KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2)
January 6, 2022
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of a favorite sidekick — whether real-life or fictional.
In the poisonous slurry of misogyny that was children’s cartoons in the 1960s, the title character of Speed Racer stands out as a world class himbo with a DSM’s worth of personality disorders.
He’s a road raging, sociopathic serial killer interested in only one thing — winning at all costs. In each episode Speed Racer forces bad guys, competitors, and leaders of nation states alike off of cliffs with less remorse than an amoeba. In one scene he goes out of his way to toss the last remaining parachute from a spiraling plane to make sure his rival incinerates in the ensuing crash.
But Speed’s brutality to strangers pales in comparison to his treatment of his sidekick / love interest / exploited and abused crew member, Trixie. When it comes to Trixie, Speed is the Original Toxic Boyfriend. He’s constantly bitch slapping her with outbursts like, “This is no time to act like a girl!” and “Aw, Trixie, please stop talking! I’m trying to figure something out.”
Which is why, in hindsight, it was inevitable I would despise Trixie and fall passionately in pre-pubescent love with that monomaniacal, car-obsessed fuccboi in a ridiculously skinny neck kerchief.
To get a grip on this humiliating dynamic, let’s review how the Stockholm syndrome works. You identify with the powerful oppressor, internalize their worldview, and turn your hatred against them towards yourself and your own weakness. In my case, for instance, my father was the powerful oppressor in the vast sea of the American mid-century patriarchy. He bullied and emotionally eviscerated my mother, as well as me and my siblings. My brother, in turn, bullied me.
Given that, Trixie was the perfect anime embodiment of my six-year-old, little sister superego. She’s a baker’s dozen of classic sidekick tropes drawn from culturally approved female roles: the Gentle Girl, the Caretaker, the Scrappy Damsel, The Girl Friday, The Hypercompetent Subordinate, the Ascended Fangirl, the Overshadowed by Awesome, The Platonic Life-Partner, and The Reliable One. She’s so subordinate that you could argue she doesn’t even have first billing as a sidekick. That would go to Speed’s revoltingly named little brother, Spritle, and his hateful, pseudo-racist pet, Chim Chim the monkey, who together fulfill the traditional main role of the sidekick — comic relief.
Come to think of it, can Trixie even qualify as a sidekick at all, since by definition a sidekick is in a relationship with the hero, as a close companion, colleague or friend who is subordinate. But is Speed even a superhero? He’s just a towering narcissist, incapable of love or relationships. Super Dick is more like it.
Which is why he, like so many leading men/asshats before and after him, desperately needs a woman like Trixie as a foil; she functions as the conscience he never develops.
Case in point — Trixie radios Speed from her helicopter mid-race with an urgent plea; his competitor has a sick sister who will die if Speed doesn’t let him win the prize money to pay for her treatment. Speed barely lets Trixie finish talking before spewing his usual morally bankrupt bile at her, “Why should I let him win? I’m out to win myself! Now sign off and don’t bother me!”
Despite Speed’s constant tongue-lashings, Trixie saves him from engine trouble and villains at every turn. A groundbreaking female character in Japanese cartoons, she’s a skilled mechanic and daring helicopter pilot, who flies ahead and spots landslides, fallen bridges, and oil slicks during races. And she does it all while looking cute in capris and a pink bow. But no matter how competent Trixie is, or more likely because of her hyper-competency, no one ever falls in love with her. Not Speed Racer, and least of all me. She spoils the fun antics with her annoying refrain of “No, Speed, no,” when the rest of the world is screaming, “Go, Speed, Go!” She reminds us too often of the ugly truth lurking beneath the pompadour and the blue eyes framed by three impossibly long eyelashes. She even reveals it in a nightmare sequence which haunted my childhood: she dreams of Speed driving through a fiery red hellscape. He leaps out of the Mach 5 and stands with his back to her. She embraces him, but when he turns to face her, her beloved Speed has morphed into a blue-faced devil in a helmet, with pointy ears and fangs. When he grabs her arms they burst into flames.
Again and again, Trixie tries to tell us that Speed Racer truly is a demon on wheels… whose touch is as toxic as a superfund site.
