In this Tiny Toon Adventures short, Buster Bunny, Plucky Duck, and Hamton J. Pig go where most Saturday morning cartoons don’t go. “One Beer” was only aired once in the United States. However, I came across this short while viewing a collection of episodes for HollywoodJesus.com.
Buster opens the fridge to offer a drink to his friends Plucky and Hamton. He names off what its in the fridge, and notices that there is one beer. He offers that, ,too, acting all cool about it.
Hamton: “What are you thinking, Buster?”
Buster: “Drink it.”
Hamton & Plucky: “Drink it?!?”
Hamton: “But, Buster, this isn’t like you.”
Buster: “I know. But in this episode we’re showing the evils of alcohol.”
The three friends go to the park (why the park, I don’t know) with the single bottle of beer. After ensuring they look innocent when a police officer walks by, Buster opens the bottle. He dares the others to drink it. Hamton says that the darer should go first. And so Buster takes a sip, and then the other two take a sip, and immediately they are wasted. And we have after school cartoon characters drunk.
They show up at the Looniversity dressed like Larry, Darryl, and Darryl. It is referring to the 1982-1990 series Newhart, staring Bob Newhart, a pop culture reference that was mostly missed by the children who were watching. The girls don’t want anything to do with these three drunk amigos. (Keep in mind, they are still sipping from the one bottle.) They look rough and their breath smells bad. The girls walk right past them.
Next, the three friends head up to a donut shop, where Plucky finds a police car with the keys still in it. And in their drunken state of mind, they decide to take the car for a spin. They crash their way through town, before driving up a mountain. As they do so, they pass a sign that says, “Now leaving reality.”
And that, they do. Plucky turns the cruise control on and they drive right off the mountain falling into a graveyard. From there, the three rise up into the heavens complete with white gown and wings. But, instead of heaven, we find our colorful, young friends back in the studio. As they leave, Buster says, “I hope the kids get the message.” Plucky adds, “Yeah, drinkings uncool.”
When I first saw this in the midst of other classic Tiny Toon episodes, I was surprised that this even existed. It is, by the far, the darkest Tiny Toon short in the collection. The short was banned after it only aired once. But if you are YouTube savy (by that I mean, you search Tiny Toon One Beer, and it comes up), you could probably watch some of it.
It is, basically, a cartoon version of an after school special. But, as Buster said at the beginning, this was about the evils of alcohol. It may seem kind of morbid to send cartoon characters over a steep mountain to their death. But the “evils of alcohol” are many and diverse. For example, in 2010 about 190,000 emergency room visits of those under 21 with conditions related to alcohol abuse. The three leading deaths of 15 to 24-year olds are automobile crashes, homicide, and suicide. Alcohol tends to be a factor in all three. (Sources: CDC, SADD)
A couple of years ago I was speaking at a youth retreat, and I was talking about how we, like the great Biblical figures who have gone before, stand every day in a place where we discern God’s call in our lives. Every decision that we might in our lives as an affect on us, those around us, and those we have never met. We stand, every day, in these forks in the roads where we have to decide one thing or another. I had, in a very Fred Craddock kind of way, three little vignettes as illustrations. One of them was about a young man who chose not only to drink one beer (and maybe more), but to also drive his girlfriend home. It did not end well.
Afterwards, one of the adult counselors approached me. He was in a wheelchair, unable to use is legs at all. He became to share his story. The vignette of the young man drinking and then driving, that was him he said. That was his story. He took his dad’s car without his dad knowing, took a girl to the drive-in movies, and had a few drinks. On the way home, he got into a car accident, totaling his dad’s car and leaving himself paralyzed form the waist down.
But let me be clear. I’m not taking an alcohol is evil stance. I am, however, taking the stance that every day in every moment we have decisions to make. And we need to make them through the lens of our faith, through the lens of our relationship with Jesus Christ. If we make the decision to have one beer, than we should not make the decision to drive, for less our fates are that of Buster, Plucky, and Hamton. And I take the stance that one beer is a lot different than 12 or 20 or 50 beers. There are numerous studies that show that alcohol has lasting effects.
At a different retreat, I started the event off speaking on grace and how God’s grace in the midst of our lives even before we know we need God’s grace (truly good news!). And that no matter how many stupid things we do, God’s grace is still greater. Another adult counselor came up to me to show me his pin. His 5 year sober pin. This man was in an AA group, and had been since he realized what kind of affect his drinking was happening on his family, especially his daughter. As this short shows, one beer can have lasting effects.
And I think this is what the writers and directors of Tiny Toon Adventures was aiming for with “One Beer.” A cartoon way to say, hey, it’s uncool. But also, I think, to say hey, we need to be having these conversations. It is not enough to say it’s uncool and don’t do it. It is greater and more valuable to have the conversations about the dangers and the realities of alcohol.