Just because Friday Funnies is a no-politics zone doesn’t mean we can’t be a little thoughtful, and the menopause arc in this week’s Pajama Diaries set me to thinking about women and cartooning and progress and such.
This isn’t the first time Terri Libenson has been more frank than most, but let’s start with the idea that, when I say “frank,” I don’t mean “vulgar.”
We had a startling number of strips this week where the punchline was a fart, and that’s vulgar without being particularly frank. Or particularly creative, though I’ll save that rant for another day.
Lynn Johnston is the archetypal female syndicated cartoonist who got her gig without having to come across as a guy who happened to be a woman. Still, she eased into the role with female-based gags about the frustrations of life as a wife and mother.
Even as For Better or For Worse grew and entered into more intimate topics, there was a sense of decorum that Libenson has largely dispensed with, and I think the difference is a combination of Johnston having paved the way and Libenson being of a different generation.
I haven’t researched the topic, but most menopause gags, when they’ve come up at all, seem to have mostly been about thermostats and sweaters and hot flashes, not about comparisons to extended PMS.
Rob and Jill have much more intimacy in their relationship than most cartoon couples and we’ve seen not only discussions of whether or not to have sex but even an arc in which one of the kids unexpectedly wandered into the bedroom during.
And my guess is that Rob would run out to the store and buy Tampax while most cartoon husbands would freak out at the prospect. (I seem to remember Wally doing it in Stone Soup for one of the girls some years ago. Wally was always a mensch.)
This would be no big deal over in the non-syndicated world of Dykes to Watch Out For and in any number of web strips, but watching the evolution of women’s issues in the mass market comics pages is a sort of social barometer.
It’s particularly interesting to watch the kinds of conversations that emerge in Pajama Diaries and Between Friends and some others of these emerging feminist strips, and contrast them with conventional, male-drawn strips — even relatively new ones — that perpetuate the tired old Flintstones cliche in which wise, beautiful women correct their stupid lumpkin husbands before running off to the department store joyfully, empty-headedly shouting “Chaaaaarge it!”
Then again, two guys drew this Juxtaposition of the Week
Neither gag knocked me off my chair, but I was surprised to see a pair of cartoons that happened to run the same day and happened to assume that homosexual relationships are perfectly normal.
Again, it’s not a case of “frankness” in the sense of impropriety.
Bizarro has always played with potentially offensive humor on any number of levels, while I can remember, just off the top of my head, two barroom gags from MG&G, one in which a woman looks with alarm at the giant feet of a clown who is trying to pick her up, and another in which Pinocchio thinks, of a woman he is having a drink with, “But what if she has termites?”
Quite the opposite, in fact: It’s the utter normalcy of this pair that strikes me.
In MG&G, a female marionette could take Pinocchio’s place, though it would very seriously weaken the gag.
But there’s no particular reason why the other person in that bed couldn’t be a woman.
The point is, there’s also no particular reason why it can’t be a guy.
And the real point is that we’ve seen this before. It’s not a breakthrough.
That’s the breakthrough.
Medical Juxtaposition of the Day
As noted the other day, I’m enjoying the current Rex Morgan, in which two veterans attempt to help out a third, but I’ve got a quibble here, based on the fact that I’ve spent way too much time in doctor’s offices over the past two years.
She’d only say “Delmar,” not his full name. It’s a HIPAA thing, or, at least, it’s how hospitals and doctors seem to interpret the privacy regulations.
And it works better with “Delmar” than with a name like “Michael,” because there are several times when two Michaels stand up, there is some laughter and then the tech has to give a last initial to sort us out.
I suppose over-familiarity with hospital procedures is one of the side effects of cancer. I’m fine now, but I still have regular follow-ups to make certain of that, and I also went through about a year of weekly blood testing.
There’s a fraternity of frequent flyers that develops and we aren’t a particularly squeamish bunch.
Which brings us to Zits. The prep is a drag and you should definitely take the day off from work for it, but the toughest part of a colonoscopy is finding someone to give you a ride home afterwards.
You’re out for most of the procedure itself, though I woke up enough towards the end of my first one to be able to watch the monitor and it was fascinating.
Your mileage may indeed vary on that part, but getting old ain’t for sissies — hell, just staying alive ain’t for sissies — and you’ll do better if you learn to enjoy what you can.
On to more frivolous matters:
Wallace the Brave has his dad hanging a tire swing for him. We all heard about tire swings as kids, but, when you finally made one, it was one of biggest disappointments ever.
They’re uncomfortable to sit in and too heavy to get much loft in and I can’t imagine why anyone would want a tire swing, except …
… except that I suspect the idea began in the Roaring Twenties or thereabouts, when car tires were much thinner and far more flexible.
Which was before my time.
Now, kids, here’s a toy that’s just as much fun as a tire swing: