The newest subscription streaming service, HBO Max, launched last week to confused yet open arms. One of the biggest hits on the platform, which is owned by Warner Media, is the reboot of the Looney Tunes. The reboot harks back to the Warner Brothers’ golden age both stylistically and with its content, although there is one glaring difference to the new product and the classic show: the lack of guns.
The choice to remove guns from the Looney Tunes is an interesting one. It was a decision that could not be taken lightly as it would drastically alter the design for some of the shows most iconic characters. Elmer Fudd’s and Yosemite Sam’s guns were a major part of their look, their weapons complete their design. A testament to that fact is the jarring look of the replacement choices.
Instead of a gun, Elmer Fudd is carrying a scythe. This visually works as a one-time gag, but is somewhat jarring as his primary weapon. Elmer Fudd is a hunter, not a wheat farmer, after all.
Looney Tunes Reboot: All the Same Violence, Just No Guns
Beyond looks, the decision to remove guns still makes little sense. The reboot does very little to move away from the classic, hyper-violent tropes of the chase cartoon that are lampooned in The Simpsons‘ Itchy & Scratchy.
In an interview with The New York Times, showrunner Peter Browngardt explained the decision to keep all other forms of violence in the show, “We’re not doing guns, but we can do cartoony violence — TNT, the Acme stuff. All that was kind of grandfathered in.”
That stance makes little sense. It almost implies that the gun violence of the original show was a realistic depiction of gun violence. The fact of the matter is that Elmer Fudd’s double-barrel shotgun was used just as cartoonishly as the bundles of dynamite were.
You may think that the decision to remove guns was made in an attempt to update the show for the sensibilities of modern audiences, but story editor Johnny Ryan shoots down that theory in the same New York Times piece.
“We’re going through this wave of anti-bullying, everybody needs to be friends, everybody needs to get along,” he said. “Looney Tunes is pretty much the antithesis of that. It’s two characters in conflict, sometimes getting pretty violent.”
Why Make a Change at all?
So, if the show is willfully ignoring any social commentary, why remove the guns? The move does not make sense and is never fully explained. The reboot shows that guns were not entirely necessary to the show’s formula but its success also shows that cartoonish violence is not an issue for modern audiences.
So, the question remains, if the team behind the reboot was going to change so little—frankly, close to nothing—of the original series, why make such a drastic visual change with no explanation?
Guns are a sensitive issue in America. Disarming Elmer Fudd in the Looney Tunes reboot feels like a political statement due to the current political climate and the ubiquitous relationship between Fudd and his gun. The explanation of the decision not going beyond “we’re not doing guns” feels cheap, and frankly, feels like pandering to the anti-gun side of the aisle.
Without any other changes to the cartoon mayhem and violence, the removal of guns from Looney Tunes feels like a poorly thought-out board room decision. I wonder if anyone in that board room meeting brought up the fact that explosives have been an issue as well.