Cool Hands Luke: Deconstruction of a Bear Gone Bad
by Gabe and Gidget


For a full description of Cool Hands Luke and his role in Feminine Air, see Review: (spoilers included, so see the episode first, if possible).


Here we examine a one-shot villain who appeared in Feminine Air.  To put it bluntly, Cool Hands Luke is a seven-letter word starting with A and ending with E.  From his scruffy appearance and especially his constant unpleasant expression, one might dismiss him as a stock cartoon bad guy.  He sort of resembles an ursine version of the French-Canadian lumberjack, Black Jacques Shellac (from the old Bugs Bunny cartoon, Wet Hare) – dirty, unkempt, unshaven, and smelly.


After watching Feminine Air the other day, I began to wonder, how was Cool Hands able to so thoroughly scuttle Baloo in the aviation community?

Sure, playing-off the resentment over Rebecca running a successful cargo business in a largely male-dominated industry might work for one or two people (like the sideburn-obsessed client he steals), but all of them?

Cool Hands is an obnoxious jerk, that I highly doubt just his word alone would be enough to do it for two reasons:

1.) People with his kind of personality tend to generate a lot of hard feelings wherever they go.

2.) Baloo's reputation as an awesome pilot is already well-established around Cape Suzette and beyond, especially in the freelance community.

So based on this, even if he spread some horrifying rumor about Baloo (something much worse than "he's workin' for a skirt"), what makes Cool Hands such an authority? What makes people take his word over someone like Baloo?

Considering the dirty tricks he resorts to in the scavenger hunt, my thinking is that he likely bribed the various aeroclubs to snub Baloo. Money talks, after all. And remember, back then, even $5 bucks was a lot of money (enough to buy a week’s worth of groceries).


As you say, Cool Hands Luke is the type to generate bad feelings whenever he goes. He casts a pall over every celebration, every room he enters. He's unhappy (for whatever reason) and doesn't want anyone else to be happy. He's not handsome, smart (listen to his malapropisms, “Absotively” and “Posalutely!”) or wealthy.  He doesn’t try to overcome these disadvantages, but reasons that Life Isn’t Fair and that naturally, he has to cheat to keep up.  After all, what’s a bad bear to do?  ;)

Same with success. Just look at the guy -- he's obviously a poor working stiff and likely resents having to play nice with the rich people to get their business. He hates Baloo, who is a lot more successful in life than he is -- lots of friends, reputed to be the best pilot in the skies, etc.  Despite the fact they're practically twins in other areas (overweight, uneducated, competitive pilots), Baloo still 'wins'.

I can't imagine anyone hiring Cool Hands to fly for them based on his charm alone. He almost certainly is only hired for his flying ability, and has to take orders from someone (like Baloo does for Beckers). All that resentment is bound to build up into something dark and ugly.

I would compare it to the way poor white farmers (in the bad old days) resented former black slaves buying land and getting work, education or any kind of perk, even if they worked hard for it. The general attitude was, "What's the world coming to if some n____ gets it instead of us decent white folk?"

Cool Hand’s point-of-view is similar. Replace 'poor white farmer' with 'men' and 'former black slaves' with 'women' and you get the idea behind that jerk's attitude toward females.


Maybe in reality, Cool Hands has only mediocre flying skills and cheated every year in the scavenger hunt to make himself look like a better pilot than he really is?  That might also explain his resentment towards Baloo: jealously of someone who is genuinely talented in the cockpit.


I also wonder why so many cargo companies are taking this loser’s word over Baloo’s reputation of being a great pilot.  Unless the big guy’s snafus somehow caught up with him (like his notorious “Pelican Dive” of On a Wing and a Bear).

I think you hit it on the head with Cool Hands: Natural resentment towards someone who is genuinely talented in the cockpit.  It’s similar to, but much more maleficent than Baloo’s sullen envy of Ace London.  Maybe Baloo is Cool Hand’s “Ace London”.

(as Baloo): Ya got that right!

