Porky Pig, a Warner Brothers' cartoon character, was first introduced to movie goers in 1935. He "first appeared in 'I Haven't Got a Hat. . . .' and went on to become the trademark of Warner's cartoons" (Friedwald and Beck, 1981 p. xiv). It is doubtful that any person familiar with the Porky Pig cartoons would not classify Porky as a stutterer. Porky Pig's stuttering is the product of a "voice", most notably produced by Mel Blanc. Consequently, the type and sound of the stuttering cannot be called typical of that produced by "real" stutterers since there just is too much variety in the imitated stuttering. It is not unreasonable to suspect that Porky's stuttering was produced for effect and not much concern was given to accuracy. In addition, the entertainment value should not be discounted. Even though the last theatrical release was in 1965, the cartoons are now being widely distributed and shown on T.V. (Friedwald and Beck, 1981).
CHARACTERIZATION OF PORKY PIG
Generations of stutterers of all ages have been terrorized by Porky Pig's stuttering because it was an object of humor-a character flaw. In spite of Porky's somewhat harmless looking physical countenance and sometimes placid and accommodating personality, he was often put upon by some other character. The "Warner Brothers' cartoon staff soon discovered that Porky Pig wasn't so much an actor as a reactor, so they designed cartoons that paired him with other characters (like Daffy Duck) or put him into situations where he'd respond to the craziness around him (as when he goes in search of the Do-Do Bird)" (Maltin, 1985, p. xiv).
Porky Pig often starts out as a placid pig, usually minding his own business, but soon he becomes traumatized either by events going on around him or by another character-especially Daffy Duck. Examples of Porky Pig's traumas are wide ranging and in part include being plagued by termites, flying a plane, being a private in the French Foreign Legion, getting a mouse out of his house, being a picadore, and reacting to a talking dog, a giant, and a midget ant. Needless to say, Porky Pig went from one trauma to another, causing him great mood swings. Often, Porky would get angry at his tormentors and strike out in a highly emotional manner.
In a number of cartoons, Porky Pig is called a variety of derogatory names, such as "fat boy," "ham", and "fatso" and is often cast in the role of an inferior person at some point in the cartoon. In fact, Porky's father referred to Porky as a "good for nothing boy" ("Porky and Teabiscuit," 1939). However, Porky usually turns the tables and wins the day in some fashion. Uphill battles for Porky Pig are quite typical.
In spite of the severity of Porky Pig's stuttering, he has been successful at working in a number of occupations, such as a farmer, gas station attendant, sailor, railroad engineer, pilot, private in the French Foreign Legion, newscaster, and police officer. Through the use of this cartoon character, it could certainly be demonstrated that "people" who stutter can do most things in life. Porky's stuttering may have contributed to the way the other characters treated him, but a more plausible explanation for Porky Pig becoming the foil is simply the cartoon characterization that became Porky's trademark.
Porky Pig was at risk for becoming a stutterer from the outset because his father also stuttered. Porky's father is a hard core stutterer, whose stuttering consists of part-word repetitions, insertion of the schwa vowel, starters, tight articulatory contacts, prolongations, and facial grimaces associated with the moment of stuttering. Porky's father, Phineas Pig, in the 1939 "Porky and Teabiscuit" stuttered on 11.6% of his spoken words, 51.4% in the 1936 "Porky the Rainmaker," and 36.7% in "Porky's Poppa," 1938. In these pre-Mel Blanc voice characterizations, the type of stuttering was more realistic. In the 65 cartoons which we observed and the 37 which we analyzed, there was no mention or observation of Porky's mother so nothing can be stated about her.
Porky Pig stuttered on 30% of his spoken words in the 1948 "Daffy Duck Slept Here", 21.3% in "In Curtain Razor," 1949, 25.3% in "Often an Orphan," 1949, and 17.2% in the 1950 "Boobs in the Woods." In "Porky's Poppa," Porky Pig plays a recording he made to the tune of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" and hears himself stutter on the playback. He has a violent reaction to hearing himself stutter and he smashes both the record and the playback machine.
Porky Pig's stuttering topography consists of the insertion of the schwa, part- and whole word repetitions, struggle, word substitutions, circumlocutions, insertions of unrelated syllables and sounds, and retrials. Other behaviors associated with his stuttering include squinting, eye blinks, timed bodily movements, and facial grimaces. Porky also stuttered when using a voiced whisper, talking to himself outloud, saying his name, yelling, singing, asking questions, when angry, talking to animals, pets and babies, speaking with an accent, and reading aloud. Another unusual type of disfluency occurred when Porky tried to say his name and couldn't, so he tried writing it, but he wrote disfluently.
Porky Pig is a hard core stutterer who stutters, in part, at unusual times and in atypical ways at the discretion of the writers and the "voice". Porky Pig's audience, especially those viewers who know little about stuttering, could certainly get a distorted view about the disorder of stuttering and of "people" who stutter. Porky Pig's character was meant to be humorous and entertaining and to be different from all other cartoon characters, so he was given the characterization of stuttering.
It appears that although Porky Pig's stuttering was obvious, it was incidental to the story line. In spite of this, Porky's stuttering was bizarre enough to cause pain and suffering to some members of his audience. One person who stutters suggested that the general handicapped population "are supposed to be idolized and viewed as being courageous, but a stutterer is supposed to be a joke!". Another person wrote: "Porky Pig is embarrassing, humiliating and certainly not funny." Some parents of children who stutter have mentioned that whenever a Porky Pig cartoon came on the T.V., they would not let their children see it. Some children who stutter are called "Porky Pig" by their friends and enemies, and one child who stuttered asked his mother: "Why do I talk like Porky Pig?"
Porky Pig cartoons or portions of them could be utilized in therapy with some children by asking the question "If you could teach Porky Pig how not to stutter, how would you do it?" A part of this therapy could be an analysis of Porky's stuttering, symptomatic modification, and fluency enhancement. A behavioral and situational analysis with a discussion about modification of these problem areas could also be accomplished. Utilizing Porky Pig for this purpose might also defuse the negative aspects of the cartoons, serve as therapy reminders, and bring therapy-reluctant children into the therapy process, initially, in a vicarious way.
According to Stromsta (1986, p. 158) " .. . . .a locally-made series of five five-minute-long movie cartoons of Porky Pig ... was developed to teach children how to blend speech sounds into words and to use Porky Pig as a speech model." The cartoons and what they attempted to get across were readily accepted even by the youngest of children as often witnessed by their working on their speech before the therapist directed activities toward that end.
The author wishes to thank Jodi Pieczynski for her assistance.
Friedwald, Will and Beck, Jerry. The Warner Brothers' Cartoons, New Jersey and London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1981, p. xiv.
Maltin, Leonard, Porky Pig's Screwball Comedies. Warner Home Video Inc., 1985.
Stromsta, Courtney Elements of Stuttering. Oshtemo, MI: Atsmorts Publishing, 1986, p. 158.