it, with his teeth, and size, and intimidating look. And when Zoe called him out, he broke down, since he’d never actually been in a fight before. He was actually a coward.

See, we have two similar jerks, with two very different motivations. And because of that, only one of them ends up being somewhat sympathetic, and it’s not the alligator.

You see, Mona just wants to make sure she can respect people. Wiggles just wanted to get his way. So I don’t understand why the episode ends with the gang befriending him so readily. I’d have him wallow in self-pity for a while, just as punishment.

But I guess if that happened, we wouldn’t get our happy ending. Where everyone’s friends!

Plus I guess they just felt sorry for him… I don’t know why though. But in spite of this unusual development, I really liked this episode. It was a fun exploration of assholery, and creativity.

You see, there’s another interesting lesson in this episode. One beside the sympathetic bully plot. Since Blythe tried so hard to please Mona, she failed epicly. Not because she just didn’t know what Mona really liked, but because her creations had no heart to them. She had no passion while she was making them, and because of this, the quality tanked. They were boring designs because she was bored while making them.

It’s funny how well your own attitudes can come through in your art. For example, a couple of months ago, I got some feedback on Sibling Rivalry that basically said, it seems as if I just want to get the damn story over with. Which is actually true. I really want to finish that story, primarily because then I will have written something. It would be over and I can consider it a job well done. Instead, I really haven’t written anything, because I haven’t completed anything. A story is only done when it has an ending. And I really want to finish it. But to be honest, I find Sibling Rivalry to be my least interesting piece of work. Which is another reason I want to end it, so I can get to the sequel I have planned, the one with the interesting premise.

I don’t even know why Sibling Rivalry is so popular, it’s just a cheesy romance story. In contrast, A Waking Dragon is an existential drama about Spike unsure about the nature of reality, My Little Destiny is an action-packed sci-fi mystery in deep space, and With Rainbow Hair is… actually I’m not sure what that story is, I’ll have to get back to you on that…

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