And his misogyny may also come from not getting attention from women he's attracted to. Look how he reacts to rejection from 'Tan-Margaret'. “She” turns down his marriage proposal ("I-I could never marry a cheater!") and he responds by trying to crash the Sea Duck with magnets! He should have been arrested for attempted murder, not allowed to slink off in disgrace for cheating in a race.


I agree! He should have been arrested or at the very least, had his pilot’s license permanently revoked. Basically, there was no proof. Unlike a race in modern times, in the 1930's, every leg of the scavenger hunt would not be monitored with movie cameras or something.  So the judges and authorities would have had no way of knowing about his attempt to cause the Sea Duck to crash.

Alternatively, Becky and Baloo didn't dare try to report it. If they had, it would've meant revealing who "Tan Margaret" really is to everyone. Most likely, this would've lead to Higher For Hire being disqualified and at the very least, would've been a huge personal embarrassment for Baloo.

I could just hear the jeers now, "Poor Baloo, that skirt he's workin for has even got him wearing one!" or "Baloo's not just workin' for a skirt, he IS a skirt!" etc. etc etc. I don't think he'd ever live it down!

And even if they did try to report it, the magnets Cool Hands booby-trapped the Duck with are at the bottom of the sea, so it would be their word against his.

As for his relationships with women, I’d like to add that in his case, permanent bachelorhood is a very good thing. Cool Hands is someone who has “drunken wife-beater,” written all over him. As you said, look at his attempt to cause “Tan” and Rebecca to crash (not to mention his conduct in general), to me it speaks volumes about what kind of husband he’d probably be. If he did (God forbid) marry someone, one could only imagine what was in store for the poor girl if she was late with his supper, etc. *shudder*


In Dustin Hoffman Rainman voice): Wife-beater. Definitely wife-beater. 

I’ve often thought of Cool Hands as an evil version of Baloo. His choice of mate says something about him.  He picks what could physically be his female counterpart – a big, strong “real spitfire” who punches his lights out.  The punch definitely turns him on and earns poor “Tan-Margaret” his amorous attentions.  Maybe he likes being hit?   Stranger things have happened. 

The physical similarities remind me of Baloo and his counterpart (physical and personality-wise), Plane Jane (in Waiders of the Wost Tweasure) – especially when they’re both running in parallel tunnels away from speeding boulders!  If Plane Jane had been a conventionally attractive female, he would have scooped her up and carried her as he ran.  Both Cool Hands and Baloo view women as another species altogether.  The difference is, Baloo is able to learn from his experience with Rebecca as his navigator at the end of Feminine Airs.  Before Plunder and Lightning, he was more chauvinistic in his attitude, because he simply didn’t deal with women outside the roles of ‘mom’ or ‘possible girlfriend’ (Princess Lotta L’Amour and Katie Dodd).  Rebecca fits into both roles, plus the ones of ‘boss’ and ‘friend’.  I can’t imagine Cool Hands having close female acquaintances besides his mother, if he knew her at all.


I would definitely have to agree with your observation that Cool Hands seemed to like being hit. Taking that a step further, it could mean that at the back of his mind he subconsciously equates physical abuse by someone stronger with expressions of affection, possibly indicating an abusive childhood.

Not that it excuses his actions by any means (especially the attempted murder), but if this is the case, it could go a long way towards explaining why he acts the way he does.

But then again, some people just grow up to be jerks, even after having a perfectly normal childhood.  


If this wasn’t a Disney cartoon, I’m sure we’d get answers.  The closest to the subject TaleSpin ever gets to child abuse is Kit’s experience with the pirates, more so in Kit-fics than Plunder and Lightning.  In the show, he explains his departure from the gang with, “I got sick of ‘em.”  But that’s another conversation altogether.  Please take it to the TaleSpin Comment Board, not Baloo Lagoon!  :D


Maybe we’re better off not knowing? While I’m sure the TaleSpin world has its dark side (hinted at in numerous episodes, but not really shown to a great extent), to me, part of the show’s appeal is its generally upbeat sentiment.

I’m not sure I really want to see what kind of horrible abuse people could dream up for Kit or even Cool Hands to have experienced.

Real life is depressing enough, after all.


May 2008

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