Of Mice and Men in popular culture


Of Mice and Men in popular culture


Of Mice and Men is a novella by John Steinbeck, which tells the story of George and Lennie, two displaced migrant workers in California during the Great Depression (1929–1939). The story is set on a ranch a few miles from Soledad in the Salinas Valley. Since its initial publication in 1937, it has been frequently referenced in popular culture.

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In cartoons and animation

Homages to the characters Lennie and George have been especially popular in American cartoons and animated films. The New York Times reviewed the 1939 film based on the novella thus:

Despite being endlessly parodied in Warner Bros. and MGM cartoons ("Which way did he go, George? Which way did he go?") Of Mice and Men retains its raw dramatic power.[1]

Theatrical cartoon shorts of the 1940s and 1950s, particularly the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons released by Warner Bros., are particularly awash with Of Mice and Men parodies. The reference most often appears in the form of one character asking another, à la Lennie, "Which way did he go, George; which way did he go?",[2] such as the episodes "Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt" or "Falling Hare".[3] On at least one occasion, the abominable snowman grabs Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck saying, "I will name him George, and I will hug him, and pet him, and squeeze him" with Mel Blanc doing an unmistakable imitation of Lon Chaney, Jr.'s Lennie.

Tex Avery, who worked as a director on Warner-released cartoons during the 1930s and early 1940s, started the trend with "Of Fox and Hounds" (1940). The formula was so successful that it was used again and again in subsequent shorts, notably Robert McKimson's "Cat-Tails for Two" (1953) and Chuck Jones' "The Abominable Snow Rabbit" (1961). Even Avery himself used it again when he went on to direct several cartoons starring the George and Lennie dopplegangers George and Junior for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the late 1940s.

Many more serious animated features use George and Lennie-type characters to serve as comic relief.

Other examples in animation include:

  • There is at least one Roger Ramjet episode which features a George/Lennie-based duo, the latter with lines like "tell me about the rabbits", and the later Warner Bros. cartoon duo Pinky and the Brain (of Animaniacs fame) are also somewhat similar to Lennie and George.
  • The Histeria! episode "Writers of the Purple Prose" featured a sketch based on the fact that the first draft of Of Mice and Men was eaten by Steinbeck's dog (played in the sketch by Loud Kiddington's dog, Fetch). In the cover of the book shown in the sketch, Froggo and Lucky Bob are depicted as George and Lennie.
  • In the King of the Hill episode "Of Mice and Little Green Men," Bobby and Hank act in a stage production of Of Mice and Men. In the episode "serPUNt," Bobby's pet snake goes down a sewer causing a panic. The snake is killed, but Hank tells his son Bobby that they let it loose on a farm. At the end of the episode, Bobby asks Hank to "tell me about the farm," in the same manner that Lennie asked George.
  • The animated series American Dad! has an episode "Of Ice and Men".
  • In the Bullwinkle episode Goof Gas Attack, Bullwinkle, whose inherent stupidity gives him immunity from Boris Badenov's latest weapon, laments that now that every living creature is stupid, there's nobody left to feed him a straight line anymore. Rocky the Flying Squirrel confirms this by pleading, "Tell me about the rabbits, George!", thereby confirming Bullwinkle's concern.
  • In the movie Dragon Hunters, the two main characters, Lian-Chu and Gwizdo, seem to share a similar relationship to that of Lennie and George. Lian-Chu asks Gwizdo to tell him about the farm they would live in with many sheep in a similar way to Lennie.
  • Two mice play the main characters in "Of Mice and Men", an episode of Cat and Girl. Cat appears to eat one of the mice just after it asks "Tell me about the rabbits, George", but then announces "he got away" in an apparent reference to a desired ending for the story.
  • In the South Park episode "A Million Little Fibers", Oprah Winfrey's vagina (Mingee) and anus (Gary) have a friendship similar to that of George and Lennie - this is most noticeable at the end where, after being shot, Gary asks Mingee to tell him about Paris and much like in the novella, Mingee tells him about it as Gary dies.
  • In the Disney cartoon series Bonkers, the roles of George and Lennie are given to the main antagonists of the episode "Comeback Kid". Here, George is portrayed as a small and red toon rooster named Chick; Lennie is portrayed as a large and blue toon longhorned steer named Stu.
  • There are two references made in Archer. In the season 2 episode "A Going Concern", Sterling brainwashes ODIN head Len Trexler to despise Mallory, but doing so causes Trexler to lose much of his intelligence. He expresses a simpleton's desire to hold and pet a rabbit nearby, an ode to Slim offering one of his puppies to Lennie, with Sterling asking Cyril, "Can we give Lennie the rabbit?" In the following episode "Blood Test", Trinette tries to get a "baby-crazy" Lana (who is constantly berated for her "man-like" hands) to give back her infant son Seamus, with Gillette interjecting, "Give her the rabbit, Lennie!"
  • In the Futurama episode "Love and Rocket", Bender plays with the ship's control panel. The ship then says: "Stop it! You're mussing up my trajectory!", as Curley's wife does in the novel.[4]

In radio and television (live action)

