10 Lessons Kids Can Learn from Sylvester

As the winner of three Academy Awards and a favorite among generations of fans, the lisping tuxedo cat Sylvester has definitely earned his place in the halls of pop culture history. Since debuting in 1941’s short Notes to You, he’s been an instantly recognized star for the Warner Brothers studios. For a generation of youngsters rediscovering those vintage cartoons, here are ten lessons they can learn from Sylvester and his antics.

  1. “If At First You Don’t Succeed…”– Though he never manages to win the big prize, the persistence that has become a trademark of Sylvester’s character never wavers. After dozens of setbacks, he always manages to approach each challenge with gusto; something kids would do well to apply to their own lives.
  2. Play Up Your Quirks – The lisp that makes Sylvester’s voice so recognizable is further emphasized by the fact that his go-to catchphrase utilizes sibilant sounds. Every time Sylvester shouts, “sufferin’ succotash!” the lisp is showcased beautifully; rather than trying to mask what some would call a flaw, Sylvester embraces what sets him apart.
  3. Bad Behavior Has Unfavorable Consequences – In the shorts that pair Sylvester with his nemesis Tweety Bird, his attempts at capture are not only foiled, but usually result in the cat’s punishment at the hands of Granny or Hector. Kids watching can’t help absorbing the fact that breaking the rules leads to being punished.
  4. Dirty Tricks Usually Backfire – When Sylvester resorts to dirty tricks in order to achieve his usually-nefarious goals, he almost inevitably comes away with injuries sustained when those schemes backfire spectacularly. Watching these elaborate and sinister plots unravel to Sylvester’s detriment is a great lesson for little ones.
  5. Know Who Your Friends Are – Though they’re painted as enemies, the pairing of Sylvester and Tweety is only eclipsed in popularity by Looney Tunes mega-duo Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. In a short that pits Taz against Tweety and Sylvester, the two find themselves on the same side of the battle.
  6. Some People Are Bullies in Any Situation – Kids can learn a valuable lesson about the nature of bullies from Sylvester’s penchant for picking on not just Tweety, but also Speedy Gonzales and Hippety Hopper.
  7. Being Popular Doesn’t Make You a Good Person – Capitalizing on his success as a villainous or morally questionable character, Sylvester starred in more than one hundred cartoons during the golden age of animation. As a result, kids can take away the knowledge that sometimes, the bully gets more recognition than he deserves.
  8. Activism is Civic Responsibility – The animated shorts that Sylvester starred in with the hapless hunter Elmer Fudd were underwritten by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation as a method of praising the American values of capitalism and commerce. Like other Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies stars, Sylvester teaches kids that having a high profile means using it to promote causes that are important to us.
  9. Appearances Can Be Deceiving – Mistakenly believing that the baby kangaroo Hippety Hopper was “giant mouse,” Sylvester and his son Sylvester Junior were invariably defeated in their efforts to catch him. A valuable lesson about underestimating someone based on appearances can be gleaned from the humiliation of this duo.
  10. Parents Have Feelings, Too – Seeing the dismay that Sylvester feels when his son is visibly shamed by his failures can help kids understand the pain they can inadvertently cause their own parents when they are embarrassed by their behavior.

Sylvester will always be one of the most loved cartoon characters, in spite of his relentless determination to make Tweety into his own personal snack.