Thursday, 24 December 2009

Bear Necessities

In the hallway of our house, just a couple of steps beyond the front door, there stands a small brown bear. He is nude apart from his ageing fur, a splendid pair of shiny red wellington boots and an oversized Moroccan fez which perches on his nose. From underneath the fez you can just make out his bright eyes, fixed on the doorway in a very hard stare. His name is Major Paddington; the rank recognition of many years dedicated service to watching over the places we’ve lived, warding off burglars and monsters.

Paddington wasn’t always a major, nor was he always nude. Once – I’m told – he sported a magnificent blue duffle coat and a large black hat. Sadly they fell victim to moths and had to be thrown away. Ever since Paddington has maintained his vigils au naturel but no one seems to mind.

Perhaps this is because we’ve come to expect nudeness of our bears. By that I don’t mean real bears – grizzly, brown, polar, panda or otherwise – who seem quite content going about their business scaring humans and doing unmentionables in the woods in just their super furry glory. Rather I mean those cheeky, all-singing, all-dancing, joke-telling, honey-stealing, marmalade sandwich-eating bears that inhabit our children’s books, comics, television shows and movies. Like Kylie and Madonna they are immediately recognisable by their first names - Yogi, Boo Boo, Fozzie, Pooh, Baloo, Sootie, Rupert, Paddington, Humphrey – but at least the queens of pop know how to wear underwear.

Humphrey: 'hey ladies - guess what I'm not wearing...'

Here in Australia the most beloved eschewer of undergarments is Humphrey B Bear. Despite sporting a dapper straw boater, a preposterously ornate yellow ribbon cravat and tartan waistcoat (or vest to use the local parlance) it is more common to point out what he is not wearing: pants. What's more, he's semi-dressed and loving it. Humphrey may be mute but he has the biggest bear-laugh on television; I think this is the pleasure that comes from greeting the public tackle out. I assume so, as Humphrey is in distinguished company as this gallery of happy shiny bears - wide-eyed and pant-less - will attest…

Hair Bear Bunch: 'Ooh man, that is li-bear-ating!'

Man: 'Bear... please tell me you're wearing pants...'
Woman: 'Man... please tell me you're wearing pants...'

Sootie: 'Izzy whizzy let's get busy and ... *poof* ... pants are gone'

Bungle Bonce: 'I'm not wearing any WHAT?'

Pooh: 'Not at all dear Piglet, in fact a chill breeze across the buttocks is rather refreshing....'

Wacky Races' Blubber: 'drive slower, I got nuthin holding it in'

Pudsey: do NOT move the blocks

Flippy: giving new meaning to going commando

Yogi and Boo Boo: fragrantly pant-free

Care Bears: 'We care - just not about pants'

Kermit: 'Good grief, the comedian's a bear.'
Fozzie: 'No he's-a not. He's a'wearin' a neck-a tie!'

Superted: I may be a superhero on the inside but remember me thus...

Baloo: proudly displaying his bare necessities

So why don’t our bears wear pants? Well, a better question might be why do they wear anything at all? After all, most if not all of the above choose to wear at least some items of clothing. Some theories are posited by our good friends over at TV Tropes. Noting that this is a phenomenon not just limited to bears (indeed there is a popular urban myth that Donald Duck was banned in Finland for not wearing pants over his down-enhanced bottom) they feel that limits were placed on the amount of clothing our furry friends wear because over-dressing might stop them being recognisable as the animals they are. Safe in the knowledge that people love a bit of anthropomorphism from their animals, our authors have dressed them up to make them more human, but not so much that you’d forget their true bear-ness.

As plausible as this is, I can’t help but feel that the reason for their increasingly pantless state is that bears are fighting a silent war to reclaim their ursine heritage. Denied their basic bear rights and forced to entertain generation after generation of homo sapiens through song, dance and faux camaradarie with children's televsion presenters, the bear nation has decided enough is enough. 'Yes, we will entertain your children; the adulation is addictive and the smiles on their little faces can be quite moving. Mostly though we need the money. So yes, we will wear stupid hats and comedy bow ties and yes, we may once again get ourselves into embarrasing situations over a jar of honey to pay the bills. But know this humans, you will not break us. We are noble and strong. We are ancient and proud. We are bears.'

And what better way to show your independence in co-dependence than by silently asserting your right to do what you do best? This pantlessness is no empty gesture when you remember
what bears do in the woods. Think about it. How difficult it must be to remove boxer shorts in a hurry with claws? How easy to put your huge clumsy furry fingers through the delicate lace of a pair of bear-bikini bottoms? Surely you need an opposable thumb to un-wedgie a lycra thong when you just gotta go? Is it not inconceivable that bears, constrained by human-imposed 95% cotton 5% elastane bonds have slowly and secretly removed their pants so they can do what they gotta do? 'Humans - can't live with them, can't live without them - but I'll be damned if I'm gonna ask to go poop.'

Of course there are people who are on to bears. Stephen Colbert's hatred/fear of bears is more easily explained in this context. Still it would be unfair to suggest that there is a secret war between all humans and bears. Parties on both sides have made moves to cross the great divide, drawing inspiration from each other and showing that we can peacefully coexist. Consider if you will the similarities between Rupert the Bear and Starsky and Hutch's jive-talking snitch, Huggy Bear. Whilst Rupert may be the straightest, whitest bear alive both he and Huggy share a sense of dandy style and love of flamboyant checky trousers.

Huggy: one pant-lovin' bear

Rupert: gaye and free

Meanwhile there are humans all too happy to support the bear cause. There are many who have taken inspiration from the bears pursuit of freedom from clothing... and one or two other habits besides...

Bears: free and gay

Chief Scout and adventurer Bear Grylls: inspiring young boys everywhere

We have considered buying Major Paddington a new coat, a smart bright red jacket becoming of his seniority and important role as head of security in our family. We still may, but rest asured we will never forget the he is first and foremost a bear, noble and proud, and furthermore we will never, ever force him to wear pants.

Post Script: clearly there are a great many bear fans out there as this remains the #1 story on Mint Custard. Please show your real love of all things ursine with a visit to which is dedicated to ending cruelty to bears worldwide. They need your internet hit more than me and Bear Grylls do...

1 comment:

glastonburytv said...

Interesting moment re animals in pants in recent Zootropolis movie - a creature appears pantless and there is a proper shocked reaction. I then checked - all of the animals in this movie are wearing pants. It's a brave new world, people.