Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Evil Ice Cream Truck

Since the 1960s, writers have come to establish three types of evil ice cream trucks in films and television. The first is the ice cream truck used as a cover by criminals. This can be traced as far back as 1965, when a bloodthirsty Eastern cult rode around in a Mister Whippy ice cream truck to stalk Ringo Starr in Help! (1965). Ice cream trucks have concealed drug dealers, gun dealers and spies in a variety of films, including Friday (1995), Inspector Gadget 2 (2003) and Southland Tales (2006). The truck that appears in Inspector Gadget 2 is specially outfitted to include an escape jet.

Here, a KAOS ice cream truck is used to kidnap Hymie the Robot in a 1968 Get Smart episode titled "The Worst Best Man":


The idea that ice cream men were cranky individuals who hated children apparently started with the Hey Arnold! series introducing an ice cream man named Willie the Jolly Olly Man as a reoccurring character. This led to a spate of similar characters in other cable cartoon shows, including Dexter's Laboratory ("Ice Cream Scream," 1997), Codename: Kids Next Door ("Operation: I.-S.C.R.E.A.M.," 2002) and The Mighty B! ("Ben Screams for Ice Cream," 2009). The idea was carried to the extreme in Adult Swim's Moral Orel ("The Lord's Greatest Gift," 2006), which exposed an ice cream man named Mr. Creepler as a pedophile. The hostile ice cream man made it to primetime with a 2000 Malcolm in the Middle episode called "Traffic Jam" and, soon after, made it to the big screen with Max Keeble's Big Move (2001).

The evilest of the ice cream trucks concealed serial killers as they traveled through unsuspecting suburban neighborhoods. This may have started with an illustration by Gahan Wilson. The illustration displays a group of children gathered beside an ice cream truck as the driver is holding open a freezer door and revealing the stiff and bluish corpses of children. The caption reads, "Wrong door!" Since the time of Wilson's cartoon, ice cream trucks have come to deliver death and destruction in numerous films and television shows.

A possessed ice cream truck becomes a threat in Maximum Overdrive (1986).

Freddy Krueger uses an ice cream truck to lure young victims on Freddy's Nightmares ("No More Mr. Nice Guy," 1988).

Clint Howard plays a deranged ice cream man in a 1995 film titled, appropriately, Ice Cream Man.

An undead clown is able to melt down children as quickly as ice cream in the Masters of Horror episode "We All Scream for Ice Cream" (2007).

A demonic ice cream man is hungry for humans in Legion (2009).

A psychotic clown snatches up automatic weapons and commandeers an ice cream truck to initiate a killing spree in The Last Circus (2010).

The fact that the ice cream truck, with its happy jingle, brings back such good memories from my childhood makes it difficult for me to endorse this trend. The trend has gone beyond the ironic twist. It seems to be part of Hollywood's war on everything wholesome and old-fashioned. Leave it to miserably cynical Hollywood writers to try to destroy something good in the world. These are the same grinches who attack Christmas by regularly trotting out the dirty, alcoholic "bad Santa" in films and television. They get a charge out of throwing a cherished icon on the pyre and it doesn't surprise me that they would want to hang my old friend Mister Softee in effigy. But fear not, Mister Softee and the Good Humor Man, I believe in you. I believe that the Banana Boat and the Chocolate Eclair Bar are nothing but sweet, chilly goodness. Neither Ben nor Jerry has ever delivered ice cream to my front door. And I do not even know what this Häagen Dazs fellow looks like, but I do not see where the children in his Scandinavian homelands are too happy for his efforts.

For all I know, the buttercream for Häagen Dazs ice cream is churned by virgin girls stolen away from their villages by a bunch of plundering Vikings.

I love you, Mister Softee.