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Popeye’s suicide gag not funny for all

I don’t follow Popeye very much, so I was a bit perplexed when I came across this blog post in the Philadelphia weekly reporting on Wednesday and Thursday’s installment of the feature that depicts Olive Oyl with a gun to her head threatening suicide.

Did Popeye cross a line? Is suicide a topic we can make jokes about?

Community Comments

#1 Charles Brubaker
June/29/2007
@ 8:22 am

It should be noted that “Popeye” dailies KFS syndicates are reruns. So these strips with suicide ran decades ago.

Makes me wonder if there was a uproar THEN.

#2 Danny Burleson
June/29/2007
@ 10:58 am

Yes, because mention of suicide in a humorous way has never been okay in comics: http://www.fortunecity.de/lindenpark/foto/597/03/30-10-20.jpg

Nope, not ever:
http://joshreads.com/images/07/03/i070317bb.jpg

Sheesh, add one more mark in the journal for the Let’s Censor the Past Initiativeâ?¢. Not that it’s a “newspaper comic”, but I wonder if the blog writer has ever read Spy vs. Spy. That Popeye comic looks downright tame in comparison. Although, I will say it wasn’t very funny in general, though it seems like it’s a part of a larger story.

#3 Rich
June/29/2007
@ 11:02 am

My hunch is that it was no big deal. A lot of things in old cartoons wouldn’t be PC today.

#4 Jeff Koval
June/29/2007
@ 11:03 am

Personally, I don’t think it’s offensive at all. Just very, very bizarre. Like Sagendorf was having a crazy day. Obviously some friend or contemporary should have stepped up and said, “Gee Bud, I know where you’re going with this but… maybe you should go hit the links for a few hours.”

#5 JeffM
June/29/2007
@ 11:13 am

I always thought that violence, or threats of violence in cartoons and comics were okay as long as they were exaggerated and unrealistic (like dropping a safe on someone) so that kids could not duplicate it in real life.

To me, though it seems harmless (Olive has a smile on her face), it is crossing the line. To anyone who cannot read, like young children who may happen upon these particular strips, the visual alone (gun to head and smiling) could send and entirely different message, like putting a gun to your head is fun….and pulling the trigger will make water shoot out (even more fun).

I am no fan of Political Correctness, but I don’t think it’s appropriate.

#6 Alan Gardner
June/29/2007
@ 11:30 am

I vaguely remember a blog post by Scott Adams in which he explained that he had to swap out a drawing of a gun (and replaced it with a donut) because the idea of a gun being pointed at other people in a comic strip was a syndication taboo. I can’t find the link to his blog post, so I’m going off memory now. While I realize this is a rerun and probably originally ran in a by-gone-era, I would have thought the KFS would have flagged this one. I found it unsettling.

#7 Lucas Turnbloom
June/29/2007
@ 2:51 pm

It does seem weird that KFS didn’t flag this one, especially now, in the age of P.C.

I know as a current topic, Moe on the Simpsons trys to kill himself at least once a year. In the Simpson comics and the tv show.

#8 CTcartoonist
June/29/2007
@ 5:02 pm

Political Correctness?…YUCK!

I’d be willing to bet ‘ya, that the person in charge of posting old comics (A.K.A. Re-Runs) in that blog is probably in their early to mid 40’s. I remember about 30 to 35 years ago, I’d sit in front of the TV on Saturday morning and watch cartoons such as Popeye, Tom & Jerry, Bugs bunny, and even Johnny Quest. Every cartoon was filled with images of one person trying to “kill” the other, and I NEVER thought for a second, that this is something I could try in my backyard!

I watched those cartoons as pure entertainment, and nothing more! In fact, sometimes I’d actually laugh when Elmer Fudd got blown up by Bugs Bunny, or when Tom is chasing Jerry, and Tom gets a full set of kitchen knives hurled at him, just thinking about in now brings a smile to my face.

I quess what I’m trying to say is, these cartoons and comis are a part of our history, weather we like it or not. They’re in the archives of KFS, and every now and then one is going to pop up. (in a blog, you tube or any other website) Who are we to Re-write history, or at best – pretend it doesn’t exist, and then we scoff at the very same cartoon that made us laugh not so long ago.

Let’s remember folks – IT’A COMIC STRIP!!!

#9 Steven R
June/30/2007
@ 11:03 am

and of course, the next day’s strip reveals the punchline of the gag —-

#10 Dawn Douglass
June/30/2007
@ 3:39 pm

It was a common gag back then — and not to just point the gun but even have it go off, usually with the ubiquitous “Now I’ve seen everything” line. Then BANG!

Of course, it seemed innocent and funny back then, because nobody would ever really do such a thing, or so it was commonly thought. But now that the thought of suicide isn’t outrageous and lots of young people kill themselves nowdays, I would expect editors to think twice about running this on newspaper pages.

Then again, I don’t think anybody is going to seriously consider shooting their brains out because they saw Olive Oil have a gun to her head, esp. a gun that turned out to be a water pistol. I’m not real comfortable with our milktoast culture that is all too eager to take offense. To have to second guess and third guess and forth guess humor is to rob comics of a lot of their charm. So in the broader scheme of things, I think it’s better that they didn’t censor it.

#11 Garey Mckee
June/30/2007
@ 9:31 pm

Yeah I don’t really read this strip because it’s 2007 and not 1957. However that being said, it is true that in this day and age of terrorists, suicide bombers, school shooting mass murders and national threat level security warnings these types of gags are more culturally taboo.

#12 Aline O.
July/18/2007
@ 10:58 pm

It is a known fact that some suicide victims get their idea from a mere suggestion, however innocent it may have been. I found this site when I was searching the internet to find info on suicides by gun shots to the head because my husband did just that 6 weeks ago. We don’t even know why. It’s not a matter of political correctness, censorship or reminding people that “it’s just a comic strip.” It’s a matter of recognizing the upheaval, uncertainty and disconnect we face today, and it’s up to all of us to simply be mindful (even if all that means is to pull an old comic strip that wasn’t even funny back then).

#13 mike3031@peoplepc.com
August/5/2007
@ 11:26 pm

people dony kill themselves over a comic strip. it is a much deeper problem

#14 Joe
August/25/2007
@ 11:12 am

I think its hilarious.

#15 Eric Hamilton
March/29/2008
@ 11:28 pm

First of all, the comic didn’t strike me as super hilarious (even though it seems they were bashing Wimpy…poor lil’ fat guy). I remember growing up watching Looney Tunes and other cartoons of that nature…and in those you saw characters shot, blown up, smashed, etc. You would even see their “spirit” rise from their bodies and float up to “Heaven.” The thing that is insane is that anybody could see these comical things (and if you will note, she didn’t actually pull the trigger in the suicide comic) and emulate them. If you are lacking in intelligence so much that you would read that comic and then put a gun to your head then you’re either too young to be holding a gun or else you’re just emotionally unfit to be holding a gun.

Seriously, if a comic is the thing that pushes you over the edge then it probably would’ve happened with or without the comic’s help. There are much more violent things in scary movies, television, and in real life. These things don’t generally cause people to react violently. This is just like people blaming video games on violence. It’s all about seperating reality from fiction. If you can’t tell the difference, then somebody in your past seriously failed you (probably the public school system…haha).

Last thought: Censorship sucks…

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