Monday, January 05, 2009

Dear Mr. Trudeau,

(Click on image to embiggen.)

We write to you on the precipice of the Obama Era to offer our thanks and to make a modest suggestion. We wish to commend you on yesterday's strip, which we've reprinted above (without any links to the original source because this humble dog blog lives in fear of detection by the copyright police for our audacious yet never for profit image appropriations). The funny girls of Roxie's World are gravely concerned about the future of political humor in the brave new world that is about to be born. We think that humor is essential to the health of the body politic, particularly in a democracy, where leaders are supposed to be of the people, not above them. Humor, particularly of the irreverent variety, is a necessary check on the arrogance of power. It is the people's way of saying to its leaders, "You are not the boss of me." Humor is a powerful means of holding leaders accountable for their words and their actions and for pointing out the often large gaps between the two. Mission Accomplished? Yeah, right, dude. All leaders are mortal and therefore all leaders are deserving of a good skewering every once in awhile. He -- or, far less likely, she -- who is deemed beyond such skewering is walled off from forms of engagement and critique that are vital to the operations of democracy.

That's why we have been worried about the great humor deficit that has been apparent in the coverage of our soon-to-be president, Barack Obama. We've written on this subject before, and the situation doesn't seem to be improving as we approach that spine-tingling moment when a black guy puts his hand upon a bible and swears to preserve, protect, and defend a constitution that once would have allowed him to be auctioned off right here in the nation's capital. We realize that We, the People are a little bit in awe over what we have done in electing our first African-American president. We appreciate, too, that there is a certain trepidation among the nation's legions of mostly white comedians about making jokes across racial lines. Such jokes can easily go awry, even when they are not, as in this example, obviously and egregiously racist. (For more on "Barack the Magic Negro," go here.) And yet, Mr. Trudeau, our funny bones long to be tickled. We worry that in the moments of national crisis that are bound to occur on Obama's watch, comedians will be reluctant to embrace their solemn duty to help us laugh ourselves silly. Will anyone be brave enough to come up with anything even remotely as funny as the pants-wetting sketches SNL did during Bill Clinton's impeachment in 1998? (Need a reminder and the biggest laugh of this still young year? Go watch Molly Shannon as Monica Lewinsky addressing Congress at the height of the frenzy. After you've gone to the bathroom.)

All of this is to say that we were relieved and encouraged to see your strip yesterday because we think you have opened up a potentially rich vein of comedy in the landscape of Obamerica. In eight simple panels, you deftly dissect the moral earnestness of the Obamaniac -- still decked out in his Ob-noxious campaign gear even as he prepares for the ostensibly less partisan work of governance and still suffering from a severe case of Clinton Derangement Syndrome. We think it's a good and deserved skewering that is even-handed in its (fairly gentle) mockery. Surely even the most devoted Obamaniac can chuckle a bit at the dweeby facilitator with his binder full of corporate buzzwords and his mindless anti-Clintonism being stopped dead in his tracks by the Clinton whose unstinting support of the man who barely beat her in the Democratic primary race helped put him into the White House. And surely even a still-growling PUMA would purr at the reference to the (still) Biggest Dawg in American politics, the blue-eyed rapscallion we can't seem to live with or without. Of course he's late. Of course we'll wait. We love him. We hate him. We can't wait to see him. Brilliant, Mr. Trudeau. Thanks for reminding us that the joke is always on us. And thanks for giving Hillary the punchline. The funny girls around here were particularly pleased about that.

We said we had a suggestion for you, too. We know you haven't decided yet on what -- if any -- icon you will use to represent President Obama. It'll be tough to come up with something as metonymically marvelous as the waffle you used for Bill Clinton or the helmet you settled on for Shrub, but we think we've come up with a good possibility. We think you should image the new president as a pair of chiseled pectorals glinting in the sun. Oh, we know the etiquette police might write you up for seeming to reduce the black guy to a physical attribute rather than a mental one, though it was hardly a compliment to Shrub to be depicted as a reflexively martial nit-wit and no one complained about that. Whatever the risks, this icon would convey a number of important messages. First, it would remind the media that its love affair with Obama not infrequently results in "news" reporting that sounds like a script for a soft-core porn flick. (Doubt us? Go click on that last link. The phrase "chiseled pectorals" appeared on the front page of Wa Po in a story on the new president's commitment to fitness. On Christmas morning. Just in case you thought the Obama = Messiah meme had run out of steam.) Second, it would foreground the fact that, for all the vaunted coolness of No Drama Obama, the nation's forty-fourth president is going to be, like, a total hottie. I'm not sure we've ever had that in a president, though that's hard to say, given the shifting and highly subjective character of hotness. Kennedy and Clinton were both charismatic and sexy, but Obama exudes a sense of physical grace and comfort in his body that is remarkable and an important part of his powerful allure. I want to compare him to Fred Astaire, but, if I did, Goose, who strongly dissents from this line of analysis, would grouse that Fred Astaire was no hottie and, besides, as Ann Richards pointed out, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels. Well, yes, but we still think the chiseled pectorals would be a rich and hilarious means of signifying the new president.

In any case, Mr. Trudeau, we hope you will give our suggestion your most serious consideration as you sharpen your pencils for the Age of Obama. Please remind our fellow citizens that no man is above a good joke -- and no nation can survive without one. Thanks for all you do, and a very happy new year to you and yours.



  1. I would suggest a halo. That way, as the presidency and inevitable disillusionmnet progresses, the halo could become tarnished and battered.

  2. Yeah, we thought about the halo, but team Obama co-opted that image long ago in its own visual identity, as the logo on the facilitator's sweatshirt makes clear. We want Doonesbury to declare its independence from the Obamessage machine. Somebody in the culture industry has to do that besides this cranky little dog blog, don't you think?

  3. A cranky little dog makes her own culture industry?

    Perhaps angel wings? Or would they be too close to the halo?

  4. Whoops! That should be an exclamation point after the first sentence: A cranky little dog makes her own culture industry!

  5. I don't think the Obamites would get the irony in either the halo or wings. They won't with the pecs either, but at least that's Roxie's own!

  6. Anonymous10:46 PM EST

    Thanks Rox, fun post and a great cartoon, deserves your fine praise!

    (At least in its title) Jane Hamsher at firedoglake also has a post today, which points to Hillary off stage somewhere... it's called:

    "Welcome Fellow Travelers to the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy!"



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