I’ll tell you why I love Jessica Rabbit. First of all, let’s take off our judgment lenses for a moment. So what if the woman is an elegant, sexy and seductive cartoon character? So what if she has become an iconic sex symbol next to Marilyn Monroe and Madonna? She’s not bad, she’s just drawn that way. Jessica Rabbit is an extension of her artist and male audience’s desires, lacking agency in representing herself as she wishes.
What is so intriguing about her character is that she understand that she is a prisoner (or slave) to her artist and male audience. In the book, Jessica Rabbit is just as sexy, but is an immoral character and wife. In the film, however, she is re-imagined as a moral figure–that is, she has a conscious: “Why don’t you do right, like other men do?” The point is that she is molded to the desires of her artist-creators (writer/artist) and in such a way that reflects the desires of her mostly-male audience. As a cartoon (and a female, too) she has no agency over how the world views and interprets her. In the media today, we see a similar occurrence–that is, female models are hired by companies owned by men, and laid out on pages, television and computer screens in ways that entice a majority male audience.
I sympathize with Jessica Rabbit. That is, I can see how women (and people in general) become objects that are interpreted by others (and society) as “good” or “bad”. The human mind tends to organize. In trying to organize the world around us, we create categories– binary oppositions. Organization is good, but human beings are complex and the world we live in is not simply black and white. The most troublesome category, I think, is that which divides people as either “good” and “bad”. Most of the time, we label others by what we see, not by what we know about them. For example, if I see a woman decked out in a mini-shirt, and sexy heels, I shouldn’t assume she lives immorally. I cannot assume that someone who is covered from head to toe is a better person. For all I know, the girl in the mini-skirt has a closer relationship to God from the inside.
What does it mean to be “bad” anyway? I wouldn’t even call my worst enemies “bad people”. If you smoke one day, does it make you a smoker? If you lie one day, does it make you a liar? Moreover, do bad habits make bad people? Do the occasional poor decisions and personal weaknesses mean an inability to become a better person? I don’t have a definite answer to these questions, but I am inclined to say “no”.
If there are “good” people, then why have religion and moral codes to encourage improvement? If there are “bad” people, why believe in God’s mercy at all? Once we label someone as “good” or “bad”, we take away their agency–we rob them of their complex conscientious human and spiritual nature.
Jessica Rabbit understands she is a character, and characters are created by writers/artists– from the perspectives of writers/artists. Good and evil, as we imagine it, are also perspectival. In a Nietzschean sense, there is no absolute truth. Instead, truth is examined, evaluated, and filtered through a lens. In Islam, for instance, there are thousands of scholars who work on interpreting texts (Qur’an, hadiths). Not all of them agree; not all Muslims agree. A common motivation (belief in one God and Muhammed, peace be upon him, as the final prophet) is what drives scholars and lay Muslims to seek truth. But every culture has it’s own interpretation of what is “right” and what is “wrong”.
There is always a filter in between human beings and Truth. In the case of the character Jessica Rabbit, it is her artist’s will to make Jessica Rabbit an object– an embodiment of heterosexual male desire. In the real world, it is the social norms, mores, perspectives; our physical bodies and limited minds–and our inclination to categorize people and the world into binaries– that leads us to reduce complex characters, human beings, into simple adjectives.