Pastor Steve's Popeye Page

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It's amazing what we learned watching cartoons AFTER school!  Here are some philosophical, theological, and psychological observations that come from the toons.



The Faith Of Olive Oyl 

"I Yam What I Yam" And The Great "I AM"

Of Popeye, Political Correctness, Prof. Traver, And Poetic Justice

A Child Shall Lead (And Occasionally Bleed) Him

Spinach, Spinach Everywhere!

Sir Popeye?


For more essays...

Popeye Essays - Part I

Popeye Essays -Part III



Page last updated on 10-24-08. 
See What's New for details.


Spinach, Spinach Everywhere!

Ever notice how there always seems to be spinach around when Popeye needs it?  Consider the following sample cartoons and how Popeye got his green wonder veggie:

Popeye And The Pirates - Popeye, in chains, has sunk to the bottom of the sea.  A fish swimming by is reading a Popeye comic book.  He pulls the can of spinach off the cover and feeds it to The Sailorman.

The Royal Four-Flusher - The Count, seeking to chop down the flag pole that Olive is perched on, 

accidentally hits the can of spinach with his ax, knocking it off his penthouse roof and into the mouth of Popeye below.

Popeye Meets Hercules - Stranded on the moon, Popeye calls upon "the goddess of spinach" and receives a can from her.

A Wolf In Sheik's Clothing - Wrapped as a mummy and deposited deep within the Sphinx, Popeye happens to land next to a can that has a hieroglyphic label that translates itself as "Spinach."

Snow Place Like Home - Popeye is incapacitated in a giant bear trap 

and has been swallowed by a whale.  As he floats in the belly of the beast, a can of spinach drifts by.

Symphony In Spinach - Popeye has been scrunched into a mailbox.  Luckily, there's a free sample of spinach in there, too, being mailed to Famous Studios.

How Green Is My Spinach - A boy from "our universe" throws a can of spinach into the "movie cartoon universe" to save Popeye.

Jitterbug Jive - A cemented Popeye rolls into a grocery store where he happens to come to rest next to the spinach.

Farmer And The Belle - A hen feeds the unconscious Popeye his spinach.

All's Fair At The Fair - Popeye lands in a spinach canning exhibit and the machine stuffs spinach into his mouth.

Vacation With Play - Two squirrels see Olive's plight and feed an unconscious Popeye his can of spinach. 

Alpine For You - A St. Bernard Alpine rescue dog has spinach to feed sailors in distress.

Taxi Turvy - After Bluto steals Popeye's spinach and drives away with it, a train hits his taxi and the can goes hurtling back to Popeye.

Private Eye Popeye - The butler's punch lands Popeye in a cart full of spinach.

Spooky Swabs - Beset by ectoplasmic enemies on a ghost ship, Popeye runs into the galley to find an ancient can of the king's spinach.

The Billionaire - Brutus has purchased all the world's spinach, but, unfortunately for him, the money he force feeds Popeye was printed with spinach ink.

How nice it is for Popeye that his creators were always looking out for him and placing spinach in his path.

How nice it is for us, too, that our Creator places sources of strength all around us.  But often we are so focused on our problems and predicaments that we fail to notice family, friends, and material blessings that can help us.  We fail to hear or read encouraging words, or pearls of wisdom, from others and even from God himself.  The Apostle Paul, writing from prison, by the way, said this in Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."  If we'd all do this, we'd be more alert to the spinach that Bluto's punch landed us next to and, like Popeye, be "strong to the finich."


A Child Shall Lead 
(And Occasionally Bleed) Him

Popeye's relationships with the children in his life remind me of several things the Bible has to say about kids.

The number one child in Popeye's heart is, of course, his adopted son, Swee'Pea.  When Swee'Pea came into our hero's life in the comic strip, he brought out the best in The Sailorman, as Popeye tried to give the little tyke a good home.  And some of Segar's most heartwarming and heartbreaking strips revolved around Popeye and his "infink." 

 I still get a lump in my throat when Popeye declares that he and the baby are pals and then Swee'Pea sleeps next to him, holding his finger.  The Bible teaches us that children are a heritage from the Lord and a blessing.  Popeye sure was blessed when his "li'l orphink boykid" arrived.

