Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Lola: What are you grinning at, Cap'n? You haven't had a promotion in 45 years.

The most interesting thing about Lola is that it purports to be a comic strip about an old lady, but is in fact a comic strip about a grouchy, middle-aged man trapped in the body of an old lady. The problem is that Lola rarely displays any traits that could be described as the traits of an old lady, and to the extent that she does, it is usually limited to the occasional drooping boob joke. She does, however, behave very much like the lead characters in Drabble and The Born Loser (except with drooping boobs), as we can see in the above comic. This is, presumably, the big jokey premise of the strip--as in, ha ha, it's an old lady who acts like a man!--but it suffers from not being particularly funny, even upon the first encounter.

It is, in fact, mostly lazy and cynical, as making the lead character an old lady in appearance only allows the cartoonist to write Lola just like any number of other hacky domestic sitcoms, while at the same time marketing it as different from those strips because the lead character is an old lady. In other words, he can market it as substantially different even though the writing reveals it to be only superficially different. This makes it, in many ways, as safe a bet for moderate success as the medium allows, and thus exactly the sort of thing a syndicate would want.

It also makes it, to my eyes, one of the most frustrating comics in the comic section. Not because of its extremely limited ambition--it has no ambition, but there are tons of equally unambitious comics--and not because of its general terribleness--while it is one of the more terrible comics there are others that are worse--but because of the false promise of the uncommon point of view its title suggests.

There aren't a lot of comics where the lead character is female. Blondie is, for example, titled after the female lead, but the strip's point of view is clearly Dagwood's, so it doesn't count. Luann, Cathy, Stone Soup, Betty and--most distinctively--Sylvia are a few that, whatever their problems, do fit the bill. The only comic specifically about an elderly lady is Momma, which is truly dreadful, and the only other comics that sometimes offer an elderly woman's point of view are Pickles and Grand Avenue.* As its told almost entirely from the lead character's perspective, Lola would make a nice addition to this group, if only she were actually written as an old lady.

Alas, it would not be at all surprising to open the paper one morning and find Lola heading down to the doctor's office for a prostate exam. Which would be hilarious because old ladies don't have prostates. Just like today's comic is hilarious because old ladies don't sit around demanding their women fix them meals.

*Of all the comics mentioned, it's worth pointing out that only Cathy, Stone Soup and Sylvia are actually written by women.

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