Going Down the Rabbit Hole | Ryan Woerner

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Going Down the Rabbit Hole | Ryan Woerner

An investigative (?) report, compiling all of the information about the world's most flummoxing mug.

When I made the leap into independence and moved into my own apartment back in 2016 I, like many others, made – do with what I had. My couch was a hand me down from a friend, complete with the cliche spring sticking out of the back, ready to snag an unsuspecting pants pocket at a moment’s notice. My knife block – complete with knives that my significant other regularly reminded me are rife with chips and duller than the block they came out of – were given to me by my sister. The mugs and cups in the cabinet were from my dad – glasses adorned with the Villanova logo (I didn’t go there, nor did he), mugs that featured fading logos advertising a bowling league or a couple of geese pecking at the ground.

Needless to say, I didn’t choose any of these items – they weren’t purchased from a store, or added to an Amazon cart, or anything of that nature. They were given to me, and so then I owned (and used) them. I fielded the occasional “oh did you go to Villanova” question when filling up a glass of water, but outside of that, the impact of my [lack of] mug choice on my life was minimal, at best. These mugs and their designs occupied my hand much more frequently than they occupied my thoughts. They, like nearly every piece of drinkware ever created, were functional pieces to me, their design rarely even registering in my brain despite regular use.

The same cannot be said, though, for every mug.

Let me introduce you, then to the mug that inspired first an exasperated survey of those around my workplace, later an Instagram post, and most recently an internet deep-dive.

Introducing the Mug That Destroyed My Life

Grandpas know everything.
Must be the carrots.

The lines were first introduced to me – and later in varying combinations introduced to my Google search history – sometime in mid-2019. With my reliable Philadelphia sports mugs in desperate need of a wash, I turned to the cabinets at work to find a temporary replacement. Through either pure chance or some sort of devine intervention, my hand made contact first with a white Bugs Bunny mug that appears at first glance to be pretty standard drinkware for those born circa 1920. And then you see the words, the two lines, reproduced above, that both melted my brain and excited me to no end.

It’s been a while since I first saw the mug that sent my brain spiraling. Digging through my phone and examining the metadata of the photos indicates I first photographed the mug in question on July 11, 2019, at exactly 11:16 am at 53 West James Street. That same data also indicates that it’s a 12.2-megapixel photo, that my phone was using an f-stop of 1.8, 4.44mm, and something called ISO76. I don’t know what any of that means, but that’s sort of the whole theme of this post, so I’ll include it.

Despite the butchering of the technical jargon above, they’re the least interesting and least perplexing part of what makes this mug this mug. On it stands one of the world’s foremost anthropomorphic rabbits, Bugs Bunny, his right hand raised and mouth agape as if he’s been caught halfway through a particularly pointed but cooly-delivered jab at Elmer Fudd. For whatever reason, he’s standing in a fox hole of some sort, only visible from his torso-up. War is Hell, and apparently extends to the Tooniverse. His left arm, bent at the elbow, rests on the edge of the hole, solidifying just how aloof this rabbit is. Behind him there are a few exceptionally poorly drawn bushes. At the bottom of the mug is a questionably legitimate copyright notice, reminding readers (drinkers?) that Bugs and his likeness are property of Warner Brothers.

And then, above the horizon, the reader’s eyes drift towards the most prominently featured and eye-catching bit of the mug. The line that Bugs is presumably delivering with such flippant disregard for not just Mr. Fudd, but for the sanity of any coffee-drinker unfortunate enough to have stumbled into this mug.

Grandpas know everything.
Must be the carrots.

Take a second, you will need it. Consider those words, in that order, on this mug. Unpack the meaning, I’ll wait.

Surely, you’re as perplexed as I was. As I still am, 2+ years later. The Bugs-Carrot connection is clear. I’ve seen the show. I know he eats carrots. That connection is not in question. Where this mug loses me is where grandpas come in here, and where the grandpa-carrot connection is.

A few questions at this point deserve addressing. Is Bugs Bunny canonically a grandfather? Are grandfathers, in some generational reference that has thus far eluded me, known for eating a lot of carrots? Do grandfathers (or “grandpas,” as they so casually put it) in fact know everything? Do carrots make you know a lot of things? And of course, most importantly, what in the name of God damned fuck is this mug (and by extension, Bugs) talking about?

Before unpacking these questions in-depth, though, I decided to explore a few surface-level explanations for a mug that was seemingly so void of any logical reasoning.

The Obvious Answers, Debunked

It’s Just a Line/Reference to the Show

My first assumption was that this was likely a reference to a line in a Bugs Bunny/Looney Tunes episode/movie that I haven’t seen or haven’t cared to commit space in my very limited memory to. A Google search including as many keywords and related references as I could find yielded absolutely nothing. As best I can tell, the only reference to this string of words, with or without Bugs Bunny, is on this mug. I’ll unpack this rabbit hole a bit deeper in a bit.