As Swee'Pea grew, he sometimes would set the pace for the adults, exhibiting fearlessness, toughness, and generosity.  Remember when Segar had Swee'Pea go out to fight enemy troops, or when the toddler literally gave the shirt off his back to help the poor?  In the Fleischer animated cartoon, Child Psykolojiky, Swee'Pea not only makes Poopdeck Pappy admit his lie, he then gives the old salt a gift for telling the truth. 

The Bible says that children can indeed be examples to us in the areas of trust and faith and that we ought to imitate them.

- David was derided for being too young right before he killed Goliath. 

- Jesus' disciples tried to shoo small children and mothers with infants away from Jesus, thinking that they weren't important enough for The Master to bother with.  (Jesus thought otherwise and told them so in no uncertain terms.) 

- The Apostle Paul told his young associate Timothy not to let anyone look down on him or dismiss him because of his youth.

So it is that Popeye learned not to underestimate Swee'Pea simply because of his age. 

In Doin' Impossible Stunts, Popeye is auditioning for the job of a movie stuntman and tells Swee'Pea to go back home because he's too small for the job.  Swee'Pea, however, ends up getting the gig on the strength of his audition reel, using footage from Lost And Foundry

And Popeye's young nephews prove to be competent builders in Tots Of Fun.

Sometimes, though, young people follow their whims and endanger themselves and those who are trying to raise and protect them. 

- In Lost And Foundry, Swee'Pea leads Popeye and Olive on a harrowing trip through a factory. 

- Likewise in Famous Studios' Baby Wants Spinach and Child Sockology, Swee'Pea leads not-so-merry chases through the zoo and a construction site. 

- The little tyke's desire for a big boat and a balloon nearly bring about his and Popeye's demise in Baby Wants A Battleship and Thrill Of Fair, respectively.

- The nephews almost do themselves in because they want to play with fireworks in Patriotic Popeye

Speaking of the nephews, Popeye learns the folly of entrusting them with the power of spinach when they don't have the necessary sense of responsibility, nor the wisdom, to properly use that power. 

- In Pipeye, Pupeye, Poopeye, And Peepeye, they beat up the poor guy so that they can go fishing! 

- And at the end of Spinach Vs. Hamburgers, they use their super strength to chain Popeye and Olive Oyl to a lamp post so that they can go to Wimpy's restaurant for some hamburgers. 

The Bible views a nation led by the young as being a nation that is experiencing God's judgment.  Children don't have the wisdom, balance, or restraint that comes with maturity. 

In our culture, where parents have a hard time saying, "No," to their little darlings, and where they wear themselves (and their wallets) out making sure their children are in every sports and youth program available, and where we vote for a president because he likes MTV, plays the sax, and talks about his underwear, and where people are obsessed with looking, and staying, and acting young (to the point that they will have affairs and go ridiculously in debt in order to get new sports cars, and to the point where a milk commercial features a bunch of old men getting into a brawl at a diner and then making a quick getaway), I have to wonder sometimes, "Is God punishing us?"

Popeye cartoons, like the Bible, show us that children are to be loved, respected, and at times, learned from.  But no way are they are to be in charge or to rule.


"I Yam What I Yam" And The Great "I AM"

Religious people who saw Popeye's declaration, "I yam what I yam," in the comic strips or heard it in the animated cartoons may have thought it seemed familiar.  In Exodus 3:14, after Moses asks God what he should tell the Israelites if they ask him God's name, God answers, "I am who I am."  (Another way to translate that Hebrew phrase is, "I will be what I will be.")  God then goes on to instruct Moses to say to the Israelites, "I AM has sent me to you."

In one sense, God and Popeye mean their "I am..." statement in the same way.  They both want it to be known that they are beings who will always act true to their natures and that no one or no outside force can make them change or coerce them into giving up their principles.  They are self-determinate individuals.  What they are is exactly whatever they have chosen to be.  And we must take them as they are, if we take them at all.  Accept or reject them, they aren't going to change in order to please or win us.

Of course, when God reveals himself in this way, we should take it a little more seriously than when Popeye does so.  After all, Popeye did change.  In his earliest appearances in Thimble Theater, he was a hot-tempered, craps shooting indigent with a mean streak who wasn't above bending the rules to get ahead.  Later, after the children of America began taking him into their hearts, Segar toned down his hero somewhat.  Popeye would only sock people if he was provoked and began protecting the weak.  When Swee'Pea arrived, Popeye turned into a family man (of sorts) and, as time went on, became more and more aware that he was a role model for kids. 

