Pinky and the Brain: The cartoon as a critique of globalization

Sometime in the mid 90s, Cartoon Network started airing a series about two genetically engeneered mice called Pinky and the Brain. I was hooked. They were completely different from the other cartoons on air. For once the protagonist was not someone who was trying to save the world but someone who was trying to take over the world!

Pinky and the Brain – both albino lab mice – live at the research facility called Acme labs. Pinky is the rather dim-witted lab rat who utters nonsensical words like “troz” or “zort.” The Brain is the intellectual heavyweight whose scienctifically-precise plan rivals rocket science in its methodology. In every episode, Brain come up with a new plan for the two (led by him) to take over the world, which ultimately ends in failure. All episodes are parodies of whatever is happening around us.

I remember vividly how in one episode, Bill and Hillary Clinton made a guest appearance. Pinky, the Brain, Hillary, and Bill were dining over a deal. The topic of the conversation was nuclear waste. In exchange for a favor, the Brain, who set himself up as the representative of some elusive Scandinavian country, was haggling with Bill over the amount of nuclear waste that can be legally dumped in that country. They started with a rather shocking number and came down to 5 billion tonnes.

That’s when I started thinking; we could look at this cartoon not in the rather simplistic way as it is presented but rather as a critique of globalization. Pinky symbolises all those lackys that run around the big boss the Brain, whose intelligence is far superior to them. The Brain symbolises anyone in power who may not be so influencial in the big scheme of things (as seen by his position as a lab rat) but then can plot to take over the world nevertheless. Eventually, none of his plans ever come to fruition. Like some automative machine, the Brain starts plotting methodically after every foiled attempt.

It’s been some years since I have seen any episode of this thought-provoking cartoon from Spielberg’s production stable. It would be great to have the odd couple back on air. Given that we have so many political scenarios to parody, this cartoon strip would have a very bright future indeed.

17 thoughts on “Pinky and the Brain: The cartoon as a critique of globalization

  1. damn…i miss it now.

    managed to scope out the title song from the net – i play it on my way to office when i get stuck in jams…roll the windows down and smirk around at anyone who’d look at me!

    insane lyrics!!

  2. You listen to the theme song????!!!!! I could give you a hug. I like the song….”Pinky and the Brain….brain…brain…” Do you have an mp3 version of it that you wouldn’t mind sending me?

  3. Hey U used to watch Pinky and brain? I loved that show. Its been years man,and like u said they dont air it anymore… 😦

  4. Never seen this cartoon.

    But read in the newspaper recently about Arundhati Roy’s tirade against the industrialized world. I like articles, very thought-provoking, sometimes it might even brain-washes me!
    But, taking this tirade is suddenly getting too fashionable and I think they are missing a point i.e the ‘There Is No Alternative Factor’. For example, people might raise hue-and-cry against nuclear energy, but seriously that is the only efficient source which we might have to depend on in the future….
    Not that I am against parody, me enjoy ‘Simpsons’ great deal for its parody-factor. But, this parody can be taken only for its entertainment factor, nothing more than that!

  5. hey afj,

    sounds interesting. I’ve never watched cartoon network much so I am not surprised I missed this. but at least I’ll keep an eye if there were to be a rerun.


  6. hi fame…yeah…i love the song. itz the same one – BRAIN BRAIN BRAIN BRAIN!!

    i have it on a cd a pal gifted me. i’ll try ripping it or something…or maybe ask about other ppl for it…however…dont get ur hopes too high coz i dont know how many crazy ppl like us would like listening to it!

  7. Rohit: I know! I wish everybody could see it!

    Vee: Nope! They don’t show it anymore! Such a loss to the community of Brainers!

    Sanchapanzo: To each his own! You want to enjoy it as entertainlent and I see serious patterns worthy enough for some study, I say, to each his/her own!

    Asuph: Pleeeeease do! This is one of those cartoons targetted not at kids but at adults. You won’t be disappointed!

    Sushmit: Please see if you can rip it! I don’t think many crazy people would like to listen to it! For example, when I read your replay, I was singing the song in my mind. My neighbour looked at me weiredly and said, “This is like watching Cartoon Network” itself!

  8. HEy AFJ

    On a rather micro level, the famous cat, Garfield is used as an mascot by the National Safety COuncil (I hope I got the name right), for educating children about crossing the streets and a variety of other topics as well. Garfield is taken very seriosuly by the kids there, and follow evry advise that this lovable cat gives.

    So the point is, such ideas certainly have a great impact. But it takes innovative minds to put that act together! Sumtimes I feel that the culture here is so stereotyped, that it narrows down your options, and such presentations maybe lost out on the audience.


  9. I assume by “culture here” you mean in India, or specifically in Chennai? I feel nurturing true blue creativity means taking risks which many people aren’t ready to do or can’t do. There are exceptions but they are not enough. I love the European sense of creativity which apart from giving us many enduring legends inspire so many people. I wish there was a way to replicate that in India.

Let me know what you think.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s