I’d sworn off cartoons based on Emma Lazarus, but Steve Artley took me by surprise with this “New Yorker in Hell” offering.
The standard New Yorker cartoon offers an affectionate look at the upper middleclass foibles of its readers, with a smile and a bit of a whachagonnado shrug.
I remember one — can’t recall the artist — from decades ago, in which a group of wealthy suburbanites sit around a stylish living room with their martini glasses, singing “Ol’ Man Ribber, dat ol’ man ribber …”
And I remember thinking “Does nobody get this? ”
Artley deals something of the same hand, only it’s not couched in a setting where we chuckle at a foible, and my only quibble is the label on the servant’s back, because I doubt she is and I doubt they care.
The standard New Yorker cartoon is “My Man Godfrey” while this is “Sullivan’s Travels.”
For those who missed them, both movies are ostensibly comedies, though “Godfrey” keeps the laffs coming and “Sullivan” does not.
In “My Man Godfrey,” (1936) a young, spoiled socialite finds a “Forgotten Man,” a homeless bum, as part of a scavenger hunt, and hires him as the family butler, only to discover that he’s more sophisticated and wise than anyone in her nutty, upper-crust family.
It’s full of brilliant performances and clever writing, but it doesn’t hold up terribly well, in large part because of that “New Yorker” element where we’re supposed to see the rich folks as endearingly silly rather than vulgarly detached from the real world.
And — spoiler here — finding out that Godfrey “isn’t really a bum” is a cop-out on the level of finding out — sorry, another spoiler — that Rudolf Valentino’s character in “The Sheik” isn’t really an Ay-Rab.
We’re all off the hook! Let’s sing another chorus of “Ol’ Man Ribber”!
By contrast, in “Sullivan’s Travels,” (1941) a successful film director decides to go see how the other half lives, and it’s hilarious at the start, as his Hollywood crew tags along to keep him out of any real danger.
However, the comedy fades as he slips away from their doting, protective supervision and, about the time he is finally on his own, he gets mugged, losing his ability to buy his way out of situations or even prove who he is, at which point, to use a modern expression, shit gets real.
I suppose it’s mostly a matter of what you bring to either, and, similarly, what you bring to Artley’s cartoon.
Which I hated. And admire.
Juxtaposition of the Day
From opposite ends of the Empire State — Jeff Boyer in the Cap District and Adam Zyglis on the Niagara Frontier — come these commentaries on New York’s granting of a year-long waiver of the statute of limitations, during which victims of pedophiles may file civil suits against their abusers.
Zyglis has addressed this before and I commented then on the fact that kids know a lot more than adults, because they’re in the trenches.
Boyer’s “loss of faith” brings up the fact that they assume adults know what kids know, so that, when nothing is done about a situation, that must mean it’s okay. Or, at least, that it’s normal.
A college friend used to tell of a Brother at his Catholic school nicknamed “The Fly” because he’d come watch the boys shower in the locker room, rubbing his hands together like that insect.
Nobody else saw that? Nobody over 17?
Only with an effort.
The uproar at Newfoundland’s Mount Cashel Orphanage began when a former inmate saw a 60 Minutes program about how a diocese in this country played “pass the trash” with pedophile priests, re-assigning them to new parishes where nobody knew what they were getting.
As the reporter who broke the story explains, getting that young man to come forward was part of the challenge.
As with many victims, he felt responsible for what took place during the theft of his childhood at Mount Cashel. He felt guilty “ratting out” the Brothers, some of whom had shown him occasional acts of kindness. Shame, the handmaiden of guilt in these matters, had done its work.
In that essay, he compares the Mt. Cashel story to a #MeToo case involving a popular CBC personality and women within that organization.
It’s all intertwined.
I don’t know what relationship there is between the boys of Mt. Cashel coming forward and the explosion of lawsuits over physical and sexual abuse at Canada’s residential schools for Indian students.
Or for lawsuits over a form of slavery at girls’ orphanages in Quebec.
Or physical and sexual abuse at Ireland’s “Magdalen Laundries.”
I do know that, when I looked up the Boy Scouts’ end of things, I got a laugh out of the fact that the Baden Powell Council’s sensible rules to try to prevent abuse include a ban on skinny dipping, given Lord Baden Powell’s reported fondness for watching young scouts do just that.
However, it’s crucial to note that religion and scouting are only two of several places where adults with bad intentions can prey upon kids.
We’re out fingerprinting our kids to save them from Stranger Danger — and make us all more amenable to life in a police state — when the real threat is from teachers and religious leaders and coaches and scout leaders and relatives.
Not all of them.
Not most of them.
Not even (by percentage) that many of them.
But how many does it take?
Anyway, the victims’ loss of faith is not in the church or the scouts, but in the adults who were supposed to keep them safe.
Smarten up. It’s your job.
Gahan Wilson Update
Gahan Wilson’s stepson reports that the family has shut down the GoFundMe intended to provide for his care as he slips into dementia.
They reportedly have enough, and Paul Winters passes along this update:
He still draws a little. His drawings have become smaller and smaller, but they still are filled with his great genius to give ink lines life.