Status: Classic prank
Making 'Bunny Ears' behind someone's head has to be the most ubiquitous prank of all time. I can't think of anything that would rival it. In fact, it's so pervasive, so taken-for-granted, that I had never given it a second thought until I read this article by Rachel Sauer
in which she attempts to trace a brief history of the bunny-ears prank. She writes:
Way back in the early history of photography, back when people had metal rods strapped to their backs and clamped to their necks so they could sit still for the 30 minutes required for exposure, there were no bunny ears. In fact, in those portraits, there were no smiles. It was a very severe time, as though everyone had just received terrible news... It is impossible to pinpoint exactly when bunny ears first showed up in photographs behind someone’s head, though it started happening often in the ’50s. And, oh, to know why they did. ... Why a rabbit? Why not a Statue of Liberty crown with all five fingers? Why not a single antenna? Why not devil horns, with the index finger and pinkie?
So she assumes that the prank only came into existence when people started to pose for photographs. Which makes sense, I guess. Nowadays it's rare for someone to make bunny ears except when a photo is being taken. Though maybe, back in the middle ages, making bunny ears during formal occasions (perhaps as the priest was saying mass) was a popular jest. Who knows? Obviously this is a subject crying out for further research.
Sauer also points out that the more formal the occasion, the funnier bunny ears become:
It’s funny when George H.W. Bush makes bunny ears on his wife, Barbara. It would be knee-slapping if someone did bunny ears on the pope, say, or Osama bin Laden. Incongruity makes them funny. But then, it’s not so funny when your idiot roommate ruins every picture.
Since I evidently have nothing better to do, I spent half-an-hour finding interesting bunny-ear photos on the web. Here's what I came up with. (A few of them I could only find in thumbnail size.) They are, from the top left: George H.W. Bush giving his wife bunny ears (from Sauer's article); Muhammad Ali giving them to Billy Crystal; George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg; A British schoolboy gives Charles Clarke, the UK's education secretary, bunny ears during his official visit to the school (this photo caused a bit of controversy
as it soon appeared in many British papers, amid allegations that the photographer had egged on the boy to do it); Crosy Stills and Nash giving each other bunny ears; George Lucas earing a stormtrooper; Gloria Steinem bunny-earing herself... a reference to her past as a Playboy bunny, I assume; a nurse bunny-earing a skeleton; Ted Case of AOL giving Ted Turner some ears; Paul Newman being eared by his wife, Joanne Woodward; and finally, Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon.
If any of you have interesting bunny-ear photos, email them to me. If I get enough good ones, I might consider adding a gallery of bunny-ear photos to the museum.