• Joe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #168: Jessica Rabbit


What a wife.

So, yeah, it was 1988. We were thirteen, and pretty much the target audience for an animated voluptuous sequined redhead cabaret singer. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was a fun, inventive film (based loosely on Gary Wolf's mystery novel, Who Censored Roger Rabbit?), and groundbreaking in its ambitious combination of live action with cartoons.This had been done before, of course (Mary Poppins, The Incredible Mr. Limpet, among others), but Roger Rabbit sustains the practice throughout the film with extraordinary effectiveness. Christopher Lloyd and Bob Hoskins are fantastic, and the storyline works, including rare self-deprecation from parent company Disney with the portrayal of iconic characters (including the Mouse Himself) shedding their pastel veneers. Some observers have argued that this film was the true opening of the new Disney Renaissance, paving the way for the following year's The Little Mermaid as the subsequent string of classics in the 1990s.

But we're here to talk about Jessica. God, she was awesome. Cartoonishly sexy, and yet actually sexy, voiced to perfection by Kathleen Turner at her gravelly best, Jessica set an impossible standard for come-hither empowerment. While a sex object, she was independent and powerful, loaded with 1940's-style tough-broad self-possession, witty and worldly. Her slit-skirt seduction and gravity-defying decolletage were just part of the show, her intimacy reserved solely for the love of her life, the goofy and soulful Roger Rabbit. I think this counter-intuitive marriage, in addition to Jessica's obvious charms, was at the heart of her appeal, especially to thirteen year-old boys more goofy than soulful. You didn't have to be a six-pack stud to find happiness with a knockout. You could do what Roger did, and make them laugh.

Jessica Rabbit wasn't bad. She was just drawn that way.

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