Rule 34: A Cautionary Tale

You like something?  Tempted to make Rule 34 of it?  You may not want to after you read this.  The names are withheld to protect the innocent.  And so that nobody googles the name and sees the High Octane Nightmare Fuel.

The year was 1994.  Bill Clinton had just been elected President.  The Internet exploded in accessibility and the Eternal September began with millions of mundanes connecting over 28.8kbps modems.  Experienced netters became bitter and soon stupidity became the norm on the ‘net.  Rule 34 was well-known but accepted as an unavoidable part of the overall experience.

A vitrual world away, Warner Brothers studios was launching a cartoon variety show on their private network in the spirit of the original Looney Tunes.  The jokes were aimed at adults but kids found it great as well.  It was a Good Thing and everyone rejoiced.

A character idea was pitched to the network execs and they liked the idea.  Animators lined up to get a chance to work on this character.  She was different from the rest.  Finally, she made her debut as a minor character and her personality and the curious way she bent reality to her will was an instant hit with all corners.  She starred in two of her own cartoons and they were sensations.  But by the time they released the second ‘toon, they saw something new and unusual happening:  Rule 34 had given her a VERY different reputation on the ‘net.

Then (and now) it was impossible to search her name without seeing not only the expected Rule 34 but that almost ALL results were Rule 34.  And not just the kind of Rule 34 that was common on the ‘net but every possible (and many impossible) perversions and some things that can only spring from the darkest recesses of the depraved and fevered imagination.  The execs were highly squicked by this and waxed sore afraid of what would happen if some unsuspecting child searched for their favorite cartoon character, only to see THAT.  They brought the hammer down hard and said that she should be Put On A Bus and heard from no more.  The animators begged the execs to change their mind and after some time a compromise was reached that she should appear only in brief cameos and that her two cartoons shall not be aired in syndication.  A character animator went back to his desk and drew a very sad version of her.  The page where the artist interview is hosted has a blurry scan of the sad picture he drew.  It’s the most heartbreaking thing I’ve seen in a very long time.  She didn’t deserve what happened to her.  Her last appearance was in a cameo in the film that ended the series.  One of her cartoons was released on the DVD of the show but the other exists only in stillframes and VHS backups.  No MPEGs are able to stick around long on the ‘net as Warner Brothers is very vigilant on that.

The series ended in 1999 and the movie was released in 2000.  Three years later, some animators were attending a con and one in particular had people lined up for figurative miles to see him.  Why?  They wanted one last sketch of their favorite character.  She had that much of an impact on people.

Many, perhaps most, see her only for her undeserved reputation.  A few of us see her as the endearing, imperfect, and funny character she was intended to be.  We are the guardians of the original intent of the character and speak out against the abuses she suffers at the hands of those who would misuse her likeness.  Do you want to know what else?  I’d never heard of her until 3 weeks ago when I read half the story on TVTropes.  Unfortunately, due to the format, TVTropes can only tell half the story and Wikipedia rejects the unofficial animators’ interviews because they’re not Word of God.

So the next time you see Rule 34, think about the possible backlash.  It just may spell the end of something wonderful.

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  1. #1 by Chadwick on November 20, 2010 - 2:56 PM

    Unfortunate consequences of life.

    • #2 by Joshua on November 20, 2010 - 4:24 PM

      Still, it didn’t have to be that way but I don’t blame the execs one bit. I can’t think of a better way to handle it and I am indebted to them for not going with their first impulse and just give her the McLean.

  2. #3 by Joshua on November 20, 2010 - 4:25 PM

    Still, I betcha Chad can attest to the nightmarish nature of some of the Rule 34 surrounding the particular character.

  3. #4 by Joshua on November 21, 2010 - 7:06 PM

    I’d like to clarify that I’m referring to this Rule 34. Not this one. The latter is only applicable in a civil proceeding in federal court jurisdiction. The former is a basic law of the Internet.

    • #5 by Chadwick on November 21, 2010 - 9:21 PM

      Oh, well I’ve been addressing entirely the wrong problem, then. 😛

  4. #6 by Lolchocobo on November 23, 2010 - 12:50 AM

    Thank you, for now I must now find out who this She Who Must Not Be Named is. Bile Fascination kinda kills me here.

    But I have to say that Rule 34 has gotten out of hand for a while already. There’s already a website DEDICATED to it, and I haven’t gotten over the squick of Rule 34 depicting REAL PEOPLE like Audrey Hepburn and–*shudders* Taylor Lautner. 😦

  1. Rule 34 poisons your brain, too. « Around Teh Table

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