CSotD: Apocryphal Awry

I give up. I’ve been waiting for a period when nobody had used the Humpty Dumpty/Wall idea for a while, so that I could say “Ferchrissake quit using the Humpty Dumpty/Wall idea!” without it seeming like a personal jab at a particular cartoonist.

There will apparently be no such moment of Dumptylessness, and at this stage, my only comfort is that I think everyone in the business has done one, so I can simply say, “Don’t repeat yourself.”

We get it.

Meanwhile …

By contrast, the many variations on Marie Antoinette, rather than dribbling out one after another over two years, have all come at once and so can be dismissed as coincidental, while they vary enough that they aren’t simply a case of “If the idea comes quickly to you, it’s coming quickly to everyone.”

And a roundup of them might seem fun, but it might also seem like a cruel competition. Some have been obvious, some have been quite inventive, but I’m running Nate Beeler‘s because, to start with, he did the best job of making Wilbur Ross look ridiculous, but mostly because that stream of insider financial bafflegab is a nice way to illustrate the distance between him and the Common Person.

Ross really did suggest people take out low-interest loans to feed their families, which, first of all, is rotten financial advice because you shouldn’t put consumables on credit (and they’ve likely maxed out their cards or they wouldn’t be flailing), but it also shows an utter lack of street savvy, because the only loans you can get that quickly are predatory — the sorts of payday loan shark operations the GOP has protected from over-regulating commies like Elizabeth Warren.

Granted, I could probably go down to my bank and get a same-day, here’s-your-money bridge loan, but that’s because (A) I work with locally-owned community banks and (B) I have money in my local bank, which I could also simply draw out to buy groceries.

My guess is that most people who were in trouble were not in that situation.

Some cartoonists have put Trump in the wig and dress, which also applies, because he’s the cloud cuckoo who thought you could simply ask to charge your groceries, which was true a generation ago at the local grocery store in a very small town, but was basically a dumb statement on his part because he’s never been in such a place in his life.

And if my daddy had given me a third of a million every year since I was eight, I’d be just as naive but I hope I wouldn’t be as stupid and out of touch, so there ya go.

Speaking of how naive and out of touch you have to be to mirror Wilbur Ross or Donald Trump, a quick bit of background on the phrase:

First of all, it’s apocryphal. Marie never said it.

Second, if she had said it, it wasn’t about frosted layer cake but about rolls: If they don’t have loaves of bread, they should eat rolls. A clever way not of misconstruing comparative prices but of completely missing the point.

Here, let Ralph Keyes lay it out (and you should buy “The Quote Verifier” because it’s fun reading!):

Which is not a reason not to use it in cartoons, because it’s a good folk story illustrating the lack not simply of empathy but of plain understanding, and, certainly, neither Ross nor Trump nor any number of 1-Percent Fat Cats have any idea what it’s like on the street.

Which, as I said the other day, is why the Theodore Roosevelts and Bobby Kennedys stand out in history: They knew they were privileged.


And let’s stay on the general topic with a salute to RJ Matson for breathing new life into a pair of tired Peanuts memes. Both the “kicking the football” and the psychiatrist booth have been used over and over to the point of weariness, but, first of all, his timing is exquisite, including that he didn’t wait a week to post this.

I don’t know what his schedule at Roll Call is or if he has one, but the idea that you post your cartoon every Wednesday needs to be put on the shelf as a bygone element of the days of print.

Commentary in the current market has to be immediate. End of discussion.

The other element here is that he puts Trump in the over-confident, foolish role of Charlie Brown, ever hopeful that it will work out this time, but plants Pelosi back in the self-assured role not of Lucy the Football Trickster but of Lucy the Advice Peddler.

Lucy is a cheat and a trickster when she pulls out the football, but, when she is in her booth, her advice is cold and accurate: “Get Over It. Five Cents, Please.”

This time, it was Charlie Brown who set up the football and insisted she play.

And her smile is that of somebody who knows the game and has already won.

So I guess the lesson is that you should never be afraid of using a familiar theme, only of using it in a lazy, repetitive manner.


Nor should you fear subtlety, properly pulled off, and this Clay Bennett panel takes a beat before it hits, and maybe some people won’t get it, but it’s their loss and I don’t think this is so subtle as to be a fault, my main proof being that, when he posted it on Facebook, someone immediately commented on the difference between the size of the actual hand and the size of its shadow.

Will everyone get it? No, but you can’t draw a cartoon so obvious that everyone gets it.

Cartoons are supposed to make demands of the viewer, and the best make partners of their audience.


Although, as Bill Bramhall demonstrates, there are times when the message is so obvious that subtlety is not only the wrong tool but would distract from your point.


(High school kids could use a little love about now, and this is the right song for the moment.)


3 thoughts on “CSotD: Apocryphal Awry

  1. Well, to be fair to dear Marie, let’s remember a couple of things. Whether or not the statement is mythical, her concern for the poor was well-documented — and much derided by the rest of the court. The context I was taught for that line was that it came as a result of her going from Paris to Versailles and seeing the appalling conditions first hand. When she returned, she went to the kitchen and demanded they make bread to be distributed to the poor. “We cant, Your Majesty; we’re making cake for tonight’s banquet” — to which she replied, “Fine! Let the poor eat cake!” Even if apocryphal, that seems more in line with what we know about her. She was too young and too idealistic to be queen; their marriage was arranged, so she was in it whether she liked it or not. Even though her execution was debated by the Revolutionary Council (many wanted to spare her), sadly that didnt help her when heads started to literally roll.

  2. In the movie Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Marie is seen in the back of a Tastykakes truck.

    That was the problem with that movie, you had to be a history major to get the jokes. (Sure, that was the problem.)

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