March 13th, 2004

Tom Lehrer is Smug

dit dit dit dah

I was watching some old "banned" WWII cartoons this morning, you know, the ones where Popeye and Bluto team up to "beat the Japs" or where Donald Duck is taught by a proto-Scrooge McDuck to save his money so he can pay "taxes to beat the Axis" (this one had a brilliant propaganda moment at the end with a montage featuring AMERICAN INDUSTRY! WORKING DAY AND NIGHT TO DEFEAT THE OPPRESSORS OF FREEDOM AND PEACE!) and a cute one involving "Gremlins from the Kremlin" who sabotage Hitler's plane as he personally tries to bomb Moscow. Stuff like that. You know.

A few use the first notes from Beethoven's Fifth as their motif. Audio punctuation. Adolf gets klonked on the head, down he goes. DUN DUN DUN DUNNNNN. I thought that was interesting, and wondered what the common appeal was. Teutonic chords to further the German angle, maybe? Well, perhaps, but it's also played when a bunch of bucktoothed, bespectacled Japanese stereotypes get knocked around as well. DUN DUN DUN DUNNNN. Not so German now, are we?

Then it hit me -- the first four notes are morse code for V. As in Victory. V was a pretty hot letter back in WWII.

I'm pretty sure it's been pointed out to me before. I'm pretty sure I've heard this elsewhere. But it skipped my mind until today, when I noticed it in a shining moment of clarity. Or caffeine. Whichever.