Is Wile E. Coyote really one of the ''nastiest'' TV villains of all time?

TV Guide counted the hapless coyote among classic baddies like the Borg and the Joker. Chuck Jones saw him as a victim.

The Everett Collection

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Wile E. Coyote will go to pretty much any lengths to catch the Road Runner. His running tab with Acme, the company that supplies all the devices that ultimately fail the coyote, must amount to a small fortune.

But watch literally any coyote and Road Runner cartoon, and you’ll soon understand that even though Wile E. is after the bird, he proves time and again to be his own worst enemy.

So that's why we had to laugh to see Wile E. Coyote included on TV Guide's list of "60 Nastiest Villains of All Time."

The only thing Wile E. ever hurt was his own pride, yet TV Guide counts him among baddies like the Borg, a terrifying humanoid alien species attempting to turn everyone on multiple series of Star Trek into drones, proclaiming "resistance is futile."

The Enterprise crew may have escaped fairly unscathed, but the Borg had many victims, including Federation personnel. Now that is nasty. A coyote repeatedly missing out on a meal? Not so much!

Other classic villains that Wile E. apparently rubs shoulders with on TV Guide's list are sinister characters like Cesar Romero's The Joker (Batman) and the vampire Barnabas Collins (Dark Shadows), as well as malicious jerks like M*A*S*H's Frank Burns.

But consider who Wile E. Coyote is, beyond his many, many attempts to blow up the Road Runner. What drives him?

When animator Chuck Jones dreamed up the cartoon character, he recalled the words of Mark Twain describing coyotes in his book Roughing It. Twain didn't see coyotes as evil, but rather pitiable.

"The coyote is a living, breathing allegory of Want," Twain wrote. "He is always hungry. He is always poor, out of luck, and friendless … He is so spiritless and cowardly that even while his exposed teeth are pretending a threat, the rest of his face is apologizing for it."

Jones saw Wile E. Coyote not as a villain, but instead as "his own worst enemy."

"The Coyote never wins," Jones said in the 2020 book Wild Minds: The Artists and Rivalries That Inspired the Golden Age of Animation. "Never. He's out to get a bird that wouldn't even make a good meal."

So when you watch a coyote and Road Runner cartoon such as "Tired and Feathered," where Wile E. Coyote buys a high-powered motor engine so he can run as fast as the Road Runner, and he still loses, it's hard to root against the hapless dog, even if you do root for the Road Runner.

“He's not at war with the gods, but with the minuscule things of everyday life,” Jones said.

In fact, when the concept of the coyote and Road Runner cartoons came up, Jones and his Wile E. Coyote co-creator Michael Maltese knew they wanted to do a twist on classic chase cartoons. Instead of having the Road Runner outwit the coyote to beat him, they wanted the coyote to forever be defeating himself.

They figured this one-note concept would be enough to fuel one cartoon, but when the first coyote and Road Runner cartoon was a hit, the characters proved this twist created a lasting bit.

And the bit is arguably not even built on the coyote and Road Runner dynamic, but Wile E. Coyote's naïve trust in all the Acme contraptions that he totally bought into, only to find himself on the wrong end of the fuse, again and again.

Weirdly, this was something that a lot of people in the audience sort of identified with.

As new technologies became available, we saw ourselves in Wile E. Coyote! It was hard to know what companies you could trust when they all made unbacked claims as bold as the Acme Corporation.

This was also especially funny for early fans of Looney Tunes, because there actually was a company called Acme Corporation. They were mostly selling anvils — not exploding tennis balls to "Tickle your friends!" or "Surprise your opponent!"

In Chuck Jones' memoir Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist, he said the Road Runner was more a device than a victim, and the real victim was Wile E. Coyote being targeted by Acme's overconfident advertising.

Luckily, no matter how many times the coyote distractedly stepped off a cliff, he always bounced back to chase the Road Runner another day. Nothing kept the coyote down.

"The coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures," Jones said.

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Born2bbald 27 days ago
No one seems to give credit where credit is due! Wile E. Coyote was a Super Genius! We must all acknowledge and respect him for that!

All that stupid bird did was run! Wile E. had an indefatigable spirit and a boundless imagination!

We must respect an revere him!
Thencerest 3 months ago
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Born2bbald Thencerest 27 days ago
How is that relevant to this article?
Moverfan 3 months ago
You know, they're investigating everybody and his mother-in-law these days. I'd say it's past time somebody looked into the Acme Company.
mdit21 4 months ago
🎶...Road runner, the coyote's after you,
Road runner, if he catches you you're through...🎶
jaelinsmith40652 4 months ago
Wile E. Coyote was a very Dastardly villian like Any Villains from Warner Bros and Hanna-Barbera Chraracters
What's very funny to me and my older sister is wile e. coyote always make faces and gets fell off from the cliff and get himself hurt after catching road runner for years. What I'll do to watch looney tunes everyday is for me to get a 1970 and 1971 Plymouth Roadrunner so I can have myself a sweet ride with me and my ladies in Nevada,California and Even Every State for me to imagine to drive on Route 66. Any looney tune fan can be a fan for Tune With Me. To drive a 60's/70's Plymouth Road Runner automobile.
Ah, sometimes I miss my 1973 Plymouth Road Runner with its "Mep mep" horn. I nicknamed it "Big Red" because that was a popular gum back then. It was a nice running car with that smooth Mopar rumble.
Fortunately, when I was only a little 4 year old that time back In 2000's I never saw a Plymouth Roadrunner around in my town but I do used to have a hot wheels diecast Plymouth roadrunner car for one of my dream is to ride a 1970 remi plymouth roadrunner and even the 71 Plymouth Roadrunner that they both were like smoking fresh and blistering furry to my eyes they were so great for me to own a car when I get a driver's license.
Good luck chasing your dream. Don't give up on it. I've only seen one Road Runner in the past 20 years around here. There was a "Not For Sale" sign on it. I guess too many people were asking to buy it.
sputnik_57 Peter_Falk_Fan 3 months ago
I remember in the late '60's -'70's when Plymouth came out with the Road Runner, guys driving hot-rod Chevelles, Mustangs, etc. had plates or decals with Wile E. Coyote's hand choking the Roadrunner's throat.
Peter_Falk_Fan sputnik_57 2 months ago
Yeah, I remember that plate, and it came with a phrase that I can't repeat here.
Greg 4 months ago
My older sis always watched DS it scared the crap out of me as a kid.
Greg 4 months ago
Wile E Coyote was just trying to get a meal no more a bad guy than some one ordering fried chicken.
DonoraButler 4 months ago
The coyote actually catches the road runner in three cartoons. They are “hopalong casualty”, “a solid ton coyote, and “soup or sonic”.
Tlor 4 months ago
I always felt bad for Wile E, that roadrunner was the nasty villain in my book! I would like to see WileE's credit card bill to Acme, if the device didn't work wouldn't he get his money back?
Mark091 4 months ago
Does anyone know the name of the
Dog in the Foghorn Leghorn cartoon??
What was the name of the dog in
The Heckel and Jeckel Cartoons?
Tlor Mark091 4 months ago
There was Sam Sheepdog, he was usually with Ralph Wolf. at least that is what I was readihttps://looneytunes.fandom.com/wiki/Ralph_Wolf_and_Sam_Sheepdogng
Peter_Falk_Fan Mark091 4 months ago
Maybe it's Dog, like the name of Columbo's dog. lol
Mark091 Peter_Falk_Fan 4 months ago
Actually on Petticoat Junction
The dog didn't seem to have a
Name . Betty Jo called him dog.
Greg Mark091 4 months ago
George P Dog nickname Barnyard dawg I just googled it.
Mark091 4 months ago
I think that actor Howard.Platt
Who played Officer Hoppy ón
Sanford and Son on NBC
Resembled cartoon character
Dudley Doright.
Moverfan Mark091 3 months ago
Officer Hoppy WAS Dudley Do right (sweet boy and all, but still...).
Mark091 4 months ago
HOMER BEDLOE FROM Petticoat
Junction Officer KIRK from Happy Days Dr Loveless from Wild Wild
West the Joker from Batman
BLUTO and Oil Can Harry were
Nasty TV Villians for sure.
TheSentinel 4 months ago
So why did the Acme items that Wile E. ordered always work when he tested them out, but never when the Road Runner was around for him to catch? My thought on that - the Road Runner's a jinx.
Barry22 TheSentinel 4 months ago
He should order from Amazon from now on.
Michael Barry22 4 months ago
And it would get there faster.

It was unbelievable that things got there so fast, mid-action, when every comic book offer said "please wait 6-8 weeks".
The Roadrunner was good at defying logic, too, by going through painted tunnels.
madvincent 4 months ago
Acme ......
That’s where the Green Bay Packers got their name....
Acme packing company, 1919
daDoctah 4 months ago
Wile E's villainy was entirely in his intent. So the execution didn't match it, that doesn't disqualify him from the ranks of great villains; he entire motivation was nastiness.

BTW, I often encounter coyotes when I'm out doing deliveries. Unlike all the other wildlife, they always acknowledge my presence, and I try to return the recognition. Rabbits will just run faster to try and get out of your way, quail will bull through secure in their belief that cars will stop for them, rattlesnakes and deer back off and wait for you to pass, bats will try to stay off your radar and only react (by flying the other way if they feel threatened), and doves are basically just jerks that will dare you to deny them the right of way.
Barry22 daDoctah 4 months ago
Down here in South Florida we have a growing population of Coyotes, they have been attacking dogs and cats.
MrsPhilHarris daDoctah 4 months ago
Coyotes here in Vancouver are attacking people. Very aggressive.
Mark091 4 months ago
Boris from Rocky and Bullwinkle
And Dick Dastardly from Wacky
Races were mean most of the time
BrittReid 4 months ago
'The jokes on you my cheery booze hound!'
stephaniestavropoulos 4 months ago
Yes, why is Wile E. Coyote on TV GUIDE's list? they should've listened to Wile E's daddy. Wile E.'s own father, Chuck Jones said Wile E is a victim not a villain. He should know. "Father Knows Best!"
harlow1313 4 months ago
Actually, Wile E. Coyote and Barnabas Collins seem more victim than villain. The coyote is victim of his nature (carnivore), and the man is victim of his curse (vampire).
Tlor harlow1313 4 months ago
I thought Barnabas a villain? of course not he was a pawn for Angelic!
That's Angelique. That conniving witch was hardly "angelic." It was her insanely jealous nature which possessed her to place the vampire's curse on Barnabas, causing Josette to jump from Widow's Hill, as soon as she found out what Barnabas had become. The tragic love story of Barnabas and Josette, makes Romeo & Juliette, seem like a Rom-Com.
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