You barely catch the bus. You jump on, and it’s crowded, of course. But you squeeze your way in. Stuck in between strangers invading your personal space, you look up. From the digital display something grabs your attention. A series of silent cartoons are playing on the screen. Oh yeah, I know them, you think. They’re the nice 3D birds that teach proper bus etiquette. You may or may not know it, but these characters are called “Limon ile Zeytin” (Limon and Oli) and are part of Sizinkiler (‘The Common Folk’), a beloved daily comic strip created by Turkish cartoonist Salih Memecan.
It’s a long ride to work, so you keep watching to entertain yourself. The animations are pleasant and funny enough, but you begin to notice some weird things. Some of their behaviors are a bit off, and they don’t seem to match the overarching message. Or at least that’s what happened to me. So, I had no choice but to analyze them in excruciating detail to understand what exactly was bothering me about these cartoons. The following is an interactive article better enjoyed if you first watch the clip, and then read the biased review. You can find all the clips analyzed below here.
1. Dikkat (Watch out)
The first cautionary tale shows Zeytin getting off the bus and crossing the road without looking both ways. A truck has to step hard on the breaks to avoid running him over and shows us a sign that reads “Otobüsten iner inmez karşıya geçmeyin.” (Don’t cross the street as soon as you get off the bus.)
Let’s take a careful look at this scene. Notice how far from the actual sidewalk the bus driver stops. Easily two meters. So the bus driver is the one putting Zeytin in danger. Yes, Zeytin, jumps off like a kamikaze in front of the truck. But why does the truck already have a sign on it warning against crossing the street? Was this all an elaborate plan to kill Zeytin? Or was it maybe part of a prank show? We’ll never know, but there is something fishy about the situation.
2. İnişler Arkadan (Move to the back of the bus)
The story involves an angry rooster, two red birds, and Limon all trying to get on a crowded bus. Limon makes a paper plane and sends it inside the bus with a note that says “Lütfen arkaya doğru ilerleyelim” (Let’s proceed to the back of the bus).
First, notice how Limon changes position from one shot to the next one, from being just by the bus door to some meters back the next shot. Let’s just say it loud and clear: sloppy continuity errors are not really acceptable in a 3D cartoon. Next, Limon constructs the paper plane with a page of her notebook: that’s how much she cares about her education. Then, she puts in danger everyone by sending a paper plane inside a crowded bus at eye level and nearly poking one of the passengers in the eye. Lastly, let’s not forget the passive-aggressive tone of the note that leaves us with a cliffhanger: will the people move to the back of the bus and give some space? (Spoiler: they don’t.)
3. Geveze (Talkative)
Limon and Zeytin distract the bus driver with their talking until the driver tells them “Şoförle konuşmayalım” (Let’s not talk to the driver).
We have a close-up of Zeytin for the first time, where we see his dilated pupils and impossibly big, green eyes. Then we understand the reality of what’s happening here: obviously Zeytin is on acid. It has always been there. How else can you explain why their conversation materializes in speech balloons that hit the driver? It’s clearly part of their hallucinatory trip. The description of Limon from the Sizinkiler website reads: ‘Good at manipulating others with her charm’ (seriously, no joke). And Zeytin is described as a ‘desperate attention seeker’ (really, check it out). Are these the role models that we want explaining the rules of bus safety? They torture the driver, and it’s clear that they are indeed good at manipulation to the extent that the driver has no choice but to join them in their drug abuse.
4. Otobüsün Peşinde (In pursuit of the bus)
Limon and Zeytin run after the bus only to be told off by an adult.
What seemed weird to me is that the bus stops, but no one gets on or off. Moreover, the bus continues on its way even though Limon and Zeytin are clearly the only ones at the sidewalk running after the bus. Then, an adult runs faster than them to tell them off for running! What kind of example is that?
5. Müzik (Music)
Zeytin listens to loud music on his headphones and bothers a girl until she literally slaps his sound waves and warns him that when listening to music on headphones, you shouldn’t play it loud.
Here we witness rude behavior on both sides. While Zeytin listens to loud music without caring about the other passengers, the red bird hits one of his sound waves. She uses physical intimidation. On the other hand he may deserve it for his sad attempts at being cool, such as wearing a hat backwards, and carrying an iPod in 2015. Don’t even get me started with the yellow/purple headphones.
Limon gets on the bus and can’t find her Istanbulkart in her purse, angering the people behind her that want to get on. She finally takes out a card that reads “Kartınızı önceden hazırlayınız” (Prepare your card in advance).
A clearly sexist message: Limon can’t find her card in the purse because it’s full of unnecessary things. Not only that, but we’re prevented from witnessing the terrible ending with a fade to black: Instead of finding her Istanbulkart, she shows another card and is subsequently pushed off the bus by the angry passengers waiting to get on. A couple of unrealistic things are the patient look of the driver and the fact that he doesn’t leave until she finds the card (we all know that in reality, the driver will just go ahead with the door open).
7. Yüksek Ses (High Volume)
Passengers talk loudly while Limon picks up her cellphone and screams ‘Alooo’, clearly bothering the others. She reminds herself to keep it quiet on the bus by ostensibly saying out loud, “Aslında otobüste yüksek sesle konuşup etrafı rahatsız etmemem lazım” (Actually I shouldn’t speak in a loud voice on the bus and disturb the surroundings).
