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Why Was Johnny Bravo So Catastrophically Horny?

And how the hell was this ever a kids’ show?

“How about a kiss there, missy?”

“Why don’t we grab ourselves a couple of thick, juicy steaks? I know of a place down the road.”

“Say, you smell kinda pretty, wanna smell me?”

“You wanna see my chest hair? It’s blonde and curly.”

“Hey there, Cutie-Pants, am I as studly as the statue of David or what?”

“Hey there, Foxy Lady, that’s a fine-lookin’ weenie dog you got there.”

These are just a few of the dozens — if not hundreds — of pick-up lines employed by Johnny Bravo, the 1990s cartoon character who, somehow, had an entire kids’ show centered around his desire to get laid. Johnny did other things too — like get a pet dinosaur and team up with Scooby-Doo — but the central theme of the series was all about Johnny’s horrendous dating life and how desperate he was to get some. Just recently, a Twitter user referred to Johnny Bravo as being “catastrophically horny,” which is about the most perfect way to describe him.

If you’ve ever watched Johnny Bravo, you know that the recurring theme of the show is that Johnny never scores. In response to his pick-up lines — including that flawless chest hair one — Johnny is kicked, punched, flipped, pelted with coconuts or beaten up in some other humiliating way. This, despite the fact that, physically at least, Johnny seems to be the whole package — he’s good-looking, he’s in great shape, he’s well-groomed, he has fantastic hair and he has a ton of self-confidence. He is, in the parlance of incels, a GigaChad. All of this would reasonably suggest that he’d do pretty well with the ladies, but, of course, being a one-dimensional, horny buffoon, he doesn’t. But why, exactly, was Johnny Bravo so desperately horny in the first place?

Again, despite his numerous assets, Johnny is constantly undermined by his own cheesy pick-up lines and utter cluelessness about how to act around women. As Gary Hartle, a writer on Johnny Bravo, tells me, “Johnny really wants love. He’s not a player, but he only knows the player’s way.” It’s as though Johnny learned about the world by watching too much TV, and thus, it shaped his Elvis-like personality and the way he approaches women. He sincerely doesn’t know what a creep he’s being when he runs up to a woman, pulls off his shirt and invites her to admire his pecs — that’s just Johnny’s version of hello.

Despite his sleaziness, though, Johnny remains something of an innocent in the series. Women in the show will rightfully tase him with a stun gun, but he’s still somewhat sympathetic to the audience because we also get to see the real Johnny — rather than being a PUA-adjacent scumbag, he’s just too stupid to know any better. At home, he’s a good boy who listens to his momma and usually does the right thing. Because of this, we pity him; after all, despite his looks, he’s a total loser who still lives at home, who can’t keep a job and whose only friend is a little girl who lives next door and is clearly his intellectual superior.

What also makes the show enjoyable is that the perspective of Johnny Bravo the series is different from that of Johnny Bravo the character. I’m sure some jokes have aged poorly over the last 20 years, but Johnny Bravo the show generally portrayed women as smart and strong, resoundingly rejecting Johnny’s objectification. Johnny’s ignorance is also why series creator Van Partible decided to surround Johnny with women, so that they could constantly educate him on what he’s doing wrong (unfortunately, Johnny was too stupid for any of it to stick).

This dynamic, reportedly, also played out at Cartoon Network when episodes of the show were first shown internally: The men in the room were lukewarm on the series, but the women loved it. And though people today might remember the lustful pursuits of Johnny Bravo, the forward-thinking perspective of the series seems to be underappreciated. Case in point: The show premiered in 1997, so while Joey on Friends was still picking up chicks with a well-timed “How you doin’?,” a kids’ show on Cartoon Network was offering a scathing rebuke of that culture.

In many ways, the character of Johnny Bravo is a himbo. He’s that muscular, good-looking, pure-hearted, happy moron who would climb up a tree to save a kitten (but might also crush it on his way back down). But Johnny is also sexually frustrated to the point of being half-crazed by it, a trait that would have him veering dangerously close to incel territory today. If only he could shake those sleazy come-ons, he might unlock his hidden potential and show all these “sexy babes” what a delightful himbo he really is.

The show stresses that Johnny Bravo really is sort of sweet underneath all the bluster. On the rare occasion Bravo is on an actual date, he’s a gentleman and fun to be around. When he’s set up on a blind date with the similarly beautiful-haired Heather, Johnny and Heather work out at the gym, spend time action-posing and admiring each other’s bodies and then have a blast at a carnival. (Unfortunately, Heather is later revealed to be an international spy working for the CIA who has no time for love, and she has to erase Johnny’s memory. Don’t you hate it when that happens?)

Even when Johnny’s not into his date, he’s still cool and respectful. When he meets a woman online who turns out to be a talking antelope, Johnny still shows her a good time, even if he declines to share her salt lick.

To paraphrase the Joker from The Dark Knight, Johnny Bravo chasing chicks is kinda like a dog chasing cars — he wouldn’t know what to do if he actually caught one. This is made painfully obvious in the episode where he finds himself at a woman’s home and mindlessly blurts out that he’s “never been in a woman’s apartment before.” After that, he proceeds to literally trip all over himself, breaking all of her shit. This cluelessness, no doubt, is why Johnny remains so frustratedly horny, and why he may even still be a virgin (though some dispute this).

Just as relevant as the question of why Johnny was so horny is the question of how he was allowed to be so horny. Again, this was a kids’ show on Cartoon Network that debuted years before Adult Swim ever existed, so how the hell was a show about a pick-up artist even green-lit? To say it was “different times” is true, but that hardly covers it. Johnny Bravo was one of Cartoon Network’s first original shows, and it debuted during a time when the network was still finding its voice. For the most part, Johnny Bravo and other originals like Dexter’s Laboratory were airing alongside old cartoons like Scooby-Doo and Yogi Bear, as well as cartoons originally meant for adults, like The Flintstones and Looney Tunes. As a result, Johnny Bravo was given space to become something truly unique: a show with semi-adult humor that also featured throwback Hanna-Barbera-style animation and storytelling.

In time, Cartoon Network would figure out what it was, gearing itself primarily toward kids. Then, in 2001, the Adult Swim programming block debuted to offer something to an entirely separate, adult demographic. The result, though, was two distinct networks, neither of which would really fit a show like Johnny Bravo.

Really, Johnny Bravo wasn’t just unique, it was also a show that could have premiered only during this unusual moment in cartoon history — that brief window in time where a cartoon could be made all about a moronic, horny himbo who only wanted a little love.

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