I’ve been thinking more about Ngai’s remarks on zaniness:
You could say that zaniness is essentially the experience of an agent confronted by—even endangered by—too many things coming at her quickly and at once. ... So much of “serious” postwar American literature is zany, for instance, that one reviewer’s description of Donald Barthelme’s Snow White—“a staccato burst of verbal star shells, pinwheel phrases, [and] cherry bombs of … puns and wordplays”—seems applicable to the bulk of the post-1945 canon, from Ashbery to Flarf; Ishmael Reed to Shelley Jackson.
What I’ve been thinking is that, when Porky ends up in Wackyland he certainly seems stressed out by too many things coming at him quickly.
Like modern city life.
Imagine that you were born and raised in the country, and then, wham! you suddenly find yourself in the middle of New York’s Times Square. Talk about wackyland! So many things to see! So many things to do! And so many things coming right at you!
Of course, Porky’s Wackyland is nowhere near New York City. It’s deep in “darkest” Africa. Notice, though, that this version of darkest Africa is completely lacking in dark natives. That, I submit, is because it really isn’t about the traditional darkest Africa. Africa’s just a dodge, camouflage, a defense—as though it’ll all go away if we can pin it on Africa.
Porky in Wackyland is about the modern world, which is most characteristically modern in the Big City, where everything is wacky. It’s the number, variety, and unrelenting pace of things. That’s the Big City. And that’s Wackyland. Every moment a new adventure. Never a moment to breathe. By setting Porky down in a place where nothing is familiar Clampett emphasizes pace, variety, and number. We hardly recognize anything, but we can sure see that there’s a lot of whatever they are and they don’t stop for anyone.
That’s modern life.
And the surrealism in the visual idiom. I associate surrealism with the unconscious, Freud, and that—as the Surrealists themselves did. But there’s also the blend of the organic and the mechanical that you see in, e.g. Dali’s limp clocks, or Tanguy’s mechanico-morphic pseudo-molecules. Could this be an attempt to “animalize” the machines that have displaced animals as sources of power and movement?