By contrast, although there have always been groups who want to tone down God, he remains throughout both testaments, and today, just as he described himself in Exodus 34:6 + 7, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.  Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished..."

Popeye may feel as though he's in charge of his own destiny, but the things he fears can give him pause.  In the comic strips, our hero fears neither man nor "beask," but he does fear "ghosks," evil "spiriks" that can crawl down his throat, and - Olive Oyl!  He fears her great wrath when she believes she's been scorned or when things don't work out the way she wanted them to.  I think he's also afraid of her because he knows she has the power to break his heart.  Remember how alone Popeye felt when he found out she bet against him in a prize fight believing that the Jeep had said that Popeye would lose, or how desperate he was finding he couldn't live without her when she started dancing for Mr. Holster. 

In the animated cartoons, Olive repeatedly jilts him.  Think of how dejected he was in films like All's Fair At The Fair and Alpine For You when she snubbed him and walked happily away with Bluto. 

Love makes the tough sailor vulnerable.  So it is with God, too.  His love for us makes him vulnerable.  The Bible says that he hears the cries of the poor and the oppressed and responds.  His fickle people hurt him when they neglect him or follow after other gods.  But the difference is, whereas Popeye fell for Olive by accident (she kissed him while fantasizing about someone else), God chose to love us and to be involved in our world.

Popeye said, "I yam what I yam," but that doesn't mean that he stayed stuck in the 1930's.  Through the years, Popeye and his cast have dealt with contemporary situations and made jokes about current fads, trends, events, and slang.   This has been done successfully in the comics and the Fleischer, Famous Studios', and KFS cartoons, and the Popeye Players' Radio broadcasts, because the basic concept of the characters, while mutated perhaps at times, wasn't violated.  (See my essay, The Long Shadow Of Segar.)  However, Ocean Comics' marriage issue and Hanna Barbera's "Private Olive Oyl" and "Popeye And Son" were disasters, in my humble opinion, because the cast members no longer were what they were supposed to be.  God's character, nature, and message don't change, but our world does.  The challenge for preachers like me is to find relevant ways to present that God and his message to the 21st Century, and to apply eternal truth to contemporary problems, without violating the source material or making God over in our politically correct image so that he no longer is what he is. 

(Thanks to Mike Brooks for suggesting the topic of this essay.)


Of Popeye, Political Correctness,

Prof. Traver,


Poetic Justice

It was reported in our newspaper and over the INTERNET that researchers have found out that there is violence in G-rated animated films.  Oh, horrors!!!  (I've asked this question before and I'll ask it again, "How in the world do people luck into getting 'jobs' like that?")  And, of course, the "experts" went on to say that children may be traumatized by what they see on the screen.  I agree up to a point.  I've known children to run crying and screaming out of the theater or the room when a cartoon character's parent dies a horrible death (a theme that the Disney corporation apparently loves).  However, the "experts" then went on to say that, if a child sees a character smash another character over the head with a sledge hammer in a cartoon, then the child may grow up thinking that he or she can do the same and that violence is an acceptable way to solve problems.

If the "experts" will permit me, I'd like to respond.  And even if they won't, I'll still respond anyway.  I'm sure I've put as much time and thought into my opinions as they did theirs - the only difference is that I couldn't con somebody into paying me while I cogitated.

First of all, cartoons do not cause violent behavior.  I grew up watching Popeye and The Three Stooges, as did my friends, and it never occurred to us that we should actually put someone's head in a vice or that dangling a girl above a ferocious animal while saying, "Kiss me, or else!" was the way to develop relationships with the opposite sex.  Violence is as old as the third chapter of Genesis.  Isn't it amazing that Cain determined to kill Able without ever having seen any cartoons?  We're always so determined to blame something outside of ourselves for our faults ("The devil made me do it, " the environment, the media, etc.)

Secondly, the "experts" are mixing apples and oranges.  There are different kinds of animated violence.  One kind is like real life and hits close to home (ex. a loved one dies, characters are forced out of their homes by persecution).  There is a Popeye cartoon that contains that type of violence.  In A Job For A Gob, Bluto goes crazy because he wasn't hired and begins to torch Olive's ranch. 