Once I put aside the idea that Bugs had rattled off this nonsensical non sequitur as a result of a Looney Tunes writer doing one too many lines when up against a production deadline, my mind went to those absolutely awful targeted t-shirts you see online.

It’s the Result of a Targeted Ad

Assuming you’ve been on Facebook more than a few minutes, you’ve likely seen an advertisement for targeted shirts. Typically, these shirts come in one of two forms. The more common ones read something like “It’s a ____ Thing, You Wouldn’t Understand!” where your last name, pulled from Facebook data, is in the blank. The other take this a step further, and will use your uncle’s tendency to over-share to produce a shirt that also takes advantage of his tendency to be amazed by technology. These shirts usually read something like “This shirt is owned by a WELDER who was born in JUNE in NEBRASKA and Loves his WIFE, the TORONTO BLUE JAYS, and went to EAST BAY HIGH SCHOOL.” Perhaps most concerning is that enough people buy these t-shirts to warrant their existence/cover the overhead of running the ads. But I digress.

If this mug was, in fact, the result of an AI serving a computer-generated mug to someone who Googled “best gifts for grandpa,” there’s a good shot that the same (or a similar) mug would exist for other folks, such as grandmas, dads, teachers, or welders born in June in Nebraska. But alas, after a bit of searching, the only mug I could find was the one that kicked off this internet deep dive. No “grandmas know everything, must be the carrots.” No “Guys named Shaun know everything, must be the carrots.” Just multiple online listings for this exact mug. It wasn’t an auto-generated Bugs mug; someone out there took the time to actually create this monstrosity.

Grandpas know everything

Must be the carrots.

Investigating the Mug that Destroyed my Life

At this point, the mug began haunting me. It was taking up far too much of my day-to-day thought power that I’d have preferred to reserve for more important things, like my job, or taking naps. To me, someone who is very much not an investigative journalist, the dearth of references to the phrase on the internet, and lack of evidence that it was simply a targeted mug indicated that the mug was more than likely the only one produced. Now fully invested, I decided to unpack it a bit to attempt to get inside the head of whoever created this abomination.

As a reminder and to save your scrolling finger from unnecessary duress, I’ll rewrite the questions I posed above here.

Is Bugs Bunny canonically a grandfather?

Are grandfathers known for eating a lot of carrots?

Do grandfathers know everything?

Do carrots make you know a lot of things?

What in the name of God damned fuck is this mug talking about?

Do Grandfathers Know Everything?

We can likely put the third question to bed fairly quickly by assuming that, like the mass-produced “World’s Best Dad” mugs, this is just a bit of hyperbole. Grandpas do not, of course, know everything. All of mine are dead and therefore likely know very few things. The mug is objectively wrong here, but I suppose that this probably doesn’t bother too many people outside of myself and Amelia Bedelia. To illustrate my similarity to Ms. Bedelia, I once bought my dad a “Worlds Okayest Dad” t-shirt for Christmas.He enjoyed it, and countered with a “Worlds Okayest Son” coffee mug the next year.

Is Bugs Bunny a Grandfather?

To get another of the questions out of the way somewhat quickly, no, Bugs Bunny is not, canonically, a grandfather. According to Wikipedia, Bugs has no children. He does have a nephew, Clyde, but has no listed siblings to have produced said nephew. This does raise some questions regarding the thoroughness of both Wikipedia and the Looney Tunes Wiki at best, and at worst indicates some sort of experimental hare-cloning science going on in the Looney Tunes universe.

Is it possible that Bugs at one point or another reproduced with one of his three in-universe girlfriends, sure. Both Lola Bunny and Honey Bunny (who is listed both as a precursor to Lola Bunny and an ex-girlfriend) are listed as having been in a committed relationship with Bugs at one point or another, and there is an “Mrs Bugs Bunny” listed to whom he was presumably wed at some point. Her aside, neither Lola nor Honey Bunny is listed as having been wed to Bugs, meaning any reproduction that did happen may have severely jeopardized their chances of getting into Christian Heaven.

I will not presume to know the intimate details of their relationships, though given rabbits’ well-documented propensity towards reproduction and the fact that early Lola Bunny was so problematically hot that they had to tone her down for future audiences, it may be safe to assume that access to safe abortion and contraception is more readily available in the Tooniverse than the United States of America, which is encouraging. Long and short, Bugs is definitely hitting that, but if he’s reproduced, he’s done such a good job of sweeping it under the rug that Drake would be jealous.

Do Grandpas Eat a Lot of Carrots?

