Saturday, April 24, 2010

Family Circus: No, you can't have spaghetti for breakfast.

In a shocking turn of events,* Thel reacts angrily when Billy challenges her largely arbitrary cultural norms.

*Not really!

Blondie: Remember our 10th anniversary? A dab of barbecue sauce behind each ear?!

Dagwood's food fetish is beginning to disturb me. If we ever see Blondie dressed up as a giant hamburger, I'm out.

Mother Goose and Grimm: Awr kii weyna waha 'unay libaah.

Today's Mother Goose and Grimm is a pale shadow of this Medium Large from last year:

The Quigmans: My wife is a quality woman ... and I should know ... I had her professionally appraised.

Normally I'd write something like this off as satire, but this is The Quigmans, so there's really no way to know. I'm pretty sure the author was trying to make fun of the phrase "he/she's a quality person,"* and accidentally revealed himself to be the kind of person who views women as objects. But maybe he just really likes writing comics about terrible, terrible human beings. Either way, it sure is hilarious.**

*For what reason, we may never know.

**Not really!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Family Circus: Do you happen to need a taste tester.

This appears to be Jeffy's go-to move when he's on the hunt for non-raw-human-flesh foods.

And let me be the first to say that it just gets more adorable and hilarious every time I see it.*

*Not really!

Dennis the Menace: What happened at Margaret's stays at Margaret's!

And so the corruption of our youth continues apace, as not even Menaceville is spared from the TV's siren song of consequence-free threesomes.

F Minus: Hey Heather, how far down do you think those sideburns go?

Sure, this cartoon turns a phrase around to make a clever commentary on gender relations,* but mostly I just think sideburns are inherently funny.

*It's basically the opposite of this cartoon.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Family Circus: He's just mad 'cause I had to recall his car.

What are we to make of Billy's games being so much more sophisticated than those of a normal child?

One word: Genius.

I wouldn't say I love my new husband, Nelson, as much as I value him: Love and Marriage in the Comics Section

Are jokes about hot young women marrying rich old men ever funny?

No, they're not. But they are ubiquitous. This is because we, as a society, recognize that there's something wrong about these sorts of relationships, but nothing so wrong that we can't laugh at them. More or less, they reveal in their participants what society has judged to be an unhealthy overvaluation of either sex or money and an unhealthy devaluation of romantic love. Note that both of these cartoons make clear that this is an either/or situation. These women have chosen money over love. They are bad.

But nothing is ever the case of merely pointing and laughing at the supposedly immoral freaks. Rather, we recognize in these relationships our own unhealthy overvaluations of sex and money, as well as the instability of romantic love. What do we do when, as so often happens, a woman in one of these relationships claims that, no, she really does love the withering old fart she has married? Well, we do as the authors of these comics do: we assume they're lying. Hence, "My biggest fear is that I'm going to slip up and say what I'm really thinking." What they're really thinking. Except, of course, what if what they're really thinking is that, no, they actually do love this fellow? It's unthinkable, so our jokes don't allow for the possibility.

But the whole reason the jokes exist in the first place is because of that very possibility. We know that what must have drawn these people together in the first place was her sex appeal and his money. Given that, if they actually do love each other, it could mean that that's all love is. In which case, romantic love would lose its mystical quality and be reduced to nothing more than a set of external circumstances. Which would make our own relationships not so different from those ones. Because, after all, weren't we first drawn to the people we've been with because of their sex appeal or their signs of financial success or some other similarly cold, hard material marker?*

On the other hand, isn't the transcending of all boundaries supposed to be part of the mystique of romantic love? So why do we assume that age is the boundary that can't be transcended? That if you're with a person twice or half your age, you must be with them for precisely the same reason that first attracted you to them? Because, after all, that's the part that's immoral, right? The failure to move from the initial material attraction into the mystical realm of romantic love?

This becomes all the odder when you stop to consider what is perhaps the dominant trope of the comics section, at least among the most hackish strips: "Ha ha, doesn't marriage suck!" Examples of the form can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.** But Hagar the Horrible is the comic that works best for our purposes, as it often plays off the harsh transition from romantic love to marriage.

Here we see Helga schooling her daughter, who is often depicted as being head-over-heels in love with her lute-playing boyfriend, in married life. The basic lesson seems to be that it's utterly miserable, except for those times when you can get away from your husband. Likewise, the only times Hagar's ever happy are when he's away from his wife, usually off drinking or raping and pillaging. And then we get jokes like this:

And we see nothing wrong with them, even though they feature characters expressing the same sort of materialistic valuation that was castigated in the cartoons above. Here, somehow, it's not an overvaluation at all, but merely a perfectly reasonable desire, a way of saying, "I'd like someone sexier and richer, but romantic love stuck me with you." We're not immoral bad like the hot young things or the pervy old coots above, because ultimately we chose romantic love, but it did lead us into a bad, albeit moral, situation.

And so what are these comics telling us? They're telling us that romantic love is morally good, but also a transient and naive hope. Further, despite being good, it stems from base materialistic desires and leads to a lifetime of misery. In other words, it's an ephemerally good thing that comes from and leads to materially bad things. But because the materially bad things it comes from are considered immoral, we do our best to not acknowledge them, whereas we often talk and joke about the materially bad thing it leads to, because it is considered moral. The jokes about hot women and old men exist to reinforce the myth*** of marriage based on romantic love, while the "Ha ha, marriage sucks!" jokes exist because we feel suffocated by that myth.

It seems to me that we're rather conflicted about all of this.

*Not that we willingly admit this. No, we married the person we married because they were The One, right from the very beginning.

**Of course, not all comics depict marriage as a barren hellscape. But the trope is widely used enough--and not just in the comics section--that I think it's fair to say that it represents a widespread cultural anxiety about marriage, which for the last couple hundred years or so has been based almost exclusively on romantic love, which, as these comics show, we have a whole other set of anxieties about.

***I use "myth" here not as a pejorative (as in, "It's just a myth that dolphins are gay sharks"), but rather as a synonym for "cultural story."

Pluggers: Nine bucks?! Does that include popcorn and a soft drink?

Pluggers also remember when jokes about inflation were considered humorous.

Herb & Jamaal: Yes, Jamaal, I accept your apology.

This comic is hilarious because women are petty liars.

Baby Blues: Hello? Wanda? Are you there?

I would be remiss if I failed to note that even "hip" comics like Baby Blues* love themselves a good "Eek, a mouse!" gag.

*Only 20 years old!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Marmaduke: Want me to call a tow truck to pull him off the sofa?

This cartoon is hilarious because [Man-on-dog sodomy joke here.]

Family Circus: No, Jeffy, I don't think I've had any adventures since I last saw you.

Given how much they have in common, Jeffy just can't understand why his grandmother hasn't brutally murdered anyone since last they met.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dennis the Menace: We need some new toys around here. Can we use you credit card?

This cartoon is hilarious because Dennis would like to borrow his teacher's credit card and purchase some OH MY GOD WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO DENNIS' HAND?

Family Circus: Mommy, can we borrow the dustpan, broom and maybe some glue.

Their delightful afternoon of family fun with the liquid nitrogen having gone horribly awry, the children can't help but recall the story of Humpty Dumpty as they desperately--but also adorably!--try to put Billy back together again.

Crock: I haven't had a hot meal in months.

Evidently attempting to get in on the recent vampire craze, Crock has decided to introduce blood-sucking vultures. It may seem odd to you, but we'll just see who's laughing when teenage girls and middle-aged housewives everywhere start flocking to Borders to purchase the latest Crock merchandise, assuming the sad soul behind Crock has thought far enough ahead to have actually made up some Crock merchandise.

Beetle Bailey: Nobody listens anymore.

In response to my query about Lt. Fuzz's past characterization, frequent commenter Will writes:
I used to read the BB trade paperback collections in the 80s, and I don't remember Fuzz being particularly stupid. He was a sycophantic little worm, and often over-interpreted Halftrack's orders, but he wasn't, as I recall, portrayed as especially clueless.
This more or less fits with my understanding of the character, and today we see another aspect of Fuzz that fits with the character: ineffectualness. The recent gags about his newfound gross stupidity continue to strike me as out of place.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Non Sequitur: You look like an idiot!

The same person authored both of these comics. True story.

Also, note that the guy holding the sign is wearing overalls.

*First comic is 4-14-10. Second comic is from 4-19-10.

Hi and Lois: Caw caw

Nothing happy ever seems to happen in the Hiandloisverse anymore. A little bit of actual death, and Funky Winkerbean better start watching its back.

Drabble: We'll be gone for a week! Who will feed them?

Ha ha! Worrying about living organisms starving to death when left alone without any food or water for long periods of time is such woman thinking!

Dennis the Menace: If those are for Mom, you're wastin' your time.

And so Dennis has retaliated against Henry by telling Alice about his predilection for babysitters.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Family Circus: We want to play inside!

Ha ha! Children sure are stupid for not letting the weather control their every desire!