I have had one perfect relationship with a guy in my life. He has a name, but I rarely use it because our relationship transcends humans and was on this heavenly, God-like level, so I exclusively refer to him as “The Sandwich Hottie.”
This guy and I never dated. But he was perfect. Let me explain.
During college, I spent my summers working at Blockbuster because I was totally that film school kid. Our store was in a shopping center and we had a deal with the Blimpie sandwich shop a few doors down. Our store manager agreed to let the Blimpie owner get free movies and, in exchange, those of us who worked the opening shift got a free lunch.
One of the guys who worked there was totally cute. Floppy hair, adorable blue eyes vaguely artistic–exactly the type of dude college me was all about. My boss was fully aware I had a full blown crush on him. And he would frequently prod me to make a move or ask him out. I would balk every time both because I really just feel like if I am making 75 cents to your dollar and menstruating, you should make the first move fellas. If you’d like to trade, we can. But until that happens I really detest asking guys out. It is an anxiety-ridden potentially panic attack-inducing process that I try to avoid. But in the instance of The Sandwich Hottie, I never planned on asking.
The boss kept pushing and finally I had to break it down for him:
“Listen. I am so completely satisfied with my interaction with this dude. Once a day, I get to take a break from alphabetizing and putting away plastic DVD cases. For around five minutes I get to look at something very pretty, I might get a little banter in, and at the end of the interaction, he hands me a free sandwich. Why on Earth would I mess with this? I’m 19. You think I’m gonna ask this sandwich employee out and we’re gonna have some meaningful relationship while I am out in California going to school? Probably not. Or he says no and then things are awkward. Or I find out this idea of The Sandwich Hottie is ten levels above what this actual person is like. So what incentive do I have to mess with something that is perfect? I get a break, I get eye candy, I get free sandwiches, and I get the joy that comes with imagining how wonderful Sandwich Hottie is and what he does when he isn’t making sandwiches, which was probably getting high behind Blimpie and not reading books or rock climbing or whatever my imagination is coming up with.”
My boss paused. He said nothing for a minute. Then he said, “You know, women are generally not a group I think of as a very logical bunch. It kind of scares me when you present such a reasonable argument, but I see your point and I concede.”
Then there is another pause and he adds:
“Seriously, you’re the only logically-minded female I’ve ever met. It’s really creepy.”
So yeah, that might explain why the Sandwich Hottie is the best relationship I have ever had, but c’mon, who wouldn’t be happy with this scenario? To paraphrase Joey Tribiani “Pretty? Good! Sandwich? Good! Situation? Goooood!”
In order to understand this far too in-depth discussion of the Care Bears and Cousins and gender I started a week or so ago, first you have to understand the origin story of the brood, particularly how incredibly gay (not derogatory gay, like actually, actively pro-gay) it is.
This is also a little tricky, but the Care Bears and how they came to be is actually explained in Care Bears II: A New Generation. If you’re curious how on planet Earth they came to be, they were originally part of a line of greeting cards published by American Greetings. Then they became stuffed animals, each of which had a designated gender, which we will talk about later, as it causes some issues later on.
Back to the discussion at hand though. The creation of the Care Bears is legit biblical. The second movie begins with a bear, a horse, and an ark full of baby Care Bears and Cousins fleeing from the enemy known as Dark Heart. Before we keep going, I need to pause for a minute to talk about this “horse” name Noble Heart.
This is not a horse. This is a Care Bear who has been to too many Flock of Seagulls concerts. First off, it has no hooves. It has feet with toes. It also has opposable thumbs. It is the kind of appendage that, once you notice it, you can’t stop thinking about it, kinda like how the Swedish Chef on The Muppets has human hands.
Anyways, Dark Heart is a shape shifter and takes on the all too Adam and Eve-ish shape of water serpent before the clouds part, a rainbow spills from the sky, and the boat is lifted to safety.
So, let me just state this plainly right now. There are rainbows saving the day all over this movie. If you’re not aware, the rainbow became a symbol for the LGBT community in 1978, eight years before this movie was released. It is safe to say the people making this movie knew rainbows = LGBT. I am even more confident in this statement after what happens next, which is the ark basically gets turned into a Gay Pride Parade float.
Once they reach the happy space above the clouds, a God-like being that I will call Starlord just to piss off GoG fans informs the bear and horse they, “have found the two creatures whose love and kindness for others is so great that it sets them apart from the rest of the world.”
So the benevolent Starlord allows True Heart Bear and Noble Heart horse to get their all-important tummy tattoos and grants them entry into the Kingdom of Caring.
Kingdom of Caring looks an awful lot like the Care Bears permanent home, Care-a-Lot, but it isn’t. These are just temporary digs where these cute little furballs can grow up and introduce themselves to the world via a song entitled “Flying My Colors.”
I’ll take you through some of the more obvious images in this song, but first, just read the lyrics of the chorus and tell me this isn’t a gay anthem:
Flying my colors for everyone to see
Isn’t this the perfect way to introduce me?
They say that I’m different, I’m special it’s true
Let the magic of my color put its power on you.
But first, can we just take a second and admire how effing cute baby Care Bears are? Whoever came up with the idea of making them babies at Nelvana is a genius. My boy/girl Swifty the bunny is just too much.
So they disembark the boat on a rainbow Noble Heart shoots out of the symbol on his chest (for those not in the Care Bear know, these tummy symbols have the ability to manifest things, create rays of happy emotions via the Care Bear Stare and Care Bear Cousins Call, and give you an idea of each critter’s personality).
Note that Noble Heart is realizing the idea of letting infants slide down a rainbow onto a bed of clouds may not have been the best idea in hindsight. Considering the car seat laws in most states, pretty sure this qualifies as unfit parenting.