  • On the radio/ television show Our Miss Brooks dimwitted school athlete "Stretch" Snodgrass is often compared to Lennie. In his first appearance, "Stretch the Basketball Star" he has Lennie's tendency to repeat comments made to him in a confused fashion, and even uses Lennie's "She's purty" to describe series regular Harriet Conklin. His family owns a pet shop, and he is seen to like animals, although he does not kill them accidentally. In "The Grudge Match," Connie Brooks makes a direct comparison, stating that Snodgrass and Walter Denton remind her of Lennie and George from Of Mice and Men. Snodgrass doubts Denton could be Lennie, given his ability to manage the school paper and the basketball team. Brooks replied that "Walter isn't my candidate for Lennie."
  • In The Monkees episode "Monkees in a Ghost Town," the hoods' names are George and Lennie. Lennie is played by Lon Chaney, Jr., as he was in the earlier film. He even produces a mouse from his pocket.
  • In the 5th season of The Shield there is an episode entitled "Of Mice and Lem" foreshadowing events similar to those in the book. in the conclusion of the episode, the main character is hoodwinked and robbed.
  • In an episode of the game show Family Feud, the host asks a contestant whose team has already won (this information is withheld from the contestant), what the name of Curley's wife is, which is never mentioned in the novel.
  • In one episode of the sitcom Friends, Joey is playing with a little chicken. Chandler alludes to Of Mice and Men by saying "Easy, Lennie" to Joey.
  • In an episode of Power Rangers In Space, Cassie is fast-talked into a date with a big guy named Lennie, with help from his smaller, smarter friend George.
  • In an episode of Lost, in a flashback, Sawyer is reading the book in a prison. While on the island, Sawyer quotes the book to Ben, an Other. Later, Ben quotes a different passage to Sawyer. After the references, the character who quoted it asked "don't you read?" - as the other character is staring at them, in confusion and disbelief, respectively. In season six of Lost, Sawyer confronts the fake John Locke, believed to be the "Man in Black", by retelling the story of Of Mice And Men in a nutshell and then pointing a gun at him. Sawyer admits the book its his favorite.
  • In the 2005 show, My Name is Earl, Jason Lee and Ethan Suplee star as brothers: Suplee is a dumb-witted gentle giant and Lee is the small yet wiser one who makes all of the decisions and watches after his brother.
  • In an episode of Cold Case, a 19 year old man kills a mentally challenged 17 year old boy out of sympathy, after circumstances rendered him unable to protect the teen from the harsh realities of the world.
  • In an episode of CSI: NY, in which Gary Sinise stars, a primary suspect is auditioning for the part of George in the play adaptation of Of Mice and Men. Sinise played George in the 1992 film adaptation of the novel.
  • In the Cyberchase episode "The Borg of the Ring", a character wishes for a rabbit to "love and call George".
  • Season 19, episode 4, of Saturday Night Live hosted by John Malkovich, includes a sketch about creating a version of the story for a Disney film. The narrator (as Michael Eisner) informs the audience that the George character has been eliminated because he tested poorly. That character will be replaced by a second Lenny. The two Lenny's are played by Malkovich and Chris Farley. Phil Hartman, Rob Schneider, Jan Hooks, and Lorne Michaels have notable parts in the sketch.
  • In the season 34 episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by James Franco, there is a sketch about the alternate ending of Of Mice and Men where Lennie (played by Bobby Moynihan) discovers that George (James Franco) has been sugarcoating reality and lying to him about death (he also notices George's weapon and astutely points out "I'm pretty sure that's a gun!"), leading Lennie to blame George for killing Curley's (Bill Hader) wife.
  • In an episode of Emergency, Dr. Joe Early (Bobby Troup) says to Dr. Kelly Brackett (Robert Fuller), "Tell me about the rabbits, George!" Dr. Brackett responds, "You're too young!" To which Dr. Early replies, "You know, you're right!"
  • In an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Observer has been deprived of his brain (which he keeps in a dish), and, due to a time warp, is stuck with Pearl Forrester and Professor Bobo in a dungeon in Ancient Rome. When Pearl is attempting to bring Mike Nelson down to the cell they are in to ease their escape, Observer says, among other things, "Tell me about the rabbits, Pearl!".
  • In the Psych episode "Sixty-Five Million Years Off" the character Shawn Spencer tells his partner Burton Guster about his Lennie impression and how it "would have brought tears". He does his impression when he and Gus go question a suspect in a murder case, after he slams the door in their face repeatedly.
  • In an episode of The L Word, Alice tells Dana that she does not want to be "like the guy with the mouse" and Dana tells her "so don't be Lenny".

