The campy villain is undoubtedly one of the biggest staples of traditional animation; this trope runs through film and television alike, regardless of audience and story. From The Lion King to The Powerpuff Girls, Gravity Falls to Wreck-it-Ralph, the comedically limp-wristed bad guy is an intrinsic part of American society’s casually homophobic output, setting up an environment where these behaviours are automatically associated with social ills.
The historical context of this stereotype is explored in Richard Squire’s documentary ‘Doozy’, through the example of comedian and voice actor Paul Lynde (1926-1982). Lynde, otherwise known for roles in Bewitched and Bye-Bye-Birdie, is fondly remembered as the voice of various ‘campy villains’ across four Hanna-Barbera productions – Charlotte’s Web, It’s the Wolf, Where’s Huddles? and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop. Squires utilises a combination of interviews, animated re-enactments, and talking heads to trace Lynde’s life in relation to the stereotype he so brilliantly portrayed, with ample consideration for the personal and professional impact this may have had on him as an individual.
The main strength of the film lies in its direct approach to the wider subject at hand, with analysis of the queer-coded villain delivered succinctly by a range of speakers, ensuring that Lynde’s legacy is correctly framed by the discourse which surrounds his success. Squires avoids showcasing any one narrow viewpoint, instead inviting an academic discussion on the morality of such tropes, rather than hardline opinions. As an introduction to the topic, this method works well, covering the various elements of Lynde’s characters, and the ways in which they contribute to the construction of the queer-coded villain.
Intermixed with this almost educational strand of the film is a series of animations which re-enact scenes from Lynde’s life, re-imagining the actor as the very trope he so often played. Such an experiment is poignant to watch, and naturally poises the question: just how far did Lynde separate himself from his farcical characters? ‘Doozy’ mulls on this slowly, drifting through each segment and never quite reaching a solid answer. This dragged-out pacing can feel frustrating, particularly considering the short runtime of the doc – at an abrupt 70 minutes, ‘Doozy’ doesn’t really have time to hang around.
A perfect documentary ‘Doozy’ is not, but as a commentary on the demonisation of queer culture, this little gem is a perfect introduction, and will certainly leave you re-considering the beloved cartoon villains of your childhood.
For screening times and tickets, see below.