To answer our third question – are grandpas known for their carrot consumption – I turned to some cold, hard government data. To sum up the information I was able to find, those aged over 65 tend to eat more carrots than those under 65. I am as alarmed as you are that I was able to find this information. Conveniently, this information was also broken down by race on the above website – Asian people tend to eat more carrots than us white folk, who in turn eat more than Hispanic and Black people. Inconveniently, fictional rabbits were not included in this study.

So the fact old people eat more carrots is at least partially true. However, this information has only been confirmed because I looked at government carrot-consumption data, not because the concept of grandpas eating carrots is some sort of commonly-held belief or stereotype. A Google search of “do grandpas eat a lot of carrots” yields nothing but a lot of carrot-based recipes from people’s grandparents.

Do Carrots Make You Know a Lot of Things?

Let me start this section by saying that, frustratingly, I already answered this query. I wrote out about 3 paragraphs unpacking the various vitamins and minerals and other food words that are found in carrots and trying to find some links to intelligence. And then, I somehow lost that entire thing, and some more. I’m pretty sure it was the result of drafting this post on two different computers, and most-recently saving it on the one that was a previous iteration. I lost a truly maddening amount of work, not just in regards to whether carrots make you smarter, but also a deep unpacking of the next section, the company behind this mug. There are no drafts saved in WordPress, so those 800 or so words are just gone now.

The long and short, to the best of my recollection, was that the link was tenuous. Carrots probably aren’t making you any smarter (sorry, Asian grandpas) and are certainly not expanding eaters’ minds to Jimmy-Neutron-in-that-one-episode levels. We’ll put this one to bed before I sit here and further stew on how mad I am that I lost a solid chunk of writing here.

So that brings us to our final question.

What in the Name of Fuck Does This Mug Mean?

Before I go further, since we’re about 2,000 words in at this point and you’ve likely been tuning in and out, I’ll recap where we stand now. The mug in question bears the words “Grandpas Know Everything, must be the carrots.” We’ve (really “I’ve,” please don’t try to take credit) thus far determined:

Bugs Bunny is NOT canonically a grandfather.

Grandpas (or, the elderly) eat slightly more carrots than your average youth.

Grandpas don’t know shit. Miss me with your “age old wisdom” bologna and be less racist, grandpas.

Carrots don’t make you any smarter. They also don’t make you see better, that was some wartime propaganda.

The mug was not some stupid targeted ad towards grandpas/people buying mugs for their grandpas.

The mug is not referring to anything that exists in the known universe.

So we’ve eliminated what this mug isn’t. What we’ve yet to determine, though, is what in the name of hell this mug is.

And this is where things got even a little bit weirder.

GiftCo Inc.

Remember earlier when I made passing reference to the fact that the copyright notice on this mug was likely tenuous at best? Turns out I nailed that one.

This mug was created and sold by GiftCo Inc. I know this because I turned the mug over and it was printed on the underside. During my foray into investigative journalism I found that tip #1 to determining the origin of an item in question is to look at the item.

In doing some research on GiftCo, I turned up the fact that they were, at a point, the premier provider of shitty fundraising items for schools. I say “were” because they no longer exist. Their mailing address is an industrial park. They went out of business due in part, it seems, to being sued to oblivion over copyright claims. Copyright claims, for instance, over the use of a certain rabbit that is certainly owned by Warner Bros.

But before they stopped existing, they provided a whole host of mugs, calendars, organizers, and everything else that elementary schools convince their students to sell to relatives to instill the merits of capitalism in them. Digging a bit further, I found that GiftCo owned quite a few copyrights and patents, including one on this exact mug. So I had, miraculously, confirmed the source of this mug (again, I mostly just looked at the bottom of the mug). The tougher part is that it’s difficult to get much out of a company that was sued out of existence.

GiftoCo may not exist anymore, but the people who created GiftCo presumably do.

So I reached out to them.

I sent emails to two individuals who were named in the lawsuits I found online and were listed as having woked at GiftCo during its existence. One, John, worked in finance for GiftCo. My email went unanswered. I also reached out to one individual via LinkedIn message to inquire as to why, and how, this mug came to be. My message went similarly ignored.

Email

How does one ignore an email like *this*?

At this point, the investigation has lost steam. I’m not sure where else I can turn. My girlfriend left me a few months ago, and while I cannot confirm that this mug had anything to do with it, I have my suspicions. Russia had also not invaded Ukraine until I found this mug, so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions there.

I’m sorry to have passed this along to you. I’m sorry to have introduced such a mind-bendingly befuddling mug into your brainspace. But please, if you can solve this conundrum, let me know. Until then, the mug, which I salvaged from our office when it closed due to COVID (again, I’m not saying this mug caused COVID, but I’m also not saying it didn’t), will sit atop the refrigerator in my kitchen, taunting me.