[Warning! Sailor-like language and imagery that may either upset children or give them a sense of the sweet, sweet taste of evil revenge.]
There were a few cartoons in my childhood I watched religiously but hated the designated “good guys:” He-Man, She-Ra, Josie and the Pussycats, and Tom and Jerry all come to mind. The “Good Guy” characters were moralizing and seldom experienced adversity – shit always swung their way. They were often goody-goody, never capable of making a mistake. Even as a kid, I hated black and white characters. I felt bad for Alexandra on Josie and the Pussycats, because she was clumsy and wasn’t as cute as Josie. I felt bad for Skelator because he didn’t have a fucking face. Yet I watched these shows every damn day because my naïve little mind thought maybe today Alan would give Alexandra a chance, or maybe He-Man or She-Ra would realize that maybe they’d be a little touchy too if they didn’t have eyeballs. But no cartoon riled me up the way Tom and Jerry did.
I think it would be really interesting to do a scientific poll to see who rooted for Tom and who rooted for Jerry growing up. I suspect most Jerry fans were either brutally attacked by a cat as a child or are Cowboy/Yankee fans. Tom is the underdog…er… undercat; he’s just trying to live a normal, quiet, life as a housecat. Jerry, the little diseased rodent, is constantly trying to steal from Tom’s family. As if stealing wasn’t bad enough, he antagonizes and tortures Tom in the process. Jerry is a little freaking grifter, and I for one wanted to see him lose.
Tom and Jerry, being the classic “this vs. that” cartoon, was ubiquitous not only throughout my youth, but throughout the youth of generations before me. In addition to getting the cartoon, there were a number of ways you could get your Tom and Jerry fix. When I was in elementary school, they would pass around leaflet-sized catalogs of books we could buy. One time, my mom let me order three books, and one in particular stood out to me as a must-have: “Tom’s Happy Birthday.” The cover showed Tom gleefully digging into a birthday cake. After watching Tom get tormented day after day, it was good to see him get his due. If I wasn’t lucky enough to see one of the two episodes where Tom beats out Jerry, then I’m going to get a book where he wins and I can read it whenever I want. One damn day a year, Tom deserved to have a piece of cake and a little moment of serenity. When the orders were handed out in class, I couldn’t wait to go home and read this story recounting justice for Tom. I eagerly opened up the book and began to read. Jerry, the little f-er, decided he needed to ruin Tom’s birthday. Tom’s day. Along with his grifter cousin (and by the way, Jerry had a lot of freaking grifter cousins), they did their typical torture and torment of Tom. They did a lot of that “oh I’m going to be nice to you! Psych your mind!!! HAHAHAHA YOU STUPID NAÏVE FOOL” shit that I always hated as a kid (probably because it was all too familiar, really). I got angry, but the cover showed Tom happily eating a birthday cake. Surely that would happen, right?
As I turned to the last page, I learned with horror that you really can’t judge a book by its cover: Jerry and that grifter cousin ate Tom’s cake, and Tom didn’t even get a damn bite. They locked him out of the house, or some bullshit. I threw the little paperback book down on the table, my young blood boiling. I was as angry as could be. No! IT WAS HIS BIRTHDAY DAMN IT. Who writes a children’s story about someone who is bullied and has their birthday cake stolen from them? Whose idea was this shit, anyway?
I turned the page and saw the typical blank page at the end of the book. I stared at it for a moment. A light bulb went off in my head – this is a work of fiction; there is no rule saying I can’t write my own ending to the book. Fiction can end any way you want it to, right? I ran to my room and grabbed my Crayolas. I would not let this awful book end in that way. I scribbled furiously on that page, penning the only ending that seemed appropriate to me: