Movies and TV Features
The True Story Behind Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Kevin Mooseles | 22 Jan 2016 15:00
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The significance of that lobbying pressure should not be dismissed, but rather included in the evidence. Mass transit bled out over decades thanks to stagnant fare prices, periods of labor unrest as well as the requirement that companies perform maintenance on not just the tracks, but the surrounding roads as well. There was no government help, no modernization, and no reform for electric street cars, just lopsided legislation that literally paved the way for America to be a country that primarily got around in personal vehicles. General Motors destroyed a privately built public transportation network through lobbying power and the monopolization of transit. It then used further legislative influence to shift the burden of building the network of roads that it needed onto the backs of the taxpayers themselves. "Big highway" (as in GM, Firestone, and Standard Oil along with others) managed to manipulate its own customers to pay for not just cars and gas but the very roads we drive on.

Although General Motors didn't frame any cartoon rabbits for murder, it has undoubtedly guided the way that Americans get from point A to point B for a long time.

Even though GM was charged with conspiracy to monopolize mass transit in 1949, it suffered minimal consequences for being caught with its hands in the cookie jar. Originally it was acquitted, but the charge was upheld in a retrial in 1951. The fines were minimal, no one went to jail, and 5 years later GM got everything it could have hoped for with the American Highway Act of 1956, which set aside $25 Billion for 41,000 miles of new roadway across the country. To put that into context, there were 45,000 miles of streetcar track in America before the system was allowed to crumble. The new highways didn't even spread as far as the streetcars once had.

Although General Motors didn't frame any cartoon rabbits for murder, it has undoubtedly guided the way that Americans get from point A to point B for a long time. Whether it is the electric streetcar or the electric car, GM's vendetta against alternative transit has been ongoing for almost a century. Many American cities are working hard to rebuild Streetcar lines and light rail, because public transportation is a basic service that needs to be nourished and supported in the interest of the people. Likewise, the efforts of Elon Musk and others are helping us to shift away from the oil dependence that has shaped the course of world events in recent years.

Perhaps the public relations division of GM has been too effective in crafting our perception of this company. It seems unending traffic jams and accidents, car payments and repairs, job losses and government bailouts aren't enough reasons for the public to demand transportation reform, or to recognize GM as the Disney villain it seems to be.

Maybe that was the point of Judge Doom. I now imagine GM as Christopher Lloyd sadistically murdering a harmless cartoon shoe to make a point. In my mind that shoe has a name. His name was EV-1 (the original electric car, first manufactured then destroyed by GM).

When I first saw Who Framed Roger Rabbit? as a child, Judge Doom terrified me. Every scene he was in felt especially dirty and heartless. I had nightmares of murderous cartoon red eyes poking out at me as Doom approached with saws for hands to finish me off. Judge Doom represents one of the purest expressions of evil to me in film, because he does not attack teenagers. He attacks the dreams and joy of small children, and he does it for personal gain.

In a way, Roger Rabbit is the child in all of us, and Eddie Valiant is the jaded adult in all of us.

One of the harshest realities to face when we grow up is that some people with a lot of money and power tend to like making decisions for the rest of us. These people will use their resources along with whatever means it takes to get what they want, and a lot of innocents tend to get hurt along the way. Judge Doom represents that cold reality, that force of corporate and government control over our lives perfectly. I don't believe that it is a coincidence that Judge Doom represented both government authority gone wrong and corporate authority unchecked. The boot that steps on the face of humanity forever according to George Orwell is, in a sense, the boot of Judge Doom.

In a way, Roger Rabbit is the child in all of us, and Eddie Valiant is the jaded adult in all of us. By learning to work together, they were able to defeat the villains. It was Eddie rediscovering the importance of joking around and making the weasels laugh themselves to death which helped him expose and defeat Judge Doom. This correlates to the need in modern adults to rediscover our belief and desire to make the world a better place (which we had as children). Once we learn to combine the power, wisdom and resources of adulthood with the forgotten optimism of childhood, there is no stopping us from thwarting the real world Judge Dooms and living happily ever after.

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