Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Weingarten on Doonesbury and judging people by their comic strips

Two weeks of the Chatalogical Humor chat by Gene Weingarten leads to a couple of interesting observations on comics.

From Tuesday, October 14, 2008:

Gimmeabre, AK: I agree that Sarah Palin is singularly unqualified to be Vice President, let alone President. And I also grit my teeth whenever some yahoo starts spouting off about the sanctity of "family values." But I think Gary Trudeau went waaaay over the line in Sunday's "Doonesbury." Now, I know you are a regular worshiper at the Church of St. Gary, but since when is "stay-at-work mom" (which I think most people call, "working mother") pejorative? And who told Trudeau that Palin's last pregnancy was unplanned? And was the shot at Palin's pregnant daughter really warranted? Come on, Gene; man up, and admit that your hero blew it this time.

washingtonpost.com: Doonesbury, (Oct. 12)

Gene Weingarten: I had no problem with the shot at Bristol; Palin made Bristol a subject of public discussion, and the "family values' Republican mantra makes it germane. I wondered about the other things, too, though. And after I saw your posting, I emailed Garry about it. Here is his answer:

I believe that Palin has said herself that Trig was a surprise. Certainly her choosing to hide her pregnancy for many months suggests she didn't find it convenient. But planned or not, I regret including that detail for another reason; since Palin is married, it has no bearing on "family values". It's value-neutral, and I should have left it out.

"Stay-at-work Mom" is just a play on the "Stay-at-home Mom", once viewed as morally superior in family values universe. The general point, of course, is that conservatives have used family values as a bludgeon against liberals for many years, and that the general messiness of Palin's family life has complicated that line of attack. What Mark is saying is that despite our best intentions, life DOES happen, and as he makes clear in the last panel, he doesn't exempt himself. To him, the death of sanctimony is something to be celebrated.

and from October 28:

Washington, D.C.: My friends and I have been discussing: Is there any one book, movie, or TV show, that having as a favorite is an automatic deal breaker? What interests would prove to you that someone is totally unfunny, has a different worldview, and that this relationship would never work?

Some say "Da Vinci Code" as a favorite book is a deal breaker. The best example I've come up with is ruling out someone whose favorite television show is "Everybody Loves Raymond."

Gene Weingarten: Dan Quayle's favorite movie was, famously, "Ferris Beuller's Day Off."

I judge people by their taste in comic strips, where there are obvious and cliched deal breakers. But there are also subtle red flags. I'm worrying about someone who claims to like "Prickly City" or "Mallard Fillmore."

DowntheDrai, IN: Gene --

What was your reaction to Sunday's "Doonesbury?" I have trouble with this whole "attack Joe the Plumber" thing. For all you, I or Trudeau knows, Joe's a great plumber -- or maybe a terrible one -- but why should we care? The cartoon comes across as just a vicious personal attack on the guy for having the temerity to disagree with Obama.

So I figured there must be a deeper point being made -- some metaphor about the candidates -- but if Trudeau is trying to suggest that one of them will prove to be an inept bumbler who doesn't know what he's doing -- well, Obama's the one without the track record of accomplishment, but somehow I don't think that's where Trudeau was going.

Was this funny and I just missed it?

washingtonpost.com: Doonesbury, (Oct. 26)

Gene Weingarten: Yes, it was funny and you just missed it. First off, you need to understand that because of Sunday comic deadlines, Trudeau must have punched this out in minutes, the day after the last debate, when it became manifest that Joe the Plumber was not a licensed plumber.

Is this fair satire? Yep. Why? Because Trudeau knows exactly as much about Joe the Plumber as McCain apparently did before he hauled him out to be the CENTERPIECE of his failing, desperate campaign. McCain had already created this ridiculous stalking horse, and Trudeau is doing exactly what his job is: Exposing the hypocrisy behind it.

It doesn't matter whether Joe is a competent, unlicensed plumber. He's a caricature, and McCain made him one.

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