In the Courage the Cowardly Dog episode “King Ramses’ Curse,” a central ideology is that of the Egyptian curse. The model is fairly simple: an ancient artifact is removed from a tomb or similar structure in a place almost invariably designed to seem Egyptian, by people of European descent; following the theft, a mystical curse manifests in one or several of various ways, harrowing the thief and anyone else who comes into contact with the object; this results in the death of the original thief, typically in addition to several others, before the artifact is returned (by another person of European lineage) to its original resting place. This episode follows the formula quite accurately.
This ideology emphasizes ancient Egyptian culture while ignoring its modern aspects entirely, painting Egyptian people as both mysterious and vengeful—ever the antagonists, even after death. It is up to the modern white male to save the day from these cursed relics of the past (or, in this episode’s case, the modern pink dog).
Hand-in-hand with this ideology is the trope of the intrepid archaeologist, also white, also upstanding, though far more likely to be a bumbling fool or ineffectual scholar than the adventurous savior. This episode showcases both in one:
This character is closer to yet separate from the ancient culture, and this closer association often comes with either a devotion to that culture, or an aloof disdain for it. Even in the former case, the devotion is often still of an aloof quality—the objective academic studying uncivilized peoples or their culture. The latter case emphasizes this relationship in a supremely negative direction, often leading to the exploitation of the native inhabitants, but the former remains dangerous, instilling such values as the desire to “uplift” more “backwards” peoples, rather than respecting different cultures as simply different, and not better or worse.
Furthermore, the ancient civilization depicted is one laden with riches, the artifact itself of supreme value, though no mention is ever made of how the artifact came to be. In this case, despite appearing to be nothing more than a carved stone slab, the artifact is valued at a million dollars. A similar situation is described in How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideologies in the Disney Comic:
Marx had a word—fetishism—for the process which separates the product (accumulated work) from its origin and expresses it as gold, abstracting it from the actual circumstances of production. It was Marx who discovered that behind his gold and silver, the capitalist conceals the whole process of accumulation which he achieves at the worker’s expense (surplus value). (65)
The artifact is an enigma, with no past beyond its use as an artifact; the people who constructed it no longer matter, as to the mind of the viewer, it was not constructed. It simply always was.