And yet, when the infants want to explore their new digs, the adults oblige and commission a fleet of rainbows to fly them wherever they want. I’m not exaggerating when I say “fleet.” See for yourself:
Once several individual babies introduce themselves, they reconvene with the parents and…I don’t want to use the word ejaculate here, so understand that when I say True Heart sprays her kids with literal love, this is what I mean.
It is worth noting the baby Care Bears then take these hearts and eat them. Why? I have no idea. Apparently tummy-produced hearts are just really tasty.
It ends with a tummy-produced fireworks show and everyone feeling great about their identity after an afternoon spent flying around on rainbows. Again, I don’t think I am stretching when I say this is very much a not coded at all anthem about how great it is to be gay and out.
While True Heart (a girl) and Noble Heart (a boy) are archetypical heterosexual parents, that is pretty much the only straight thing about the opening ten minutes of the movie, which very clearly establishes *this* is where Care Bears from. They come from a strange anthropomorphic star god who saves these little animals and their ark from the original sin serpent of evil with rainbows, clouds, and a whole lot of love that is delivered with sparkles, shimmers, and a whole heap of panache.
Granted, this origin story recontextualizes the first Care Bear movie where the Cousins live in the Forest of Feelings sans tummy symbols unaware the Care Bears exist. The sequel/prequel explains the Bears and Cousins were split up to keep them all from being destroyed at once, but no one really explained when the Cousins lost their memories and had their tummy emblems removed which, if we are following the timeline happened *during* the action of the second movie, which takes place over the course of one season of summer camp on Earth.
Care Bears go from infants to adults in the span of, like, two weeks.
During this fight with Dark Heart, the Care Bear family were separated, brainwashed, reunited, and fought against the evil in the original Care Bears movie.
Care Bears either have a life span of maybe five human years or they are just babies for a very short span of an otherwise long life.
Okay, I’ve veered into nitpicking, but I do so only to draw attention to the point that, yes, it is possible this ode to rainbows and identity is accidentally a gay anthem, as numerous other elements of the cartoon lack consistency, but seriously, watch this entire song and tell me it wasn’t on purpose:
In my defense, all “Baby” stuffed Care Bears came with frilly bonnets
I am not ashamed to admit my best friend as a child was a stuffed toy. His name was Baby Swift Heart Rabbit, and he and I went everywhere together, including our Thelma and Louise-esque attempt to climb over the rails of Cumberland Falls and jump in before my mom grabbed us and screamed at me (us) with a mix of fear, anger, and concern for a good 20 minutes.
I am a little ashamed to admit as an adult I have recently been re-watching some of the cartoons my best friend was featured in during the mid-80s, as one can try and explain why a seemingly stable adult in their 30s with no children of their own is watching Care Bears on YouTube, but is there really anything I can say that isn’t going to sound weird?
So, let’s just set pretense aside and explain for whatever reason I was editing some copy and had the third feature-length Care Bears film, Care Bears in Wonderland, playing in the background. The title tells you pretty much exactly what the concept was. Instead of coming up with new characters, plots, and mythology, why not just take your popular characters and insert them into a popular story that just so happens to be in the public domain so it doesn’t cost you anything to license it?
How did the Nelvana production company manage to come up with a reason the Care Bears needed to go to Wonderland, you ask? Well, it starts with the March Hare showing up in the home of the Care Bears and Care Bear Cousins (aka the non-bear Care Bears like the lion, monkey, rabbit, etc.) and asking to see his niece, Swift Heart Rabbit.
Woah. WOAH. Woah. Woah woah woah.
I played it again to make sure I heard it correctly because I was absolutely floored to discover that, for basically a quarter of a century, I apparently did not know the correct gender of what I considered to be my best friend.
The inner monologue kicked in. “I mean you were little, but even in the 80s you knew that just because something was blue doesn’t necessarily mean it is a boy…You could have asked, but, you know, s/he was a stuffed animal, so that wouldn’t have helped much.”
But still, as a kid, I lived Care Bears. I had at least a dozen of the full-sized grown up CBs and a couple of the “Baby” versions from the second Care Bears movie, which was essentially a prequel before prequels were even cool, and featured all of the Bears and Cousins as infants. I watched the movies to the point where even today, I can probably (definitely) sing some of the songs them without missing a word.
Which gets me to the heart (ugh, what a dreadful pun) of the matter: How did I miss that Swift Heart was a girl?
Hours of time wasted down the Wikipedia rabbit hole, my world was as upside down as Alice’s. Turns out that, thanks to some plot inconsistencies, carelessness (again, the inadvertent puns, I really can’t help myself), and attempts to try and remedy some of the “pink = girl, blue = boy” mentality which was so prevalent in the early 80s, this cartoon managed to be just about the most gender-progressive animated series of the decade. Caitlyn Jenner could travel back in time and create a cartoon about herself and it *still* wouldn’t be as advanced in its presentation of gender as the Care Bears, who were totally doing gender reassignments long before any Olympians were.
The more I read, the more I realized there is just too much to suss out in a single blog post. Plus, some of you (ahem, Jan Fisher) have informed me my blogs can often be a little tl;dr. So, now that my life stuff is settling back into a category we’ll call noraml-ish, get ready for a series looking at how this crop of adorable fluffballs accidentally(?) set up Society of the Serpent-ers and Snake People to be more open to concepts like gender fluidity, transgender people, and gaping plot holes in nostalgia-filled movies because hey, if there are cute animals, catchy songs, and a multi-million dollar merchandising opportunity, we all should learn to be a little more open-hearted (okay, this last one was on purpose).
Get ready to care a lot…about the Care Bears and gender.