The Riff: Is "Beetle Bailey" Like "Mad Men" Without the Wink?
One is a fresh, Emmy-winning show with serious buzz. The other is a hall-of-fame cartoon that is often derided as stale and past its prime. So what could AMC's slick "Mad Men" and Mort Walker's old-school "Beetle Bailey" possibly have in common?
Well, according to one acquaintance, they both put sexism in the workplace under a microscope -- just in different ways.
Some critics say "Mad Men," set in the early '60s, is able to have it both ways: spotlighting pre-women's rights sexism while mining the mores for rich stories. "Beetle," ostensibly set during the Korean War, is often accused of being straight-up sexist -- although some readers say that sexual stereotypes are actually being lampooned, not celebrated. (If General Halftrack is made to look pathetic or ridiculous by a Miss Buxley rejoinder, the thinking goes, then doesn't that undercut old-boy-network sexism -- not unlike Norman Lear's "All in the Family"?)
Lampoon, not unlike quality, is of course in the eye of the beholder. "Beetle" recently polled among the least popular strips in a Comic Riffs survey -- commenter J. Meahan said flat-out: "Beetle Bailey is a bad comic strip... grandfathered into the paper" -- yet there were five other strips that commenters would sooner see go.
Which gives rise to two questions: How much are outdated worldviews grandfathered into the funny pages -- and where do editors and readers draw the line?
While we're on topic, we're reminded of an anecdote in a recently released book, "Garry Trudeau: Doonesbury and the Aesthetics of Satire," by BYU professor Kerry D. Soper. In this well-researched work, Soper writes of sexist practices by the National Cartoonists Society some decades ago -- including the era that "Mad Men" depicts:
"The overwhelmingly male composition was reflected in sexist rhetoric and practices of the organization: they organized bathing suit contests in which their wives and girlfriends would participate; each year they passed out a booklet containing drawings of their female cartoon characters in the buff. ... Mort Walker (the creator of "Beetle Bailey") and Johnny Hart ("B.C.") [included] in the annual program magazine drawings of their characters, Miss Buxley and "Fat Broad," respectively, in the nude.
"Trudeau described the actions of Walker and Hart as a 'travesty of condescension and sexism' and 'deeply offensive.' "
The National Cartoonists Society, no longer mirroring the mores of Don Draper's ad agency, has thankfully changed with the times. But have all the mainstream comics that hark back to that era?
| October 7, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories: The Riffs
Save & Share: Previous: The Morning Line: When Pastis Goes for "Peanuts"
Next: The Morning Line: Obama! Palin! Who's Got the Best Line?...
Posted by: yellojkt | October 7, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Julia | October 7, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Wally Wood fan | October 7, 2008 12:53 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: f2 | October 7, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: MSchafer | October 7, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Mike Rhode | October 7, 2008 3:53 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: cao107 | October 8, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.