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.