Get Fuzzy creator Darby Conley recently drew the ire of Pittsburghers when referring to Pittsburgh in a recent strip as a place that smelled. (Story here.) Since the comic was published, he has been receiving hate mail and death threats. If something so benign as saying a city smells can cause such a bad reaction, what does that say about comics that handle REAL controversial issues?
We need comics that aren’t afraid to step on some toes to be funny or thought provoking.
The American public is just too sensitive! This is why syndicates normally shy away from anything that might offend anyone. It’s also the reason why so many comics in the papers today seem so boring, and say nothing despite being around for so long. The Get Fuzzy comic in question is pretty tame, and hardly deserving of so much wrath. Even if it HAD BEEN more offensive than it was, would that really warrant death threats? It’s called comedy, folks: in humor there has to be a butt of the joke. Someone has to come out on bottom â€“ it’s the nature of comedy.
Unfortunately, a lot of people are uptight and unable to laugh at themselves. People will tell you they have a great sense of humor, but the minute you say something that offends them personally, watch out! I bet if that Pittsburgh strip had instead said that Cleveland smelled, Pittsburghers everywhere would have laughed wholeheartedly, and probably even hung the strip on their fridges.
This inability of people to laugh at themselves is why so many syndicates pander to the most uptight readers. Editors understandably don’t want to lose readers, so when something like this happens, the strips in question are oftentimes pulled from papers. This is why so many papers have the same white bread comics for so long. Editors can’t afford to feature comics that might challenge someone’s way of thinking, and the mediocrity that is so alive and well in mainstream comics will continue to persist until this changes.
How can we change this? One thought is that we should take the time to write the editors of papers that feature comics that engage readers with a different way of thinking. We need to tell the editors that we, their readers, appreciate them carrying said comics. Maybe if they hear some words of support, they will know when the crap hits the fan that there are readers out there who appreciate the comics they feature, and they might not be so quick to give in to pressure.
David Wright is the creator of the mostly non-offensive comic, Todd and Penguin every M,W,F, and for the record, doesn’t think Pittsburgh smells…not as bad as Key West, anyway.