Cartoons: The Warner Sister Dot

Screenshot of Yakko, Wakko, and Dot from ‘Animaniacs’ (2020). Copyright goes to Warner Brothers.

Hi! It’s Annie!

For most of us we already know the Warner brothers and the Warner sister Dot from Animaniacs. I can definitely say I grew up with these adorably witty cartoon characters which only fueled my love for all of the work done by voice actor Rob Paulson (Not only is he a great Yakko and Pinky, he also voiced Raphael and then Donatello in different iterations of ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ as well as PJ from ‘A Goofy Movie’). Despite my love of this show, for some reason I had no idea that there would be a reboot until my family recently got Hulu. I was absolutely delighted. Though Animaniacs doesn’t have some of the bits that I remember, it still had the ones that were most important to me, which were the Warners and Pinky and the Brain. My family laughed through every single episode at the satire that covered everything from reboots, to the presidency, to trying to win Hades. But more than anything else, one specific part of this reboot caught my eye. Ever since the reboot came out, there’s been a bit of controversy surrounding the ever famous Warner sister Dot, who I had pretty early on pinned as my new favorite character of the show. It didn’t take me long to realize why.

“They made her a radical feminist!”:

I was doing research to see what exactly had changed between the original depiction of Dot and the current one when I stumbled on negative reviews for the 2020 reboot. Many of them with this tagline. I can’t say that I was surprised. Dot has always been a present force among the Warners, but she didn’t reference what it was like to be a woman all that much in the original cartoons. She followed after handsome men with heart eyes and was just as wacky as Yakko and Wakko, but Dot never questioned why she was the only woman there most of the time other than Hello Nurse. And I’m not sure I would have expected her to at that time. Dot has come back in 2020 with powerful punches to draw attention to what she hadn’t so much before. Dot is given a few major moments throughout the season that draw specific attention to women, but it’s still done in ways that make sense for kids, and I’m not exactly sure what makes her “radical” or what that’s supposed to mean in the first place. Anyways, let’s go over these moments from the recent show.

The First Ladies:

This song definitely has the accomplishments of women in the forefront, but this happens specifically because Dot uses the segment to teach viewers about the all of the first ladies to have been in the White House. Many critiques of the show argued that Dot painted them all in a good light and that the writers glossed over many of the bad things some of them did, like the war on drugs and the consequences due to that for example. This argument seems a bit on the ridiculous side to me simply because the song is cut for time. That’s a running joke throughout the song. Dot is attempting to teach the audience about every single first lady to ever exist in just about two minutes while her brothers time her. She’s not there to discuss the ramifications of some of their actions. She there to quickly educate on what some of them have done. She doesn’t even get to all of them as at the end of the song she begins to shout out names of first ladies since she doesn’t have time for the history by that point. The writers even accidentally forgot a first lady and wrote in an apology afterwards. She’s also there to satirize. Which didn’t just start in 2020. As Rob Paulson himself has pointed out, Animaniacs has always satirized current politics and it wouldn’t be the same without it. I’m not quite sure what the controversy around this extremely fast song that even manages to poke fun at some of the first ladies has to do with Dot being radical. It’s history.

Mathterpiece theatre:

In Dot’s hilarious rendition of Masterpiece Theatre that is now based off of the math problems you grew up solving, a mother struggles to feed her children. She has five apples, she loses two, how many does she have left? You get the picture. The complaints against this specific short seem to be the simple fact that Dot is telling the story of a rebellious woman running away from a police officer. Yep, that’s pretty much it. I’m not sure why people are angry over Dot telling a comedically serious story about a woman, but I digress.

“Never mansplainy”:

The Animaniacs theme song is iconic and a well appreciated ear worm. I have been known to get the theme song stuck in my head from time to time. One of the unique parts of the theme song is that one of the ending lines changes every episode. At the beginning of one of the 2020 reboot’s episodes this line right before the end of the songs depicts Dot slamming her hands over Yakko and Wakko’s mouths and proclaiming that the Animaniacs would never try to mansplain. Mansplain is a term that has become common because of the trend women have seen in the workplace (and otherwise) for decades where a woman is either interrupted and a man tries to explain her problem instead, or she’s just plain and simple treated like she’s stupid. It’s not a term meant to offend you, it’s a term that was created to bring awareness to the issue and it’s popularization has aided in this problem. Isn’t it a good thing that women aren’t belittled or interrupted? So why is this line so triggering for some people?

Manspreading:

In one of my favorite ending skits of the new season, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot are sitting at a movie theater when Dot’s space is largely intruded on by a man sitting next to her manspreading. Yakko tries to explain to Dot what manspreading is and she declares that she doesn’t need him to mansplain manspreading to her. They then spend the rest of the episode trying to manipulate the theater around them so that they can close his legs. I think a lot of people are just under the impression that this problem doesn’t exist, but one of the reasons why I laughed so much was because I had experienced it before. Really, all this is telling you is that you should remember to be conscientious of the people around you. That’s it.

Suffragette:

It is the hundredth anniversary of women getting the right to vote and Dot, of course, has to talk about it! The women’s rights movement wasn’t all good and nice historically as many of the women praised for gaining us the right to vote also thought that white people should be the only ones to vote. But just like the first lady skit, we shouldn’t expect one skit in a thirty minute cartoon to cover the entire history of this event, even though that would be great. I would love to see Dot teach history. But even though that’s at least a reasonable critique, what most people had a problem with in this part of the show was Businesswoman Dot refusing to see anyone she had a meeting with if he was a man but also requested that they send any woman in. People seem to ignore the fact that she said this because it was “perfect timing”. She wasn’t refusing to work with men, she was saying that she was talking about women’s rights regardless of whether or not she had a meeting. This entire skit ended with cartoons getting the right to vote, which I would let Dot vote in any election.

Dot is talking about women’s rights and that’s a good thing! We obviously still need to talk about it with these reviews coming out. And she should probably be given more time to talk about women, anyways! We’ve told the stories of men for so long that I really don’t understand what the issue is in telling the stories of women. Whether it’s the very very brief history of our first ladies, the history of us getting our rights, or a fictionalized story about a woman living in poverty losing two apples so that a cartoon character can solve a math problem. Yes, Dot is feminist. But most women are feminist and it really bugs me that anyone could see that as something that isn’t good. Dot, and skits like hers in other shows, are not there to diminish the experience of men. This isn’t about you. They are there to tell the stories of millions of women who have not been allowed to tell our stories for years. Listen to them and know that this doesn’t have to be about you.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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