CSotD: Idiot Plots and Tangled Knots

We’ll lead off today with a

Juxtaposition of the Day


(Rob Rogers)

Transposed like this, the connection between the penultimate Retail strip and Rob Rogers’ piece of Bill Barr is more obvious than I expected it to be.

Back in the glory days of PBS, Ebert & Siskel used to criticize what they called an Idiot Plot, defined as “Any plot containing problems that would be solved instantly if all of the characters were not idiots.”

Norm Feuti wraps up 14 years of a terrific comic strip that was, after all, based on an Idiot Plot, as Marla finally wises up and does what she should have done about 13 years and 51 weeks ago.

But, of course, if she’d had the sense to hand back her keys and walk out back then, there’d have been no strip.

The main tension in Retail was wondering why the three main characters — Marla, Cooper and Val — never wised up, despite their frustrations and the degradations that Stuart continuously laid upon them.

It was played for laughs at Grumbels and I have to say I got plenty of laughs out of it.

By contrast, Rob Rogers manages to dredge some humor out of a situation that is utterly without comic aspects and truly does make you wonder about Barr’s inner workings.

The classic version of this, of course, is the fellow who follows the circus parade with a broom, sweeping up the horse and elephant poop. Asked why he doesn’t quit this degrading job, he says, “What? And give up show business?”

Rogers improves on the traditional telling, because the job in his cartoon is not simply degrading and depressing but also actively, constantly, purposefully humiliating.

It’s been fun and cathartic to watch Marla and the gang suffer under the idiocy of working at Grumbels. We’ve probably all found ourselves in those situations; the difference being that we got out as soon as possible, and so we can chuckle remembering why.

Watching Barr put up with it is scary, given the real-world things he’s being pressured into doing, and incredibly sad, given that he’s not just ink on paper but a real person letting this happen to himself.

It reminds me of a Seinfeld line in which Elaine turned to George and said, “What on earth did your mother do to you?”

In this case, the answer might be “She praised me.”

Barr has probably been an honor student all his life, turning his work in on time, earning good grades, doing what was expected of him and being rewarded as a Good Boy.

Somebody should rent him some Jack Lemmon movies.


Speaking of Honor Students

Joe Heller gets precedence here because he made Eagle Scout and even went a bit beyond, so the current Boy Scout news hits a particular nerve.

There are a lot of other editorial cartoons on the topic, but I like that Heller simply depicts the crisis as a tangled knot.

Others are suggesting a cover-up, or that BSA declared bankruptcy as a way to avoid just compensation, and neither of those things square with what I’ve seen and heard.

Granted, the organization stalled and tap-danced until their backs were against the wall, but they appear to now be trying to at least accept the inevitable.

They also seem intent on reversing a toxic legacy, though I’m willing to let injured parties refuse to see that.

Still, they appear to be stepping up, with instructional materials for both kids and parents — and not just those at risk, but all of them — part of that new broom with which they hope to sweep clean.

I have not examined the actual Chapter 11 filing, but it reportedly is an attempt to gather together materials from local chapters in order to allow compensation in current lawsuits as well as those which will now be brought.

And it appears to be just as tangled as the knot Heller draws, given that the group is de-centralized, such that local chapters own buildings, summer camps and other valuable materials that may be drawn into any settlements that happen.

Better that those settlements come against the main group rather than those individual chapters; a case of “We must all hang together or we shall all hang separately.”

I don’t have Heller’s perspective. I was a Cub Scout for years, but didn’t stick around for Boy Scouts.

However, having spent 48 weeks of my life at all-boy summer camps and as a cradle-Catholic who was an altar boy for several years, I feel a certain kinship in the crisis.

They’d better be as good at un-tying knots as they have been at tangling this one.

Meanwhile, however, those who comment on it should do so as graphic journalists, not as snarky graffiti artists.


And then there’s this crisis

Michael Ramirez asks a relevant question in yet another uproar. And the answer is, it’s not the recline, it’s the pitch. Which doesn’t address the problem.

The answer, it turns out, is “Shut up and eat your pretzels.”

Every time it comes up on-line, I ask what airlines these poor aggrieved travelers are on where the seats tilt back far enough to create a problem.

I suspect they’re up in the rich folks section with the heated peanuts and cold champagne, because back where I sit, the seatbacks only recline about an inch.

Granted, on some flights, that’s enough that I can’t put my tabletop down, but that’s not an issue of seatbacks. That’s an issue of a fat gut.

And on Southwest, an additional $25 each direction (not each flight) allows me to select a seat with plenty of pitch, legroom and, yes, gutroom.

On a long flight, that extra inch takes a lot of pressure off my poor old spine. If I’m ever offered four inches of recline, I’ll be polite and not take it all.

Meanwhile, here’s where you’ll find me:

And here’s something you should only click on a Saturday:
God bless Joe Sedelmair.

3 thoughts on “CSotD: Idiot Plots and Tangled Knots

  1. It’s recently come to light that Barr was a bigoted right-wing bully in high school. Then he was a Nixon tool, and he’s been shilling for authoritarians pretty much his whole life. It always boggled me that anyone thought he had a reputation to jeopardize–one worth having. He is what he’s always been, and it’s what he wanted.

  2. Very rarely disagree with you Mike, but Barr is not humiliated in the slightest. His complaint is only that Trump is inadvertently casting light on what Barr is doing.

    He wants to continue to operate in darkness, like he has been doing since day one in office.

    Kip is exactly right that Barr has craved dictatorship forever.

  3. Having worked for my share of idiots,I may be able to answer some of your questions. I quit my first full-time job out of college on principle – we were – all of us -being treated like crap. And I spent two weeks in complete panic mode – no job — no place to go – and when I did land another full time job I vowed never to put myself in that position again. Stewart is a contemptible little worm, but there are plenty out there like him (not all male) and you can just as easily go from the frying pan into the fire. The happy ending for all the Retail characters is pleasant to us readers – but it is part of an idiot plot too. It doesn’t always end that way.And if you have a family (like Marla) you are even more restricted.

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