And we hate her for it.
KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Annie Nocenti on RATSO | Barbara Bogaev on TRIXIE | Sara Ryan on SWIFT WIND | Carlo Rotella on BELT BEARERS | Adam McGovern on JACKIE McGEE | Josh Glenn on RAWHIDE | Gabriela Pedranti on KUILL | Douglas Wolk on VOLSTAGG | Serdar Paktin on CATO | Deirdre Day on TRAMPAS | Dean Haspiel on TIN MAN | Flourish Klink on THE APOSTLE PETER | Miranda Mellis on FAMILIAR | Peggy Nelson on COSMO | Beth Lisick on MARTHA BROOKS | Bishakh Som on CAPTAIN HADDOCK | Stephanie Burt on SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE | Greg Rowland on SPOCK | Adam Netburn on SENKETSU | Mimi Lipson on ROBIN QUIVERS | Jonathan Pinchera on GUTS | Tom Nealon on TWIKI | Mandy Keifetz on DR. EINSTEIN | Judith Zissman on IGNATZ MOUSE | Anthony Miller on DOCTOR GONZO.
DOLLY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (1Q2023): WE FOUND IT | TOGETHER AGAIN | SUNDAY MORNIN’ COMIN’ DOWN | BAD CASE OF THE BLUES | FANCY | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) Country songs. KILL YOUR ENTHUSIASM (4Q2022): LT. TASHA YAR | JOYCE SUMMERS | COL. HENRY BLAKE | MRS. LANDINGHAM | ALEX KAMAL | & 20 other TV deaths. BLURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (3Q2022): LEFT-CORNER BRICK | JOY IS RESISTANCE | THE FUTURE IS PASSÉ | EVERY MINUTE AN OCEAN | SHUT UP, HE EXPLAINED | & 20 other apothegms to live by. KOJAK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2Q2022): ARK II | WKRP IN CINCINNATI | BUCK ROGERS | THE WHITE SHADOW | POLICE WOMAN | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) TV shows. KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (1Q2022): KUILL | CATO | COSMO | TRIXIE | VOLSTAGG | & 20 other sidekicks. NERD YOUR ENTHUSIASM (4Q2021): TIME | THE POST OFFICE | ARDUIN | DOUBT | SUMMATIONS | & 20 other nerdy passions. SWERVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (3Q2021): WARHOL’S WALT WHITMAN | 70, GIRLS, 70 | TYRAEL’S MIGHT | SHIRATO SANPEI | THE LEON SUITES | & 20 other never-realized cultural productions. FIVE-O YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2Q2021): DARK SHADOWS | MANNIX | GET SMART | THE ADDAMS FAMILY | I DREAM OF JEANNIE | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) TV shows. FERB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (1Q2021): STEVEN UNIVERSE | TOP CAT | REN & STIMPY | SHE-RA AND THE PRINCESSES OF POWER | DRAGON BALL Z | & 20 other animated series. CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2020): “Sex Bomb” | “Going Underground” | “Soft South Africans” | “Typical Girls” | “Human Fly” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) punk singles. KLAATU YOU (2020 weekly): ZARDOZ | METROPOLIS | DARK STAR | SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | SOLARIS | & dozens of other pre-STAR WARS sci-fi movies. CONVOY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2019): THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE | ROLLERBALL | BLACK SUNDAY | SORCERER | STRAIGHT TIME | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) action movies. SERIOCOMIC (2019 weekly): LITTLE LULU | VIZ | MARSUPILAMI | ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | HELLBOY | & dozens of other comics. TUBE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2018): LOONEY TUNES | THREE STOOGES | THE AVENGERS | ROCKY & BULLWINKLE | THE TWILIGHT ZONE | & 20 other Fifties (1954–1963) TV shows. WOWEE ZOWEE (2018 weekly): UNISEX | UNDER THE PINK | DUMMY | AMOR PROHIBIDO | HIPS AND MAKERS | & dozens of other Nineties (1994–2003) albums. KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads. GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) new wave singles. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other Thirties (1934–1943) fantasy novels. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.