This is clearly not located in Istanbul. Look outside the bus—there’s a lot of trees and individual beautiful houses. Why didn’t they “shoot” it in Istanbul? And for God’s sake, Limon’s speech bubble transforms into a shark and eats the other bubbles! Is everybody on drugs, sharing a collective hallucination? We start to understand that all these cartoons are actually a not so subtle cautionary tale against hard drugs.
8. Kirletmeyelim (Let’s not make it dirty)
Limon observes an adult throwing sunflower seed shells on the bus floor, and to teach him a lesson, Limon she writes “Otobüsü kirletme” (Don’t dirty the bus) with the shells.
Clearly Limon goes against one of the most prominent Istanbul traditions: eating sunflower seeds and spitting them on the floor. How anti-Istanbulite of her!
Other things that look suspicious. The bus has very few seats. Is it a mockup bus? Were the designers too lazy to create a more realistic bus? Also, it’s time to address the elephant in the room: the ‘inspiration’ of this cartoon seems to be Big Bird from Sesame Street.
9. Çanta (Bag)
Zeytin takes up too much space with his backpack and comically hits both Limon and a red bird in the head. The moral of the story: “Çantalarınızla başkalarını rahatsız etmeyin” (Don’t bother others with your bag).
Let’s admit what we all think about Zeytin at this point (and what is obvious in this short): he’s an asshole. He knocks out two of his friends and we’re supposed to find this funny?
The cartoon also goes full meta here with birds that see birds swirl around their head when they’ve been stunned. Also, these are ‘birds’ that get ‘angry’. Get it? Get it? And did I mention that backward hats are so last year?
10. Yer verin (give your seat)
Zeytin hides behind a newspaper so that he doesn’t have to give up his seat to an elderly bird. The old guy uses his cain to remove Limon from the seat and shows him a board that encourages to give up your seat to the elderly, pregnant women and veterans (“Yaşlılara, hamilelere ve gazilere yer verin”).
Again, what an ass, Zeytin! You are clearly reading a fake newspaper—you’re not fooling anyone! But what’s with the rooster using his cane like he’s Dr. House? Again, a manipulative justification for violence. Moreover, the elderly rooster enters from the back door so either he snuck onto the bus or he was waiting all along for a confrontation with Zeytin. We also can’t keep ignoring the problems with the background: the houses that can be seen from the windows are just impossible. The bus started moving from a cul-de-sac street and the 90-degree turn it performs would have thrown everyone onto the floor immediately.
11. Durakta (At the bus stop)
Limon waits for the bus just outside the bus stop and is told off by an elderly rooster to wait at the stop itself.
Lets analyze this: who has behaved the worst in this situation? Limon, by not waiting exactly at the bus stop, or the rude and passive-aggressive elderly bird telling him off with a sign? Where is the lütfen? Not only that, but after Limon endangers herself by climbing to the top of the bus stop, the only thing that still concerns the old guy is that Limon must remain inside the imaginary line of the bus stop. OK, we get it, you don’t care about the kid’s life, only that she follows your strict rules.
Also, again, the fact that the sidewalk is spotless gives away that the animated cartoon was located somewhere outside Istanbul.
12. Sırada (In the line)
When Zeytin tries to jump the line, he’s told off by the people queuing and reminded that you have to wait in line.
Again, Zeytin thinks he is the smartest person in the room and tries to sneak in, which results in a classic Istanbul behavior: nobody complains as he’s doing it. Only after he’s jumped to the front does the first person in line improvise a flash mob, wherein ever person in line holds the letters that form “Sıraya geç” (poor last guy has to hold three letters). Was it really necessary to make this show to embarrass Zeytin? Also, flash mobs are so last year!
To be fair, though, this animation raises a necessary criticism of all the people that don’t know how to properly queue in Istanbul.
13. Düğmeye bas (Press the button)
In our last short, Zeytin, wanting to get off the bus, climbs a pole to get the driver’s attention. Limon—totally in the know—shows him how to press the button on the pole in order to get off the bus at the next stop.
Again we see an enraging behavior of Zeytin. He climbs the bus pole in a pretty empty bus. What a jerk!
The designers really dropped the ball in this last animation. The two poles and that red chicken in the background are clearly floating. In the last few seconds of the clip, we see that the road has an impossible 90-degree turn. The holds on the door are placed on the OUTSIDE of the bus rather than inside, where they could actually be useful (they have been outside in all the other shorts—mind blown, right?). I guess in the chain of decisions that led to this, all the people involved where just like, yeah, OK, screw the flying pole and wrong placement of the door holds, let’s finish it, get paid and go for breakfast.
In conclusion, these cartoons seemed like an innocent animation showing bus etiquette. But, really they portray the hardcore story of Limon, a manipulative mastermind, and Zeytin, a drug-addicted jackass, who together torment other passengers while riding the bus. In my mind, the only question remaining is: why has no one made a 3D movie about their badass adventures? Now that I would happily watch.
Santiago Brusadin is a contributor to Yabangee.