If nothing else, The Mighty Navy offers an interesting historical perspective. This cartoon was released barely three weeks before Japan's Pearl Harbor attack, and though war is the cartoon's obvious theme, said theme is approached rather generically. (When an enemy ship tries to do in some Marines, the ship's flag reads "Enemy (Name Your Own)." So, though the United States hadn't officially entered World War II at this point, it was obviously something regarded as inevitable by the cartoon's makers and, by extension, the general public.
Anyway, for its reaches at epic-type quality, the cartoon's premise is pretty simple: Marine Popeye (whaddya know, he really is a sailor!) tries and fails at every task he is given aboard ship -- but only until the enemy approaches, at which point Popeye's previous incompetence evaporates. That said, it's kind of sad to see Popeye initially presented as a nincompoop -- rather like watching the graceful and agile Buster Keaton acting like an incompetent athlete simply because the moronic plot of College tells him he has to.
The climax makes us root for Popeye, though, and far more benignly than we do amidst the savage stereotypes of You're a Sap, Mr. Jap.
© 2009, Steve Bailey.
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