Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hong Kong Phooey as Reverse Don Quixote

Aside from the kung fu movie stereotypes that might possible be offensive to an entire hemisphere, this Hanna-Barbera cartoon from the mid-'70s has a premise plenty sturdy enough for a Saturday morning short-form cartoon from the mid-'70s.

And the lead is voiced by this dude:

(Scatman Crothers)

Who was also the voice for this dude:

(Jazz the Autobot)

So that's pretty sweet.

Anyway, I gathered you here today to talk about that premise: the Reverse Don Quixote. Hong Kong Phooey's alter-ego is a hapless janitor who believe he has learned super kung fu from a book but who is in fact a totally hapless lunkhead who's only success is that he doesn't notice how much damage and mayhem his lunkheadedness causes. Presumably, everyone else has mistaken his obliviousness for the transcendent grace of a sublime master and that his why the whole city holds him in reverence, worship, and awe.

Right--that worshipfulness is the Reverse part of Reverse Don Quixote--whereas Don Quixote's delusions of grandeur are obvious to everyone else, in Hong Kong Phooey's case his windmilling kung fu chops (that's for Choya, a kung fu nerd, who would be shouting "There are no chops!" if read this blog) are celebrated as the greatest way to save the day. So everyone is suffering Phooey's delusion, so maybe it's not so much a Don Quixote in reverse as a Everyone's Don Quixote. Let's just ignore that, hmm? While we're at it, Phooey also has a cat, Spot, who acts as his Sancho Panza, an overlooked and unappreciated partner who actually saves the day, by freeing Phooey from the file cabinet, or rolling him down the street when he gets stuck in a garbage can.

But I bring all this up because I suspect this premise has been used before--I mean the Reverse Don Quixote, not the forwards kind. That was in Don Quixote.

Surely it wasn't a Saturday morning show from 1974 that originated the premise of a bumbling hero who nevertheless saves the day and is treated like a hero despite his constant cock-uppery.
It's been reused by Pamela Anderson's V.I.P. ( I think--I haven't seen it), and to some extent in the USA network's Psych (haven't seen that either).

So, have you seen this before--before 1974--in something besides Cervantes?

Crap. I shoulda just gone to TV Tropes.


Chris said...

Peter Sellar's Insp. Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies.

The original Get Smart. I distinctly remember the hero being an oblivious, ineffectual Holy Fool.

I'm sure this kind of accidental hero was a staple of Ealing comedies (Carlton Brown of the FO) and early Carry On films too.

Aaron Nuttall said...

Ah-ha! Thanks, Chris. As always, I appreciate your perspicacity and helpfulness.

Clouseau is likely the very person who was hiding on the tip of my memory. Either him or Inspector Gadget.