Thursday, May 06, 2010


I hadn't read the comic strip Doonesbury for a number on months, and happened to glance at it in the morning paper today. Then I remembered why I don't read it very often.

The action in today's strip takes place in a setting of Civil War re-enactors, with a reporter on site.

Here's the dialogue:
As the Five Forks Re-enactors prepare to break camp, I caught up with Jedidiah Fishkill.

Jed, I notice you're barefoot and have a head full of lice. What role are you playing?

I play poor, white trash dispatched as cannon fodder by rich, landed slave-owners.

Oh. And why would you want to do that?

My turn. Last year I played Jeff Davis.
(Emphasis added)

Presumably, being a Yalie, Gary Trudeau knows better than to believe that Confederate soldiers ought to be characterized in this manner, and he exaggerates to achieve humorous ends (and fails here, in my view); and, his study of history as an undergraduate undoubtedly led him to a nuanced understanding of the War Between the States -- that it was about more than just slavery and the abolition of that awful institution.

I should add that I have no family reason to be offended by the strip -- my ancestors were officers in the Indiana 63rd and fought well for the Union. Yet I looked at the strip this morning and just thought, "Wow."

Trudeau has done a great job of poking fun at countless targets over the course of nearly four decades. I happen to think that his best work was in the first third of his career. He probably does not mind that he just insulted a good chunk of the population residing south of the Mason-Dixon line, and poked fun at a tragic period of American history that many (on both sides of the border) still treat with reverence -- the Ken Burns PBS series being a good example of that. People who react negatively to this strip are probably not part of Trudeau's target audience in 2010.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri May 07, 03:42:00 AM:

trudeau and his funny-for-awhile-back-in-the-70's cartoon (or, more likely, i was too young to recognize political propaganda when i saw it) has been less useful than toilet paper since reagan got elected.

then, in typical fascist hysterical northeastern 'i'm so much smarter than you floyover country inbred morons' fashion, he essentially just started illustrating DNC daily propaganda. his idea of 'nuance' is viciously going after reagan and palin, while leaving disbarred & impeached and profoundly crooked & incompetent democrat presidents alone. wouldn't be *respectful* to criticize a dem, you see. it simply isn't DONE, old sport.

he's become as hidebound and predictable as the stodgy old farts he once made fun of. he can draw better than back when he started, but what he has to say is of no more import than maddow's or olbermann's slobbering fulminations.  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Fri May 07, 06:53:00 AM:

As history would have it, the lice-infested dullard that he was casting in the role of the Southern white was most likely a Democrat...at least thru the 1960's.

No wonder Martin Luther King was a Republican!  

By Blogger Simon Kenton, at Fri May 07, 09:00:00 AM:

The same thing happened to Garrison Keillor, who as late as "The Book of Guys," was genuinely funny. Something about being a committed liberal, some late-life-triggered earnestness gene, suppress even a powerful sense of humor. And you present forever afterward as a humorless, hectoring stoat. From that change there is no return.  

By Anonymous Illogicerr, at Fri May 07, 10:03:00 AM:

I suspect he figures those he insults can't read anyway.  

By Anonymous feeblemind, at Fri May 07, 10:23:00 AM:

What Trudeau may not realize is that his attitude towards us also reinforces our stereotype of the Ivy League educated elite in the northeast. Hardly a way to win hearts and minds, though I doubt he has ever been interested in doing that.

And since we are mentioning ancestral Civil War units, 62nd Virginia Mounted Infantry was the unit my paternal great-great-grandfather served with, but he was a conscript.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Fri May 07, 11:32:00 PM:

I wrote on the Influence of Doonesbury among liberals four years ago, with some similar thoughts. (Ditto Keillor, Simon)

By Anonymous Brian Schmidt, at Tue May 11, 01:35:00 AM:

I believe Trudeau was referring to the overt practice, legal in the Confederacy, that allowed rich white men to buy their way out of conscription.  

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