RELEVANT Roundtable is when we ask our slate of culture writers a question and compile their responses. This week’s question: What kind of bear (from popular culture) is best?
Cooper Watt: While Jim Halpert would say black bears, I would say that’s empirically wrong. There is a bear out there that dominates all other bears and, in fact, all of nature. The bear I am referring to, of course, is Bear Grylls. Show me another bear who could jump out of a helicopter on a snowmobile or survive in the wild by eating animal poop alone. I’ve never seen Paddington pray with President Obama on the side of a mountain, that’s for sure. This is a bear who was able to take the television-adventure baton from Steve Irwin and run with it well. If I had more time, I could also tell you about his charity work and knife-selling acumen, but I have to end it here. Sorry other bears, humans are on top of the food chain and Bear Grylls is on top of the bear chain.
Travis Roberts: For this question, let’s look at the unsung hero of one of the most talked-about movies of 2015: the bear from The Revenant. This bear—who director Alejandro González Iñárritu failed to credit in any way, shape or form—was a powerful and visceral reminder of the love a mother has for her children, as well as the natural beauty of a good, old-fashioned frontiersman mauling. This bear exemplifies the best qualities of bears: defensive and jealous love, strong claws and thick fur, and a merciful disposition that refuses to kill without need.
Sharon McKeeman: I have to state the obvious answer—Winnie the Pooh wins hands down. He was the first bear to inhabit our souls, and now that we’re grown up, we still need a bear of little brains around to help us feel a better about ourselves when adulting gets hard. Of course, we also need an excuse to scrap the Whole 30 and eat so many sweets that we get stuck in a door frame. Pooh’s also based on a real bear! After WWI, Christopher Milne visited a black bear named Winnie at the London zoo, and it inspired his father to create the bear we all know and love.
Matt Conner: I’ll never forget seeing my first Big Man Touchdown. William “Refrigerator” Perry, a defensive tackle for the 1985 Chicago Bears, handled a goal line run as a fullback, all 6-2, 350 lbs. of him. It was human bowling and I was hooked. Large things are proportionally captivating to how small a person is, so as a kid, I was enamored with a Super Bowl-winning player who wore a size 25 ring. Even more, he was part of the Chicago Bears Shuffling Crew, a group of Bears players who recorded “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” a pitiful rap song recorded for charity that was even nominated for a Grammy (which shows you how long they’ve been meaningless).
Tyler Huckabee: I see no way I can truthfully answer this question other than to say Little John, from Disney’s 1973 animated Robin Hood. Throughout the movie, Robin is frequently undone by his own hubris, getting himself caught by biting off more than he can chew or else caught between a variety of rocks and hard places. But Little John is ever there to bail Robin out, resorting to clever disguises and even, at the infamous circus, blackmail, to make sure his friend’s quest to marry Maid Marion and rob the rich to feed the poor is carried out. He’s not just the best bear in the pop culture canon, he’s one of the better friends.
Lesley Crews: Let’s get real for a minute. The best bear is one we too often forget about: the Charmin Bear. We can all relate to when he runs out of the bathroom during his hotel stay and exclaims to his bear family, “We can’t stay here!” because of the bad toilet paper option. We’ve all been there. He leaves a legacy, too: Momma C always comes in clutch on road trips, packing some Charmin Ultra Strong. What more could you want from a bear than this guy, who encourages two-ply for more economical toilet paper usage, am I right?
Jon Negroni: The best bear is Paddington Bear, as made (more) famous by Paul King’s double dose of family film brilliance known as Paddington and Paddington 2. Paddington is a charmer and savant when it comes to turning dour situations into opportunities for making his life and the lives of others better. While the bears of our cold, emotionless reality are territorial and hostile in their protection of their own, Paddington is a stark contrast of nature made to be nurturing, an immigrant story that challenges new understandings of what we wrongfully reject out of fear. The best bear is the bear of acceptance, sweetness and pure, uncompromising love. Especially when it comes to marmalade.
Jesse Carey: For my selection, I turn to the bears of 2 Kings 2:23-25: “As [Elisha] was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. ‘Get out of here, baldy!’ they said. He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria.” Two bears verses 42 (!) bald-prejudice bullies. Elisha was evidently super sensitive about his receding hairline, because this seems like kind of an extreme reaction, but those boys learned an important (and very brief) lesson that day.
Tyler Daswick: There are many ways to measure what makes a bear best, but there’s only one correct way: socio-economic status. That’s why my choice is Bear In the Big Blue House. While the other bears are scraping the bottom of the honey jar or stealing pic-a-nic baskets, Bear In the Big Blue House is living large with his friends in a brightly-colored mansion. It’s unclear how Bear accumulated enough of a fortune to acquire the Big Blue House—perhaps he bet big on the dot-com boom of the late 1990s—but as anyone will know if they come around his lavish front entryway, material wealth doesn’t matter to Bear. Rather, the wealthy patriarch uses his lush estate to pass on messages of learning, cooperation and social skills. He’s a philanthropist. This one was so easy.