Of Mice and Men in popular culture
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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.
In cartoons and animation
|“||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.||”|
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?", such as the episodes "Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt" or "Falling Hare". The other popular reference draws on Lennie's love of soft furry animals and his underestimation of his strength. In "The Abominable Snow Rabbit" (1961), 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. This material was re-used in "Spaced Out Bunny" (1980), the last Warner Bros. cartoon in which Bugs Bunny was voiced by Mel Blanc.
Tex Avery, who worked as a director on Warner-released cartoons during the 1930s and early 1940s, started the Of Mice and Men trend with "Of Fox and Hounds" (1940) and "Lonesome Lenny" (1946) featuring Screwy Squirrel. The formula was so successful that it was used again and again in subsequent shorts, notably Robert McKimson's "Hoppy Go Lucky" (1952), "Cat-Tails for Two" (1953) and Chuck Jones' "The Abominable Snow Rabbit" (1961). Avery himself used it again when he went on to direct several cartoons starring the George and Lennie doppelgangers 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".
- The animated series of the same creator, The Cleveland Show has an episode entitled "Of Lice 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 red toon rooster named Chick; Lennie is portrayed as a large 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.
- In an episode of Robot Chicken, a Rocky and Bullwinkle spoof has the duo playing George and Lennie respectively, acting out some of the major moments of the story.
- In The Transformers: The Movie (1986), while escaping Galvatron in a spaceship departing Autobot City, Grimlock pleads Kups to, “Tell Grimlock about petro-rabbits again.”
In films (live action)
- In the film Straw Dogs (1971) 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 film "Chinatown" (1974) there are two minor characters named "Curly" and "Curly's Wife."
- In Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) two of the gremlins are named Lenny and George, after the characters of the book. They both have the same personalities as the characters Lennie and George from the novel, and are often seen together.
- In the movie In the Army Now (1994) 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 Fever Pitch (1997), 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 Woody Allen movie Small Time Crooks (2000), 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 a blooper on the DVD for the film Role Models (2008), 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 (2008), 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 the film Fanboys (2009), Hutch says, "Tell me about the rabbits George." When they are trying to get Linus to tell them the story of going to the Skywalker ranch.
- In the film Hotel for Dogs (2009) there are two dogs, a small dog named Georgia and a large dog named Lenny.
- 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.
- John Leguizamo sings (or raps) "Which way did he go, George; which way did he go?" on his song "Voodoo Mambo", as does Tupac Shakur on "Can't C Me" (Can't See Me).
- The Bell X1 single "The Great Defector" includes the line, "Won't you tell (us) 'bout those rabbits, George?".
- Former Attack Attack! unclean vocalist 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.
- During the fourth verse of "Suplex" by Army of the Pharaohs, rapper Vinnie Paz compares his foe's intellect to that of the novella's character Lennie Small's: "Of mice and men, motherfucker, you tend to the rabbits / Suicidal, I wish the Unabomber sent me a package."
- Laura Marling's song, "Salinas", makes references to Salinas, "Of Mice and Men" and Steinbeck's wife.
- Icelandic indie rock band Of Monsters and Men is named after the story, replacing mice with monsters.
- American post-hardcore band Of Mice & Men name is derived from the novel title
- One of Colin Bateman's novels is entitled Of Wee Sweetie Mice and Men (1996).
- In Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel, Casino Royale (1953), one of Le Chiffre's two guards is described as "rather like Lennie from Of Mice and Men"
- In Stephen King's novel 11/22/63 (2011), the main character, as an English substitute teacher, puts on Of Mice and Men as a school play.
- In Stephen King's novel Blaze (2007), the story's protagonist Clayton Blaisdell bears several similarities to Lennie. His deceased best friend, named George, was also a small and quick-witted man.
- In Stephen King's novel The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla (2004), Father Callahan sizes up the Hitler Brothers as George and Lennie, although the large one was the smart one of the pair.
- In Stephen King's serial novel The Green Mile (1996), 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 and ultimately, at the time of their deaths, both Lennie and John Coffey were executed in the most compassionate way possible under the circumstances that occur in both novels.
- In Stephen King's novel Hearts in Atlantis (1999), Bobby Garfield mentions the "farm with the rabbits" as the definition of a happy life.
- In Stephen King's novel The Talisman (1984), George and Lennie's relationship seems to be paralleled by Jack and Wolf's relationship. Wolf also crushes the hand of another character.