Sorry, but this is the kind of stuff I see on the news everyday and it makes me uncomfortable to watch it in a cartoon.  However, there is another kind of violence in cartoons as well.  It's a type that one of my college speech professors understood well.  Prof. Traver, who was a gentleman as well as being a genuinely gentle man, instructed us in the use of humor to get audiences' attentions.  He discussed the various types of humor, including slapstick, which he confessed was one of his favorites.  Slapstick is indeed violence, Prof. Traver told us, but it is violence exaggerated to such an absurd degree that absolutely nobody can take it seriously even for a minute.  (Prof. Traver never met the members of the P.C. police who want to yank cartoons like Popeye and Tom And Jerry off the air.) 

To illustrate slapstick, Prof. Traver used moments from Popeye toons - Popeye and Bluto ripping trees out of the ground and bashing each other with them (Shape Ahoy) and Bluto smashing and scrunching Popeye into a target, having hillbillies fire at him, and then Popeye eating spinach and springing back to normal (Silly Hillbilly). 

These situations were so ridiculous, he maintained, that instead of being horrified by them, we laugh.  Children (and adults) may be traumatized by cartoon violence that's close to reality, but slapstick violence makes them, at best giggle, and at worst shake their heads and say, "This is stupid!" like many women do while watching the Stooges.  99 per cent of the violence in Popeye cartoons is slapstick violence.  As for the other 1 per cent, like Bluto becoming an arsonist, well...

Thirdly, some characters do evil things because THEY ARE VILLAINS!!!  Isn't that the definition of the word "villain"?  Conflict is essential to any story.  One way to introduce conflict is to use a villain.  (Yes, Prof. Traver also used Popeye cartoons to illustrate story structure.)  As long as cartoons tell stories, many of them will have villains.

And last, but not least, sometimes violence is necessary for justice to be served.  Is there anyone who is sorry that the shark blew up at the end of "Jaws" or that the Allies fought back against the Axis and made Hitler die in his bunker?  Even if someone is locked away from society, hasn't force been applied to him or her in a fashion?  When my son watched Snow Place Like Home for the first time, he said to me, "Man!  Pierre is really asking for Popeye to sock him!  All Popeye did was come into his store to buy supplies and Pierre starts trying to kill him!  Pierre deserves to be beat up!"  Even God thinks some people deserve to get beat up, too.  Remember Goliath?  And there will be a Battle Of Armaggedon.  Yes, Pierres, Blutoes, lifeguards, bullies, dictators, cheats, and scofflaws are indeed "asking for it."  And I, for one, am glad Popeye is there to give it to them.


The Faith Of Olive Oyl

Olive Oyl's faith never ceases to amaze me.  No matter what desperately outrageous situation she finds herself in, and no matter how remote and deserted the terrain may be, and how alone she seems to be with the villain, she still yells for "Help" and expects some to come.  Lest we chalk this up just to a panic reaction, consider for a moment specifically the faith she has in Popeye.  She can see him tied up and burning at the stake (Wigwam Whoopee), 

pounded into a target and hung on a tree (Silly Hillbilly), thrown into outer space (Popeye Meets Hercules), or clamped into a bear trap and rocketed over the ocean (Snow Place Like Home), 

and she'll still call out to him for help. 

If it was me, I'd say, "He's done for," and yell for Superman or the police or somebody else.  Yet Olive believes Popeye can bounce back and, not only that, he can defeat the villain who moments ago had defeated him.  In fact, in some cartoons, she acts annoyed that it's taking our hero so long to come to her aid.  "Oh, Popeye, where are you?  Rescue me!" she'll scream.

Like the biblical character of Job, Olive Oyl believes that there is A Force For Justice in the universe and she won't quit calling out until she is heard and satisfaction is given.  How unlike us.  We pray about something a couple of times and when we don't receive an answer, we give up, figuring that God's not interested, or maybe even at some level, that He really can't do much about our situation.  We need to persevere and realize that "Oh, God, where are you?  Rescue me!" is a statement of faith.  We also need to believe, like Olive Oyl, that there's no obstacle too great for our Savior to overcome.

It's also amazing to me how Olive always believes Popeye will drop everything and come running to help her, even after she's thrown him over for another guy and treated him like dirt.  It's as though she knows Popeye's character - his loyalty, his love, his commitment to aid those in need - and knows what he's done in the past.  So she's counting on him, not on her actions.  Sometimes as we try to bring our problems to God in prayer, we'll be reminded of all our sins and feel that we don't deserve Him to listen to us.  And we don't!  But that shouldn't stop us because God's character and what He did for us in Jesus Christ proves that He draws near to repentant sinners.  It's all about who God is and not what we are.  And I thank Him for it.



