Cartoon Violence Killed The Radio Star

Each week, the Comics Curmudgeon helps explain Today's Cartoons.

Pretty much all right-thinking people agree that television has gone to the very core of every American's brain, hollowed it out, and filled the resulting cavity with marshmallow fluff and packing peanuts. The saddest commentary on how sad this sad situation is may be that even cartoonists resent the vice-like grip the idiot box holds on our nation's collective psyche. Yes, these doodlers of funny pictures, accused barely half a century ago in the halls of Congress of plotting to turn our youth into a band of drooling homosexual morons, now set themselves up as an aggrieved party when it comes to TV. A nation reared on television's easy answers, they argue, can't get its mind around a politically allegorical fantasy graphic novel/erotically charged manga homage/three panels of Blondie.

Political cartoonist are in even more trouble, as no graphical depiction of the American trade imbalance, no matter how whimsically drawn and informatively labeled, will ever be as fun to look at as Two And A Half Men is to watch, not least because it lacks a laugh track. Nevertheless, political cartoonists need to show televisions in their cartoons because that's the only way to show Americans interacting with information. The egghead braniacs at the New Yorker might be able to convince us that husbands and wives still engage in witty repartee over the newspaper; for everyone else, there's morons on the couch. This week: cartoonists face the warm glow of their nemesis.

01deb.gifTV type: Ludicrously foreshortened; precariously balanced on a classic 1960s TV trolley. No apparent connection to cable, but no rabbit ears either.

Who's watching? Classic nuclear family, in classic garb, though dad's vest isn't very flattering.

How realistic? Junior's sitting way too close to that television; I don't doubt he'd do it, but surely the Cleavers here should be on his case about it. Mom and dad's dull blankness and Junior's petulance ring true.

02dec.gifTV type: Gynormous flat-screen, perched precariously on a credenza -- possibly on the verge of tipping over backwards.

Who's watching? Heterosexual, possibly biracial couple, either childless or cruel enough to force their kids to "read" or "do something productive" while they sit in a teevee stupor on their checkered couch. There is something not right at all about the relationship between the lady's eyes and forehead.

How realistic? Word balloon coming out of the TV set has a jagged, lightning-bolt-shaped stem, which everyone knows is how electronic devices actually talk.

03mil.gifTV type: Impossible to tell, since the artist has decided to set up the living room at a realistic viewing angle, unlike the cartoons above, cruelly denying the reader the chance to watch TV, which is fun. It appears to be larger than the children, which is reasonable because it's more important.

Who's watching? A couple of greedy, greedy little Jim Lehrer/Regis Philbin-loving brats. Also, a man and a woman who have decided that the couple that wears dress shirts under sweaters together is a couple with a firm foundation beneath their marriage.

How realistic? The little girl appears to be snotting or something. This is the body's natural reaction to irritants, such as coverage of an election broadcast sixteen months in advance of the actual voting.

04til.gifTV type: A freakishly large flatscreen, suitable for receiving ransom demands from supervillains.

Who's watching? An older couple sitting a good ten feet away from their terrifyingly huge television, being pushed back into their plush sofa by the very force of its bigness. The lady's hair bun is sticking straight up, probably due to the static electricity arcing off that screen.

How realistic? As the logical end point of our fascination with huge televisions, in which we're pinned to our seats by the sheer power of their size, it's maybe a little too plausible, honestly.

05law.gifTV type: Remarkably small and pedestrian looking, topped by a VCR/DVD player combo, and fitted with a convenient side door.

Who's watching? A smartly coifed, nicely shaded middle-American couple who, after a tough day at work, enjoy drinking a hot, steaming cup of coffee and watching Law and Order while sitting 18 inches away from their television set.

How realistic? You get a soul-searingly horrifying little homunculus of Fred Thompson walking around your living room when Law and Order's on, right? The one I get tells me to kill, but I try not to listen. --THE COMICS CURMUDGEON


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