On paper, Jessica Rabbit looks like a nightmare for feminism. A sex bomb, married to a rich man – rabbit – whatever, better not to think about it too hard, making shady deals and acting very suspiciously. In fact, if you ever read the book Who framed Roger Rabbit is based on (named Who censored Roger Rabbit), she is exactly that, the film noir cliché of the femme fatal. Because, you know, a sexual woman is a dangerous woman.
Thankfully, the Disney movie subverts this trope, along with the whole film noir genre in general. Aside from the usual cartoon hijinks, a lot of humour of the movie is based on taking the typical elements and exaggerating into the ridiculous. For example the main character who is driven by the death of someone close to him is a very common trope. That it involves getting smashed to dead by a falling piano makes the whole thing (intentionally) hilarious. And that is more or less the whole movie, a lot of dark humour, elevating an actually fairly simple crime story into something unusual. Though seeing all those animated characters on screen, interacting with humans and getting treated as if they are real, is naturally the main aspect which makes the movie stand out.
Aside from being an impressive technical achievement and a love letter to animated characters, it also offers a fascinating female character. Well, there is naturally the little fact that Jessica Rabbit is sex on two very long legs, the most erotic character ever drawn. She is a perfectly balanced mix between realism and cartoon. For example, did you ever notice that her breast move contrary to gravitation? Pushing up with nearly every movement? But there is enough “human” in her, that it doesn’t look weird how real actors are staring at her.
With Jessica Rabbit, everything comes down to motivation. Which again, could have ended up very sexist with any other character, because her main motivation is her husband. She would do everything to protect him, and in this relationship, she is certainly the one with the smarts. But her love to Roger doesn’t come off as self-sacrificing at all, mostly because she could pick whoever she want – or nobody at all. She might look like a gold-digger, but in reality, she is above this kind of games. She is with Roger because she wants him and nobody else, and if you love someone, you will protect him, no matter what. Not that Roger is a bad catch (if you have no problem with him being a Rabbit). He is a successful movie star after all, though Jessica’s main reason for falling in love with him is the fact that he makes her laugh.
In a way, Jessica’s good look make her invisible. Because the only thing everyone notices is an attractive woman, but only a few people in the movie pay any attention to her personality. They see her and immediately think that they know her. In the end, the joke is on everyone who underestimates her.
Smart, competent and sexy, Jessica Rabbit knows what she want from live, and she has the abilities to reach every goal she wants. So let’s conclude it with her iconic
Quote: “I am not bad, I was just drawn that way.”
I recommend this movie to everyone who grew up with animated movies and shorts and still loves them. For them, this is a must-see movie.
Also to everyone who is interested in the technical aspect behind movie making. The blend in between animation and real actors is so well done, a lot of movie makers who use CGI should take a good look at this one and take notes.
And if you are a film noir fan, you might appreciate a comical take on this genre.
A fair warning, though: The movie might be rated PG, but parents should proceed with caution. It intentionally addresses an older audience and a couple of scenes can be very disturbing. I don’t think that it would do any real harm, and most of the double innuendoes will most likely go unnoticed by younger children either way, but it is borderline PG-13 imho.