Ghost Dog, Cartoons, and the Lack of Authorities

After Ghost Dog stole the second car, something struck me as strange: where are the police? Clearly, the low socioeconomic setting as well as the presence of the mob indicates that even if there were a police presence in this city, they would probably be corrupt and horribly racist. Nonetheless, it struck me as odd that there wasn’t a single policeman to be seen, despite the number of people who had been shot, houses that had been broken into, and cars that had been stolen. Shortly thereafter, as Louie was driving back to the city, he was pulled over by a policewoman for speeding, the pettiest of crimes in the whole movie. Louie’s dying fellow mobster commented “how come when your in the city, you never see a single cop?” (I jotted that down in my notebook and it’s more likely than not a paraphrase of what was actually said, but the sentiment remains).

This could be a bit of a stretch, but I actually think the answer to the where are all the police in the city lies in recurring presence of the cartoons. Each of the cartoons shown, minus Betty Boop waving a flag at all the pigeons in the beginning (which was graphically matched to Ghost Dog’s actions soon after), showed some sort of competition and violence between two cartoon characters. These cartoons all possessed certain Western elements to them, especially the presence of guns. Additionally, and perhaps more to the point, these types of old-timey cartoons operate in a lawless world. The cartoons shown in Ghost Dog struck me as familiar, although I can’t place the names. They all did, however, remind me of the Road Runner cartoons I watched growing up, where Wiley Coyote was constantly chasing Road Runner, who in turn dropped anvils on his head (Tom and Jerry is another cartoon that has this antagonistic set-up). In Road Runner, there was never any sort of authority figure that looked into the fact that someone was being crushed by anvils. These characters, like the characters in the cartoons in Ghost Dog, existed in a lawless society. Similarly, the world Ghost Dog created was a nearly lawless society. People could shoot each other without any fear of being thrown in jail. There was such a lack of authority that the mobsters didn’t even have to bribe the police in any way. They simply weren’t there. I think the presence of the cartoons hints at the lawlessness of society; the world Ghost Dog is in exists as the ugly side of that cartoon world, where lawlessness and violence is just as abundant, but this time actual human lives are at stake.

There is a ton of graphic matches made between the cartoon world and real life in Ghost Dog. Towards the very end, we see the cartoon characters pull out large gun after large gun until their weaponry is the size of the earth and they end up destroying it. I think this is intended as a sort of warning; now that Ghost Dog, the only one with a sort of moral code, or at least sense of loyalty, is gone, the world could deteriorate very quickly. The audience is left with a glimmer of hope that Pearline will take up his post and restore an ounce of sanity and good to the otherwise insane world. The cartoon at the end, however, seems to predict that the world is bound be destroyed by all the violence and lawlessness in society.

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