Wile E. Attenborough

Everybody loves David Attenborough. What’s not to love? When he tilts his wise old head at the camera and tells you that this particular species of rodent has an abiding fondness for light jazz, you can’t help but take his word for it. He has natural authority, if you’ll allow the pun. But that’s not all. He also has the ability to make you genuinely care about the fate of animals – and plants, for God’s sake – without ever resorting to finger-wagging or earnest frowning. He achieves this feat by simply being knowledgable, enthusiastic and almost supernaturally pleasant. But none of that is the point. What I’m wondering is this: I used the word ‘love’. I said, ‘Everybody loves David Attenborough’. (It was only a few lines ago, you can check.) Was I just playing fast and loose with the verbs again? I’m not at all sure that I was. I suspect that a great many people literally love him, in much the same way that they love their family and friends. A bloke on the telly. A stranger. Is that possible? And if it is, where’s the floor on this thing? Can we grow to love a fictional character? What about a cartoon character? I’m talking about love, remember, not admiration or respect or any of those other sugar-free alternatives. It sounds too silly to be true but then again this is a profoundly silly world and sometimes we have to … OK. Let me get to the point. Frankly, I’m not convinced that the word ‘like’ covers the way I feel about Wile E. Coyote. There. I said it. I know he isn’t real, honestly, but … his little face! And that giggle he does just before he blows himself up again! Well, don’t look at me like that. Jesus. I didn’t say I was in love with him.

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