Oh to be a child of the nineties and have opinions grossly clouded by nostalgia. I grew up during this strange and magical time of Pokémon, Gushers, and DZ: Discovery Zone. Being a kid back then was awesome, it’s no lie. We had a lot of great things to entertain ourselves with. Sadly, there are some not so great things that some of us also remember fondly. I speak, of course, of Space Jam. Most all of my friends (also children of the 90s) love Space Jam. As a kid, I remember really liking it in the theaters. I mean it was Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes, how can you go wrong?
It was very wrong.
Unlike the best childhood movies, Space Jam (or the poor man’s Who Framed Rodger Rabbit) is full of really horrible life lessons. This is not a movie that teaches you to learn from the past and take responsibility for your life (The Lion King), or to be yourself (Aladdin) or that true beauty is found within (Beauty and the Beast).
Nope, none of those are here. Let’s look instead at what is presented in this film forgotten largely by anyone not between the ages of six and ten in 1996.
Kidnap Your Friends
Let’s start with something that’s really pretty big in the movie: Bugs Bunny and the other Looney Tunes never ask for Michael Jordan’s help (even though they easily could have – as it is established later in the film that they have no problem going to the “real” world). What do they do instead? Just toss a rope around him at a golf course and drag him over. Sure, once in Looney Tune land, Michael may have the opportunity to say no… maybe. Just keep in mind, if he did – he would have said no in a land surrounded by thousands of angry cartoon characters… oh and no one from home knew where he was so they’ll never find his body.
Women exist to be Sexualized in All Forms
Holy crap, who designed Lola Bunny? Speaking as someone who saw this movie at seven, Lola Bunny gave me some confusing thoughts that would not be explained for the next few years. Once they were explained, it left me with one question: who designs a children’s cartoon rabbit this way? She has human breasts! Lola is sexualized in a way that is frankly disturbing. Since no one other than Bugs (who is another rabbit) is attracted to her, why was she drawn with different appeal. Just why – what was the conversation that lead to her creation?
“Hey we got that Space Jam movie coming out, are we going to get the teenage crowd?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Better add breasts to the bunny just in case.”
Remember kids, if you’re going to have a woman in your movie, she had better be a sex symbol – even if she is a rabbit.
Bully the Fat Guy
Wayne Knight exists in Space Jam for one reason: to be made fun of. This wouldn’t matter so much if all the jokes weren’t targeted at one aspect of his character, namely his size. Sure, Stan (Knight’s character) is presented also as a dork, but why is he a dork – because he’s fat.
Forget the fact that he offers to help out in the big game against the Monstars, or that he sacrifices his health for the good of the team, or that he is the one to discover the Monstar’s plot, or that he generally tries to be a nice guy in general (the only one to really try to find Michael after the Looney Tunes kidnap him) – the movie doesn’t care and treats him only as a punchline. F*ck him, he’s nothing but a big old fattie. Yeah, he gets to announce Michael’s return to humanity at the end of the movie, but how about an apology – how about the “thanks for helping out, we were really lucky to have you with us, sorry we were kind of total dicks to you.”
No? Only Bill Murray gets told he can play basketball? Okay.
… Oh! And also bully short people, like the Looney Tunes were doing to the Monstars before they got tall. That’s the whole reason they picked basketball in the first place!
Succumb to Peer Pressure ALL the Time
Why does Michael agree to help the Looney Tunes? Does he feel truly sympathetic to their cause? Or is it because he gets insulted, and then goaded into joining by Tweety?
“You’re not scared of them, are you Michael?”
To which Michael, being the mature, responsible father he is, agrees to risk never seeing his family again in order to help out the cartoon characters who kidnapped him. Awesome.
Take Steroids and Cheat to Win
Oh my god, this is totally in the movie. Remember Michael’s “secret stuff” that helps him win every game? Sure, in the movie it is just water and the effects are purely placebo but holy crap! This comparison is really spot on to the steroid scandal that was (and still is) going on in the professional sports world today. Actual quote from the movie:
Daffy: “You know, this goes against everything they taught me in health class.”
Michael Jordan (role model to a generation): “You want to win or not?”
If Tom Brady said those words (even in a kid’s movie), people in New England would never hear the end of it, just saying.
Don’t Talk to Your Significant Other/Family
The whole time Michael is doing this potentially enslaving act for the Looney Tunes, never once does he send a message to his family. His kids only find out because they catch Bugs and Daffy robbing their house.
Michael’s wife, the woman he wanted to share his life with: she’s not important enough to know. Maybe he would have told her if she was more sexualized.
So there you have it. Keep in mind, I have not seen Space Jam in quite a while so I may not be remembering everything that happened in the movie. There could be more instances of life lessons that would have scared every child watching the movie.
Who knows? As I said, Space Jam has been largely forgotten. If only they could get that sequel off the ground: