Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My grandfather said I was funny, but he didn't mean it like THAT

What's in a name? To one angry reader of the Springfield News-Leader, apparently plenty:

Most of you have college degrees, so I'm sure you know the definition of the word, comics. Would you please explain how a list of dead American military personnel is "comical?" [...]

The next time a child is beaten to death, or a terrible car wreck, why don't you guys make up a funny cartoon about it!

The letter refers to this Doonesbury Sunday strip, one of two done for Memorial Day week 2007. If you haven't seen it, check out the link. It's tasteless and totally hilarious, just like an episode of Family Guy! Only a total Stiffly Stifferson would not find this typically uproarious Doonesbury delight just right for the comic page! Right? Anyone?

Okay. Back to Planet Earth.

First off, "comic" lost its humorous connotation a long time ago. These days, the term seems to be used almost exclusively by dead-serious, superhero-obsessed Stan Lee wannabes. Quick word association: comic book. What came to mind when you just read that? Archie or Wolverine? How about, say, Spider-Man? He's pretty popular these days. So popular, in fact, that his eponymous strip also runs on numerous comic pages, including ours. And Spider-Man is about as funny as a real spider spelunking in your nostril. Where's the outrage over that?

Second, I've seen this anti-Doonesbury sentiment before. Back in south Louisiana, readers used to complain constantly to the local paper that such a politically charged strip had no place on the comic-strip page. Curiously, none of them ever complained about Mallard Fillmore, which is the conservative equivalent of Doonesbury (albeit more amateurish, petulant and even less funny than Spidey).

Third, although conservatives typically balk whenever a list of war dead gets any play, their outrage seems awfully selective. How dare you, Garry Trudeau! How dare you, Bono! How dare you, Ted Koppel! On the other hand, a list of dead victims from 9/11 adorning an 18-wheeler? They can't get enough of that! A couple of years back, I blogged about a rig that was adorned with murals spelling out the names of all who perished in the World Trade Center attack. It seemed honorable enough, except for the exceptionally tacky "Have you forgotten?" sentiment piled atop airbrushed imagery of jingoism and warfare.

What were the right-wing reactions then to my disgust?

"Why can't the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 have a memorial that isn't criticized? If it were one of my family members listed on that truck, I'd be highly pissed at the way you demean and politicize it."

"Why is it that every time someone does something to honor those who died during 9/11 the left has to make fun of it or denigrate it? What can they not take it as it is--a memorial to honor those who died."

Off-blog, I'd hear friends say, "But it's sweet!" "Are you trying to pretend this never happened?" "So what if someone wants to pay tribute to the victims?" My problem is that it has no place on America's trailers, where I'm only in the mood to read "SAIA," "Pepsi," "Mayflower" or other icons of the road. Seriously, though, another visitor put it best, shortly before launching into a cheap personal attack on me:

"The trucker is simply showing his appreciation for those lives lost in 9/11."

As much as I don't like seeing victims' names used as a tool for rhetorical revenge, neither would I grasp for any flimsy excuse for censorship, as yesterday's letter writer seems to be doing. Also, the Doonesbury tribute is tasteful, necessary and does not add a political message one way or the other.

But who's to say that someone isn't laughing their ass off at this endless list of war casualties? Check the banks, because I believe they are on their way there now.

1 comment:

Cajun Tiger said...

I actually did see the Doonesbury strip when it ran and was appreciative knowing his political views that he was very respectful for the Memorial Day strips. I have no problem listing the names of our fallen heros in a memorial fashion with no political message attached to it.

But then of course you end a good post with the tired ridiculous slam of at war for money.