Friday, December 4, 2009

Marmaduke: No! I don't want to see the odd-looking toupee he brought home.

What I usually do here is point out all the unintentionally horrifying things the comics section portrays. It's basic deconstruction. The Family Circus is supposed to be about how cute the kids are, but oh, look, they're actually monsters from Hell. That kind of thing.

But is there any reading of today's Marmaduke that's not horrifying? It's hard to tell just what exactly Marmaduke's holding, and I presume it was drawn that way intentionally, but the most obvious interpretation is that it's a dead hedgehog or some other poor decaying creature. Which is only slightly less horrifying than the Comics Curmudgeon's suggestion that it's a still-bleeding scalp.

But let's say it is a toupee. Where has Marmaduke found this toupee? The most likely answer is off of someone's head. But how has he gotten it off of this person's head? Was the person dead? Did he kill the person? Was the person passed out in a gutter? Was this person just out taking a walk, minding his own business, when Marmaduke suddenly leaped up and grabbed the toupee from his head? In which case, how could Marmaduke be sure that the walker's hair was false? Are we to believe that Marmaduke has such powerful observational skills that he can immediately differentiate false hair from real? Or was it just a lucky guess? In which case, it would just be a happy coincidence that it's not a still-bleeding scalp.

The most generous reading is that Marmaduke either found the toupee on the ground or stole it from a toupee store. But those are not at all the sorts of conclusions a reader would immediately come to upon seeing the cartoon. On the contrary, it seems to me that coming to one of those conclusions requires going through at least one or two of the other more horrifying possibilities.

All of which is to say, Marmaduke probably really is a monstrous killing machine. I just hope the movie adaptation stays true to the character and doesn't try to tone him down in a misguided attempt to get a PG-13 rating and the younger audience it would entail.

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