There are two dynamics of Easter: Jesus and rabbits. We probably all know the Jesus story, but what about bunnies? More than just a symbol of spring, the rabbit was ordained the official symbol of Easter for more than its furry embodiment of the season. The hare was at first associated with the Virgin Mary because it was believed to be a hermaphrodite that could reproduce without loss of virginity. After several decades of misconstruing the true meaning of the holiday, it somehow turned into the friendly Easter Rabbit that we know today.
Lucky for you, NBN is here to help you bring this commercialized notion of Easter back to its roots through the medium of pop, er, hop culture. Here are some choice movies starring famous rabbits that you could take out… or not.
Harvey by Chase Sund
Years before Donnie Darko’s nightmarish rabbit creation, the original imaginary bunny hit screens in 1950 with the classic Harvey. Jimmy Stewart stars in this adaptation of Mary Chase’s 1944 play of the same name. The crux of the film is simple: Jimmy Stewart’s character sees (or claims to see) a six-foot-tall rabbit named Harvey, causing a host of problems in his quaint town. The story is a simple traveling angel tale: As Stewart’s character tries to convince others of his anthropomorphic rodent, he touches the lives of the people whose paths he crosses. Is Harvey real? The film leaves that to the viewer to discern, but several of the characters change their tune throughout.
Harvey earned Jimmy Stewart nomination for Best Actor. Josephine Hull, who plays Stewart’s doubtful sister, was awarded the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The American Film Institute ranked it among the top-ten best fantasy films of all time. Although it is far more wholesome fare than people are now accustomed to viewing, Harvey remains relevant. Jimmy Stewart is as timeless as ever, and his character’s indiscriminate kindness and innocence have likely informed everything from Hal Ashby’s Being There to Robert Zemeckis's Forrest Gump.
This Easter you’ll probably have the option of watching the final few holes of the Masters or a 1990s action film on TBS. Or, you may have received Hop on Blue Ray. In the vast sea of depraved options you will have at our disposal, watching the most recent episode of Game of Thrones might seem like a good way to spend your Easter. However, if you’re seeking something a little more appropriate for the spirit of the holiday, pop in an old VHS copy of Harvey. It’s what your grandma would want.
Church-appropriateness: 4/5 carrots
Who Framed Roger Rabbit by Jacob Clinton
Robert Zemeckis’ 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit features the Rabbits: cartoon bunny Roger and Jessica Rabbit, his smoking hot toon wife. The main action unfolds when Roger becomes distraught after Jessica is caught “playing patty-cake” with another man — Marvin Acme, owner of Toontown. As a toon, Roger can withstand countless refrigerators dropped on his head, but goes to pieces just the same as any live-action human at this potential heartbreak.
Roger might not be the best candidate to bring to your Easter Sunday service. Although the rabbit is well intentioned, his zany temperament and propensity to maniacally riff off of everything he hears might disrupt other congregants’ experience of the service. Your best bet is bringing him to a Baptist church or perhaps a Reform Jewish seder. Also, make sure you bring Jessica Rabbit along to keep him in check. Wouldn’t she turn heads in a bonnet?
But afterwards, pay the movie a visit. Who Framed Roger Rabbit features a pioneering combination of animated and live-action characters (most significantly, private detective Eddie Valiant, who must answer the titular question). It warps slapstick humor into an astutely bittersweet story that speaks to L.A. history, making it a must-see movie.
Church-appropriateness: 3/5 carrots
Mean Girls by Gabe Bergado
One of the most iconic bunnies from pop culture is Regina George of Mean Girls, who dressed up as a slutty version of the beloved woodland creature on Halloween. Watch out for this bunny because she might just hop, hop, hop right into your crush’s lap. The high school queen bee put a scandalous spin on the costume: With knee-high boots, fuzzy bracelets and perked up bunny ears, she didn’t let her pristine white fur keep her from playing dirty to win back Aaron Samuels. Forget paws. This bunny has claws, and she's not afraid to take a swipe at ruining high school girls' self esteem.
Cady was probably familiar with lions and gazelles growing up in Africa, but nothing prepared her for the manipulative and scheming nature of this bunny. It may seem that this bunny is appropriate to take to church on Easter Sunday, but appearances are deceiving. Think it's suspicious she brought her own holy water? The only thing that clear liquid is probably blessed with is 80 proof. Don't worry about Regina getting tired from lots of kneeling and standing, she's used to being on her knees a lot, being a "half-virgin" and all. And if those aren't enough reasons to keep Regina at home this Sunday, she might just be found in Confession with the priest opening up her legs instead of Easter eggs.
Church-appropriateness: 2/5 carrots
Donnie Darko by Susie Neilson
I wouldn’t bring Donnie Darko to church on an Easter Sunday, nor would I recommend it to anyone other than people with a high tolerance for creepiness. However, the reasons Darko should be banned from any place of worship are what make the film so brilliant – a cult classic, in fact. It’s creepy, sacrilegious and paranormally-minded.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays the title character of this deeply disturbing film, a troubled teenager who is told that the world will end 28 days and six hours from Oct. 2, 1988. Donnie spends the rest of the movie undergoing intensive psychotherapy, uncovering the kinky pathologies of motivational speaker Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze) and seducing the new girl Gretchen (Jena Malone). What makes this film especially Easter-inappropriate, however, are the copious amounts of screen time Darko spends being manipulated into committing various shenanigans and/or crimes by a giant bunny that only he can see.
Along with employing a character who houses a “kiddie porn dungeon” in his basement, the film should be excluded from all family-friendly Easter Sundays by virtue of Donnie’s intense and specifically rabbit-related psychoses. Gyllenhaal’s character is depressing and dangerous and should not be allowed within a five-mile radius of any religious institution. In fact, he should probably undergo an exorcism if he ever wants to be rid of Frank, the psychotic, eerily humanoid bunny that serves as his “imaginary friend” throughout the film. Any child who saw Frank in church would probably develop PTSD, flee the premises and become a strict atheist. For parents wishing to expose their children to both the Christian faith and one of the best psychological thrillers of our age – try Se7en instead.
Church-appropriateness: 1/5 carrots