Fear and loathing in suburbia

I gave a talk this morning about the MATLAB Profiler at the Applied Behavioral Analysis Convention (see the listing here). In order to explain how profiling code works, I wanted one of those Family Circus cartoons where little Jeffy goes wandering all over the neighborhood. I thought I’d find them all over the net, but I only found one. I guess the Family Circus lawyers have been doing their work. For the purposes of my talk, though, this was just fine.

The Family Circus is as lame a comic as you are likely to ever run across. Even so, I was surprised by the depth of the hatred that exists for it out there. In my search for the “real” images of cute li’l Jeffy and Billy, I came across dozens and dozens of anti-Family Circus sites. After a while, I started to have more respect for FC creator Bil Keane. He clearly knows exactly how to poke a sharp stainless steel dental tool into the receding gumlines of Goth punks all across the country. To inspire that kind of loathing is no small achievement. Go Bil!

Anyway, my favorite anti-FC site was over at the Progressive Boink. This is the kind of critique I enjoy. Instead of saying Family Circus = LAME, he really deconstructs it. For instance:

In the comic presented here, Billy explains that he is “mousebreaking” Jeffy. Perhaps Billy meant to say “housebreaking,” because “mousebreaking” is not a word. But even if he did spell “housebreaking” right, it doesn’t make any sense, because Billy is teaching Jeffy to use a mouse, not a toilet.

The great thing about pop culture is that if you love it, then you love it, and if you hate it, then you can sit around and talk about why the hell so many people love it. Either way is a win.

8 thoughts on “Fear and loathing in suburbia”

  1. Dude, that’s Billy wandering all around the neighborhood. The last time I saw Jeffy walk anywhere near that far, he was crying in mortal fear of the trail of little numbered footsteps that were chasing him and his dad to the corner store. (The numbered footsteps must have known Jeffy was more afraid of them than his dad was, because there were like four times as many of them behind him.)


  2. As long as we’re on the subject of inane, obnoxious, please-kill-me-before-I-see-another-lame-comic, how about Garfield??
    I mean, WTF? This was maybe funny ONCE…in 1976..How in God’s name does it still appear in papers? And now a MOVIE? Maybe I’m the crazy one…

  3. Do you remember that really funny one where Garfield was hungry (that cat is ALWAYS hungry!) and there was this plate of lasagna (a cat that eats lasagna?! LOL) but Jon wanted it, only Garfield ate and then was Jon ever mad!! I love that one.

  4. Actually, on the topic of syndicated comics being unfunny, there’s a fairly sizeable debate going on in the community right now. Scott Kurtz writes PvP (www.pvponline.com), an online comic that’s pretty darned popular. He’s done it for the past 6 years and has now announced that he will let any newspaper run his comic for free. Consequently, many of the syndicated people aren’t happy with Mr. Kurtz. If anyone’s truly interested in following it, the debate can be found here http://p074.ezboard.com/fbellcartoonscommunitygeneralcomicscartoondiscussion.showMessageRange?topicID=1296.topic&start=1&stop=20

    So, apparently now there’s a big syndicated comics vs. webcomics rivalry that no one really cares about except those involved.

  5. Comic artists are the whiniest, most self-obsessed group of artists you’ll ever come across. I mean that in a good way. I really enjoy reading the Comics Journal (http://www.tcj.com/) every now and then, because the interviews are always interesting and they’re incredibly long. Something about being a comic artist lends itself to long bitter introspective rants.

  6. I think you’ve got that backwards, Ned.

    Something about being prone to long bitter introspective rants causes one to become a comic artist.

    As a matter of fact, some friends of mine have a son who has just broken into the comic world. The topic of his comic? His protagonist’s long bitter introspective rants.

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