Character Analysis: Wile E. Coyote
Authors generally portray wicked characters in a way which inspires distaste, fear, or even outright hatred. Lord Voldemort, Cruella de Vil, and Hannibal Lecter certainly conform to this common trait. Every so often, however, an artist creates an absolutely evil character with whom the audience cannot help but sympathize. Looney Tunes’ Wile E.
Coyote, for example, is an ostensibly malicious being, and yet, somehow, the audience feels compassion for him. In spite of his vicious nature, Wile E. Coyote’s ineptitude and frequent failures earn him the sympathy of his viewers. From the very beginning of the series, the creators of Wile E. Coyote depict him as a malevolent creature.
When Coyote first appears on screen, his label reads “carnivorous vulgaris.” “Carnivorous” refers to his goal throughout the series, to catch the roadrunner for a tasty meal. Meanwhile, regardless of what “vulgaris” actually means, the average viewer most likely draws a connection to the word “vulgar.” In other words, Coyote’s very name gives the intimation that he is of a bloodthirsty temperament. Audience opinion of Wile E. Coyote further deteriorates upon witnessing the many heinous traps and plans with which he intends to capture his prey.
From attempting to blow up the roadrunner with TNT and rockets, to swinging at him with an axe and aiming to crush him with an anvil, the Coyote employs an infinite arsenal of cruel weaponry against the roadrunner. These absolutely barbarous tactics further reveal Wile E. Coyote’s savage nature. Clearly, Coyote’s creators consistently portray him as an incredibly mean-spirited, ruthless character. Luckily for Wile E. Coyote, his clumsiness and constant state of defeat transform him from a murderous beast into a lovable dunce.
In one scene, for example, Coyote dresses up as a schoolgirl and places a sign which reads “Slow: School Crossing” in the middle of the road. The roadrunner, completely unperturbed, runs right through the sign and knocks Coyote to the ground, only to return in a schoolgirl outfit with a sign that says “Roadrunners Can’t Read.” The roadrunner quite literally adds insult to injury, running over Coyote and then poking fun at him. This blatant taunt, along with the fact that he has failed yet again, causes the audience to sympathize with Wile E. Coyote as a helpless character; moreover, this defeat is only one of many.
Earlier in the same episode, Coyote attempts to incapacitate the roadrunner by holding a metal trashcan lid out in front of him; unfortunately for Coyote, the roadrunner comes to an abrupt stop several inches before colliding with the lid. Upon the realization that his plan has failed, the Coyote makes a disappointed, pitiful expression and drops the lid. He prepares to chase after the roadrunner, but the bird returns, picks up the lid, and allows Coyote to smash straight into it. The audience does not sympathize with Coyote simply because his plot fails, but rather, because it fails so miserably that it backfires. His absolute inadequacy, which becomes quite obvious after prey uses predator’s weapon against him, inspires pity among viewers.
Thus, in spite of Wile E. Coyote’s malevolent intentions, the audience sympathizes with him because of his extraordinary misfortunes, laughable blunders, and his constant failure to attain his goal. Overall, the cartoon’s creators paint an absolutely evil character in a light which causes the viewers to feel pity and understanding towards him. The broader implications of this phenomenon are surprising. Filmmakers and authors are in complete control of how their audiences perceive information.
That these individuals have mastered the ability to manipulate audience response and emotion is quite an impressive feat, and speaks to the talent and artistry involved in creating a work of art in any medium. Works Consulted “Fast and Furry-ous.” Looney Tunes. Warner Bros. Entertainment, Burbank, California.
17 Sept. 1949. “Beep, Beep.” Looney Tunes. Warner Bros.
Entertainment, Burbank, California. 24 May 1952.