Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ducktales, Season One, Episode Eighteen: "Much Ado about Scrooge"

"Spoof of William Shakespeare's 'Much Ado about Nothing," sez a Wikipedia entry written by someone who hasn't the remotest clue what "Much Ado about Nothing" is about. Well, 'til I changed it, anyway. Who knows if it'll stick, though--those guys can be kinda humorless (but at least they haven't banned me, the way Conservapedia did).

It strains credulity to think that there's a door-to-door salesman who's just too gosh-darn good for Scrooge to resist, but it must be said, the salesman in question, "Filler Brushbill" (cf) is completely delightful--the writers eschew the unctuousness typically associated with such character types: the guy's endlessly cheerful, but not in a sleazy way; and highly competent--the kind of guy you want on your side. The opening segment where he implacably (and ultimately successfully) attempts to sell stuff to our heroes is pretty darned funny. Too bad he's not a recurring character.

The rest of the episode, though--I dunno. The McDuck household buys a bunch of stuff from Brushbill, which happens to include a note hinting at a lost "Drakespeare" play. So, they go after it. Brushbill, getting wind of this, follows as well. Drakespeare's Castle (???) is on a "haunted island" (?????), where they meet broadly-drawn caricatures of characters from "Macbeth," "Julius Caesar," and "A Midsummer Night's Dream." They ultimately locate the play, "Macduck"--wha? But we've already seen Macbeth's weird sisters, so how can it be...? Or are we to assume that Drakespeare wrote TWO plays with strained waterfowl-related titles aping Macbeth? Very clumsy.

Anyway, the play turns out to suck, so they decide to suppress it instead of selling it. You can perhaps see why I find this ideologically objectionable. There's a bit early on where one of the kids objects to this quest: "But Uncle Scrooge, Drakespeare said that last play wasn't very good!" To which Scrooge replies: "Who cares? It's still worth millions just because he wrote it!" I'm pretty sure we're supposed to view Scrooge as engaging in ethically shady profiteering here, but for rather obvious reasons, this is a very stupid idea.

At the end, Brushbill nabs the play to sell it in spite of its suckitude, but Louie convinces him not to with this compelling argument: "But if you sell a terrible play, people will say you cheated them!" Allow me to assure any literary detectives out there: if you should happen to stumble across a lost Shakespeare play, nobody on god's green earth will complain that they were "cheated," no matter how "terrible" it turns out to be. I'm afraid that, as a literature-type person, I can't just forgive a plot point as fucking dumb (and, honestly, kinda pernicious) as this. Yuck.

Stray Observations

-Did I mention that all the "characters" on the island are actually descendants of Drakespeare's original theatre troupe? Uh huh...makes one think of the Star Trek episode where it turns out that all the Greek gods were actually aliens.

-Another problem is the fact that, when the actors perform the play, there's nothing about it that I can see that indicates that it's any worse than than the cod-Shakespearean dialogue the characters had been spouting throughout the whole episode.

"Into the sea thee must be tossed." That's "THOU must be tossed." It really annoys me when people use this faux-archaic language without having the first clue how the language that they're trying to mimic works. Check out the Quakers' dialogue in Uncle Tom's Cabin for an even more egregious example of this.

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