Sir Popeye?

What do Popeye and St. Francis of Assisi have in common?

 ("I ain't got nuttin' in common with no sissy!"

    That's Assisi, Popeye, not a sissy.  It's the name of a town.

    "Oh, that's different then.")

Both Popeye and St. Francis lived according to the ideas of chivalry.  As Julien Green explains in his book, God's Fool: The Life and Times Of St. Francis Of Assisi (Harper & Row, 1984), the people of Francis' day were enamored with the Chivalric Ideal.  It was a fantasized dream of what the perfect life would entail, namely that for every knight there was somewhere the perfect, unattainable woman and a knight would dedicate his entire life to questing for her, defending her honor, making himself worthy of her, increasing her wealth and influence.  Songs about the glories of the Ideal Women and one's duty toward them were popular.  Even married women didn't mind it when their husbands waxed poetic about a Dream Girl because they realized that it WAS just a dream and everyone knew that the whole thing was really about humankind's need to find significance by giving themselves over to a cause outside of themselves.  Indeed, it wasn't such a stretch to substitute God for The Ideal Woman and give oneself, as Francis did, to Him, contemplating His Excellencies for a lifetime, serving Him by advancing His Kingdom, proving His worth by living the kind of life that would cause others to praise Him.  And there's a sense in which God, like The Woman, is unattainable.  Even though we commune with Him through the Holy Spirit, in this life we don't see Him face-to-face and even the most saintly among us can discover, as Francis did, that there are sins we need to deal with in order to ready ourselves for Heaven.  Also, God's sovereignty and his "thoughts above our thoughts" mean that often, just when we have Him figured out and in a neat box, He does something totally unexpected.

Popeye, in many of the Famous Studios' cartoons, found himself living the Chivalric Ideal.  He was in love with a literal Ideal Woman.  It was pretty well established in those films that Olive Oyl was the object of every male in that universe's desire.  And she certainly was unattainable.  Popeye could be out on a date with her and she'd wander off with another guy.  Even if Popeye ended up with her at the end of one cartoon, in the next cartoon she'd be doing her own thing again. 

And yet Popeye loyally gave himself over to proving himself worthier in Olive's eyes than his rivals.  (Examples would be his competition with Hercules and Badlands Bluto in Popeye Meets Hercules and Rodeo Romeo, respectively.)  He was always ready to defend her virtue, as when Bluto was having his way with her in Alpine For You or when The Count tricked her into a strait jacket in his penthouse during The Royal Four-Flusher

Popeye was on hand to save her from danger, as in Lumberjack And Jill  when he prevents her from being sawed in two, and even guarded and preserved her "Kingdom," for instance, stopping Bluto from wrecking her house in Floor Flusher or her ranch in A Job For A Gob.  And when Popeye realized what an Olive Oyl presidency would be like, he went all out candidating for her in Olive Oyl For President.

Looked at from one perspective, Popeye could be called a lovesick fool who might better move on to someone else.  But those living in the Middle Ages might call him noble!

When parents never gives up on a wayward child, or an AA sponsor helps a backslider, are they being foolish or noble?

And how about when God puts up with my fickleness and foolishness, seeing only a person in need and The Ideal Me I could be?

Do I stay loyal to God, even when I don't understand what He's doing?

"Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."  1 Corinthians 13:7





My home page with links to my  Buffy, Popeye,  TV/Movies, Beliefs, and other pages.


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The Bluto Booster Page

All the aspects of Bluto I could think of are discussed on various Bluto pages.  Go here for a complete listing.

Oodles Of Olive Oyl

As the title says, lots about Olive Oyl.  You can choose from a number of titles to link to many other of my pages about this lovely  lady.


My Popeye Page.  Lots of links to my pages about the King Of Spinach.

My Olive Yahoo Group

Discuss the Famous Studios and KFS cartoons featuring Olive Oyl with other fans .


This page was created using Corel Word Perfect Suite 8 and Netscape Navigator Composer. All characters and images are legal properties of their respective companies and are used here without permission for entertainment, review, and informational purposes only. All other material is copyright 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 by Steve R. Bierly.