- The story "My Brother's Keeper", from the EC magazine Shock Illustrated, features a large, slow-witted character named Larry whose brother mercy-kills him when he fears Larry is to be institutionalized.
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",[which?] 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",[which?] 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 replies: "Walter isn't my candidate for Lennie."
- In The Monkees episode "Monkees in a Ghost Town," the hoods' names are George and Lennie.[when?] 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.[when?]
- In an episode of the game show Family Feud,[which?] 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.[when?]
- In the season 3 episode of the sitcom Friends titled "The One with a Chick and a Duck", Joey is playing with a little chicken. Chandler alludes to Of Mice and Men by saying "Easy, Lennie" to Joey, which was written "Easy Lenny" by misunderstanding in the subtitles.[when?]
- In an episode of Power Rangers In Space,[which?] Cassie is fast-talked into a date with a big guy named Lennie, with help from his smaller, smarter friend George.[when?]
- In the TV show Lost:
- In the season 3 episode "Every Man for Himself", 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.[when?]
- In the season 6 episode "The Substitute", Sawyer confronts the fake John Locke (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 is his favorite.[when?]
- 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[which?], 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.[when?]
- In an episode of CSI: NY, a primary suspect (Tim Guinee) is auditioning for the part of George in the stage adaptation of Of Mice and Men.[when?] Gary Sinise, who stars in CSI: NY, 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".[when?]
- 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.[when?]
- 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.[when?]
- In an episode of Emergency,[which?] 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!"[when?]
- In an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000[which?], 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!".[when?]
- 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.[when?]
- In an episode of The L Word[which?], 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".[when?]
- The opening quote of the Grimm episode titled "Of Mouse and Men" is, "I am impelled, not to squeak like a grateful and frightened mouse, but to roar..." The episode features a mouse-like creature similar in may ways to Lennie: both characters are seemingly meek and mild-mannered, but turn out to be capable of horrific violence.[when?]
- In the How I Met Your Mother episode "Architect of Destruction", Marshall imagines Robin comparing his style of love making to Lennie.[when?]
- In the Cabin Pressure episode "Fitton", Douglas cites Of Mice and Men as an example of a book that sounds more interesting without the final letter of the title.[when?]
- In the third season premiere of the skit comedy show Key and Peele, a rapper (Keegan Michael Key) kills his hype man (Jordan Peele) because he progressively interrupts him during a rap battle.[when?]
- In the end of The Walking Dead television episode, "The Grove" (March 16, 2014), one of the major characters, Carol Peletier, kills a child named Lizzie because Lizzie previously had killed her own sister Mika, as the Daily Beast writes:
"to show that she'll 'come back' and still be so Mika. She would have done the same to Judith, except that Carol and Tyreese interrupted her. The only solution to this problem is instantly clear - this kid has got to die. "Carol does it Of Mice and Men style, leading Lizzie out to pick flowers and talk. Lizzie breaks down crying because she thinks Carol is 'mad' at her and Carol comforts her. She tells Lizzie to 'look at the flowers' and, as Lizzie’s back is turned, Carol takes out her revolver…and shoots her."
This is reminiscent of the ending of Of Mice and Men, when George kills Lennie while telling him to "look at the rabbits".
- In the season 3 episode 16 of "The Middle" entitled "The Sit Down", Axl did not read "Of Mice and Men" for his homework assignment. Brick then reads it and describes the story to Axl from the back seat of the car while Axl, Sue, and Brick drive around town searching for Sue's lost jacket.
In video games
- 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 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 Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, one of the chapters is named "Of Mice and Mechs."
- 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."
- In Scott Kurtz's PvP webcomic, character Brent Sienna mocks Skull the Troll's intelligence by exclaiming, "Duh tell me about the Rabbits George".
- Frank S. Nugent. "Of Mice and Men (1939)". New York Times. Retrieved July 9, 2009.
- Interview with artist "Joe" on Pixar.com. Accessed June 17, 2008.
- TV.com article on "Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt". Accessed June 17, 2008.
- Letssingit.com. Accessed June 17, 2008.
- Tupacnet.org web site. Accessed June 17, 2008.
- "Entertainment: 'The Grove': Was The Walking Dead's Latest Shocker a Mistake?". Daily Beast. March 17, 2014.
- Nicole Pesce (March 17, 2014). "'The Walking Dead', Season 4, Episode 14 Recap: Growing up is hard to do at 'The Grove'". New York Daily News.