Open Soapbox: Let’s Step On Some Toes

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 – 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.

One Comment

  1. I totally agree. Well written.

    It also helps when satirists get together to marginalize the givers-of-threats and senders-of-hatemail, rather than sitting back and letting one dude take all the heat. Or letting the threat-givers win, actually win, by caving in and apologizing. Instead of apologizing, how about sicking the freaking FBI on them? I mean a death threat is a death threat.

    Instead of letting the hatemailers get us all, one by one by one, how about all the satirists fight back? I mean isn’t that the job of the satirist? To make society look at it’s own absurd pudenda? To remind them of the pimple on their nose on their way out the door to prom night?

    I swear, every damn comic strip for the next two weeks should be about how Pittsburgh smells.

    I’ve been to Pittsburgh, and I don’t have any impression about how it smells. Which I take to mean that it smelled, but not worse than any other place. Cities smell. Some cities smell really damn bad. So what if Pittsburgh’s steel industry cleaned up or went away and the city no longer smells as bad as it used to. It’s still a city, and in many parts of it probably smell like a war between a giant rat ass and a giant bucket of Mr. Clean. Cities smell. It’s a fact.

    I’m not the biggest fan of Get Fuzzy, (at least, not since the shaved head), but I think it’s lame for the satirical community to leave Darby Conley with his cheese in the wind. A smelly wind, blowing north from Pittsburgh.

    Damn if I don’t do a strip about how Pittsburgh smells, now.

    Satirists unite!

    -Matt, who cares enough to sign it.

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