In films (live action)

  • In the 1971 film Straw Dogs starring Dustin Hoffman, flirtatious teenager Janice is accidentally strangled by the tall, robustly built but intellectually challenged Henry Niles while they are alone in an outbuilding, with several parallels to the killing of Curley's wife by Lennie in Of Mice And Men.
  • In the 1994 movie In the Army Now starring Pauly Shore (Bones), Jack pleads to Bones just before he thinks he is about to die, "Tell me about the store again," an obvious parallel in both character and phrase to Steinbeck's "Tell me about the rabbits again, George."
  • In the Woody Allen movie Small Time Crooks, Frenchy (Tracey Ullman) says of one of her husband's dimwitted friends: "All that's missing from this guy is a piece of velvet and a pet mouse."
  • In Gremlins 2: The New Batch two of the gremlins are named Lenny and George, after the characters of the book.
  • In Fever Pitch, Paul Ashworth (Colin Firth) claims that getting a boy to read Of Mice And Men is the pinnacle of his career, and it will only go downhill from then on.
  • In the 2009 film Hotel For Dogs there are two dogs, a small dog named Georgia and a large dog named Lenny.
  • In a blooper on the DVD for the 2008 film Role Models, Paul Rudd (Danny) and Seann William Scott (Wheeler) have an improvised, yet inaccurate, dialogue about the novel.
  • Danny: This is like hanging out with Lennie from Of Mice And Men.
  • Wheeler: Great book. Love it.
  • Danny: Yeah, like you read it.
  • Wheeler: Ten times.
  • Danny: Ten times? Okay, let me ask you something. What's Lennie's favorite thing in life? (Wheeler laughs [SWS out of character]) No, no, don't laugh. Let me ask you. What's Lennie's favorite thing in life?
  • Wheeler: (pause) Oh, you don't know?
  • Danny: I know! Do you know?
  • Wheeler: Mice...
  • Danny: (shakes head at first, then smiles) Yeah, it's mice.
  • In Marley & Me, while taking Marley to get neutered and discussing the fact that the dog has no idea what's coming, John comments to himself, "It's like Of Mice and Men".

In print

  • In the Stephen King serial novel The Green Mile, John Coffey (played by Michael Clarke Duncan in the 1999 film) is similar to Lennie in that he is large, unintelligent, and innocent at heart. In both stories, mice fall into their care at some point.
  • In the Stephen King novel The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla, Father Callahan sizes up the Hitler Brothers as George and Lennie, although the large one was the smart one of the pair.
  • In the Stephen King novel Blaze, the story's protagonist Clayton Blaisdell bears several similarities to Lennie. His deceased best friend was named George, and was a small and quick-witted man.
  • In the Stephen King novel Hearts in Atlantis, the 'farm with the rabbits' is mentioned by Bobby Garfield as the definition of a happy life.
  • In yet another Stephen King novel The Talisman, George and Lennie's relationship seems to be paralleled by Jack and Wolf's relationship. Wolf also crushes the hand of another character.
  • In Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, one of Le Chiffre's two guards is described as "rather like Lennie from Of Mice and Men"
  • One of the author Colin Bateman's novels is entitled Of Wee Sweetie Mice and Men.

In music

  • In the song “Cleanser” by Brand New, there are references to Of Mice and Men, including mention of the River in the beginning of the book ("the best best best best plans where both mice and men can go terribly wrong/and probably will"), making note of a lady who is vain (which would refer to Curley's wife), and a line in the chorus: "Weighing the cost of the love you make/ Feeling the weight of the bones you break", which would be Curley's wife's wandering eye and Lennie killing her.
  • The Bell X1 single "The Great Defector" includes the line, "Won't you tell (us) 'bout those rabbits, George?".
  • Former singer of Attack Attack! (Austin Carlile) participated in the creation of a band called Of Mice & Men along with Jaxin Hall (bass), Valentino Arteaga (drums), Shayley Bourget (guitar/clean vocals), and Phil Manansala (guitar).
  • Katy Perry references the novella in her song "Pearl": This love's too strong like "Mice and Men" / Squeezing out the life that should be let in.

In other media

  • In the video game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, if the player asks about the NPC Gogron gro-Bolmog, it is said that he had a pet rabbit as a child, and petted it so hard he crushed its skull.
  • In the video game Fallout 2, if the player is playing a mentally handicapped person, when talking to a woman in a brothel they have the opportunity to tell that woman that "George sayz we gonna haf a few achers of our own an' I shud keep away from you or he won't lemme play wit the rabbitz so me go now."
  • The plot of Justic Scrolls, a video game from 2006, is extremely similar to that of the book. Both the book and the game have two friends, a clever one and a dull-witted one as well as both being about a dream that the two of them have. As well as this they both end up with one of the main characters shooting the other, and both of them have a character in them who has a fetish for soft things. Of Mice and Men is also referenced in the game, such as when Paul, the clever one of the two, says to dumb-witted Nert that "he hopes he doesn't do a 'Lennie' on them".
  • In the video game Baldur's Gate, if the player repeatedly clicks on the character Xzar, one of the responses is, "Duh. Tell me about the rabbits".
  • In Scott Kurtz's PVP webcomic, character Brent Sienna mocks Skull the Troll's intelligence by exclaiming, "Duh tell me about the Rabbits George"
  • In Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, On chapter 9, after Cutter goes on a bad drug trip, Sully tells Cutter to go ahead before himself, and Cutter says: "Yeah, yeah, before I know it, you'll be putting that gun on the back of my head and telling me about the rabbits."[7]

References


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