Friday, August 31, 2007

Weingarten on Post punting Opus

In his August 28th chat, Gene Weingarten said:

I agree with the vast majority of you that the snuffing of Opus was a mistake, the sort of knee-jerk oversensitivity that is becoming too common. Sadly, what you see is only half the offense -- The Post and many other papers also yanked NEXT week's strip, in what I believe to be a similar overreaction. Breathed showed me next week's, which is even better than this week's. We'll talk more about this later

Berkeley Breathed himself seems to have chimed in:

Santa Barbara, Wa: What's new in the comics world, Gene? Nothing ever happens on this side of the country.

Berkeley B.

Gene Weingarten: Same old same old, Berkeley. Sad to say.

Interesting poll results, eh?

and then Weingarten returned to the topic of his poll which is excerpted below as well:

Gene Weingarten: As I read it, not only to nine out of ten people believe the Post was wrong to pull your strip, but only eight percent of the readers believe you are a pornographer.

Many newspapers, including The Washington Post, refused to run this Opus on Sunday for reasons of taste and sensitivity. Was this the right decision?

Frequency Analysis
Answer Count Percent

1. Yes. 247 8.00%

2. No. 2839 92.00%

Total 3086 100%

At which group do you feel the satire is mostly directed?

Frequency Analysis
Answer Count Percent

1. Americans 2387 77.32%

2. Radical Islamists 496 16.07%

3. All Muslims 204 6.61%

Total 3087 100%

Was the sexual innuendo excessive, and/or in bad taste, for the comics pages?

Frequency Analysis
Answer Count Percent

1. Yes 229 7.38%

2. No 2874 92.62%

Total 3103 100%

and then Weingarten wraps it all up:

Gene Weingarten: Okay, the Opus poll.

This strip is mocking a whole bunch of stuff. It is mocking the fact that American culture is trashy, and Americans are fad-obsessed. It is mocking American men's desire to control their women. And sure, it is mocking the enforced submissiveness of Islamic women.

So what? Breathed (and Trudeau, and Darrin Bell, etc.) make much more barbed fun of Christian extremism. This is satire, and it's gentle satire, and the only excuse to pull it is the rather patronizing attitude that if you so much as whisper anything mildly satiric about Islamic society, "those people" will go nuts.

Islam is big news. It's fair game, so long as you are fair and not promiscuously cruel or hateful. This was neither.

Oh, and the sexual argument is totally bogus. That's mild innuendo. I mean, Trudeau, whom no one has ever accused of being lewd, had a Sunday devoted entirely to the healthful benefits of masturbation.

I just disagree strongly with the decision to pull this strip. As you do.

Next week's Opus is better than this week's; it's a parable, and it ends with a hilarious visual gag, and it's also mostly critical of America and gently mocking of Islamic customs, and you also won't see it in The Post. We'll look at it next week.

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