Man. The things I get asked.
I don’t have cable, and haven’t had it for years. This isn’t any sort of elitist “I don’t watch television” attitude, or anything. I don’t have it because my wife and I couldn’t afford it when we first got married, and by the time we could afford it we decided we’d rather afford other things instead. Because we don’t have cable, my son watches children’s programming on PBS and DVDs and the occasional YouTube video. Some of those DVDs are programs that I watched as a child. So he’s come to love old Looney Tunes and Disney cartoon shorts. And the Care Bears. He loves the Care Bears.
So recently we’re watching The Care Bears Nutcracker Suite, because I let him pick the Christmas movie we were going to watch. It’s frankly – from an adult perspective – a fairly ridiculous movie. But we’re not watching it from an adult perspective. We’re watching it from the perspective of a five year old, and he’s on the edge of his seat. And then he looks at me.
“Why do the Care Bears live on clouds?”
From the start, Elena Kucharik’s original illustrations had them on clouds. So you could argue that the answer to “why do the Care Bears live on clouds?” is “because that’s how they were designed”. But that’s a boring answer, so let’s dig a little deeper.
My first thought was to go look up the meaning of clouds as a symbol, only to get reminded that symbols are extremely dependent on the culture. I did find some interesting commonalities, though. BibleStudyTools.com says that clouds are “a symbol of the Divine presence, as indicating the splendour of that glory which it conceals”. According to The Hidden or Implied Meaning of Chinese Charm Symbols on PrimalTrek.com, clouds “represent the heavens and also ‘good luck’ because the Chinese word for cloud (yun 云) is pronounced the same as yun (运) meaning ‘luck’ or ‘fortune'” – NationsOnline.org seems to confirm this, and further notes that Chinese “dragons are believed to be able to create clouds with their breath”. HinduWebsite.com, in Symbolism of the Cloud, Lightning, and Thunder, tells us that “White clouds are the messengers of peace, hope, and love”.
Clearly, as things that float in the sky and that provide rain, clouds have managed to pick up some very similar meanings across cultures.
I have to state at this point that – unless I can get some solid primary source evidence to the contrary – I am firmly of the belief that Elena Kucharik did not sit down to make Care Bears into symbols of the divine presence. I believe she was merely tapping into common cultural attitudes. Care Bears are soft and fluffy, and clouds are soft and fluffy. Care Bears are cute, and clouds are cute, and clouds often have rainbows which are always a huge win on anything marketed at small children. I don’t see any great mystery, really.
Still, there is something entertaining about the idea of Care Bears as mighty Loa, potent divine messengers who are the companions of cherubim and dragons. And it puts a whole new spin on the Care Bear Stare.