Saturday, 16 February 2008

Scrooge McReDux

Sorry for taking up another blog post with this, but I couldn't work out how to embed pictures into the comments. Here's the closest-to-canonical evidence we've got of what happens after Scrooge McDuck's death:Huey, Dewey and Louie are made sole heirs to the McDuck fortune. It's not clear if, split three ways, his fortune would make them the three richest ducks in the world - fellow Scotsduck Flintheart Gloomgold was the world's second richest duck, but he was so miserly it's not clear if he'd bequeath his money to anyone or simply be buried with it like a pharaoh. The triplets seem pretty tight, but I wonder whether so much filthy lucre would strain their relationships. I'm actually not so cynical that I think they'd spend most of their adult lives in tortuous legal battles... actually, I am. That'd be a classic plot device, รก la getting three wishes. (which they actually received in the Ducktales movie) We flash forward to see what happens to the triplets when they're rich beyond their wildest dreams - they begin to squabble over what the money should be spent on. Wily lawyers pour poison in their ears (do ducks have ears?) about each other. Litigation starts. Rapidly they squander the massive fortune and their relationship falls apart. Eventually, on the roof of the courthouse, almost broke, they fall into a massive three-way brawl. It intensifies, they struggle this way and that, then a punch sends Dewey reeling, almost over the edge of the building. The shock snaps them out of their rage. Panting, dirty, the triplets look ruefully at each other.
Huey: 'What are we doing?'
Louie: 'We nearly killed each other!'
Dewey: 'All because we wanted our own way!'
All: 'I wish we never had the stupid money!'
The boys pull off their torn suit jackets and battered top hats and red, green and blue bowties and hurl them over the side of the building. Then they take their remaining money, which they each keep in a carpetbag in bundles of dollar bills, and they begin flinging it over the side of the courthouse. 'Take it!' We don't want it anymore!' Their lawyers burst onto the roof, and see, with horror, what's going on. They try to stop the triplets, but are rebuffed. Rushing to the edge of the roof, they look down to see people in the street jostling, grabbing handfuls of cash. At this point, it is revealed that the lawyers' real concern is not for their clients, but their clients' money - they dash down to the street and join in the melee.
At last, Huey, Dewey and Louie grab their respective carpetbags and shake the last of the money out off the roof. A gust of wind catches the huge flurry of bills and send it riffling back into their faces. 'Ugh!' 'Agh!' 'Get off! We don't want you anymore!' 'We don't want your money!'
Transition to the triplets snoozing in a heap of cushions at Scrooge's Duckburg mansion. Scrooge's loyal butler, Duckworth, (who, despite his name, is an anthropomorphised dog) is trying to wake them by gently brushing their faces. They are kids again. Duckworth has a silver platter of milk and cookies. Louie lashes out: 'I said: "We don't want your money!"' The tray is knocked flying, Duckworth is soaked, hilariously.
He says something mordant and long-suffering like: 'I'll come back later then, young masters.'
The triplets rouse.
Huey: 'What?'
Dewey: 'So we're not rich?'
Louie: 'Then the whole thing was...'
All: 'A dream!'
They start leaping round and cheering, then they embrace. Then Dewey looks confused.
'Hey wait. We all had the same d-' [CUT TO END CREDITS]
Okay, this was drawn by Don Rosa. (the other major Scrooge cartoonist was Carl Barks, but it's Don Rosa who wrote the epic The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck) It's Scrooge's grave. The inscription says 'Fortuna Favet Fortibus' - fortune favours the brave. Those old timers are Donald and Daisy (apparently married), and at the back their are obviously Huey, Dewey and Louie. So, at least Rosa's aged them. Also, it's quite a humble grave, which is either sweet or sad, depending on how you look at it, and what you think old Unca Scrooge would've thought.
I know I'm overthinking this, and clearly overinvesting in thinly-sketched characters owned by a gigantic media conglomerate accused of questionable business practices, but, for me, it's a kind of deliberate trick. I really resent it when a poet or artist tries to manipulate me through their choice of subject matter, especially since the quality of the art is often in inverse proportion to the perceived weightiness of its message.
With something patently idiotic like Scrooge McDuck, I know that neither I nor my audience have any investment in him, aside from perhaps a weak chuckling recognition at the fact that he liked to swim through money. Ho ho. How unlikely. So that provides a weird kind of blank slate to talk about mortality and vulnerability and acquisition and regret, without ascribing any spurious import or cultural value to them. I'm not saying: This is a piece about my granddad, who I loved and was close to me. I'm not saying: This is a piece about historical figure a, who was culturally significant.
And of course, you can write superb, moving, important poems about real people or big events, and that kind of poetry is important and vital and can help us think and feel. But I like the challenge of trying to make people care, just a little, not just about someone who didn't exist, but about a character who did exist, but is firmly ensconced in the portion of our brains marked 'frivolous' and 'not worthy of compassion'. I'm not asserting I particularly succeeded, just that maybe my MO with this kind of poem is 'compassion for pop culture'. Or something.

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