Donald Duck vs. Glenn Beck

2011 April 3
by Jonathan Doucette

Donald Duck vs. Glenn Beck

Wonderful. I’ll be sure to write something illuminating on this post at a later point. Just thought you should all enjoy this ASAP.

Simpsons? More like Simp…astiche

2011 March 16
by Jonathan Doucette

Yes, the Simpsons. They still exist, even after all these years. Pastiche-ing everything up like it’s their job.

In a recent episode, Bart’s short film Angry Dad is nominated for an Oscar, running alongside contenders such as Condiments by “Nixar,” Willis and Crumble and The Brothers of Beauville. Below, here’s a clip from the Nixar Film:

Contemporary animated shows such as The Simpsons and Family Guy certainly have their finger on the pulse on American pop culture. In capturing the aesthetic nature of the Disney-Pixar franchise (i.e., computer-animated, anthropormophized inanimate objects, the “syrupy” and emotional ending) the Simpson’s very deliberately calls upon our (the viewership’s) collective understandings of what it means to be a “Disney-Pixar” brand. Below you’ll find examples that parody our very own Wallace and Grommet, as well as the beautiful French film The Triplets of Belleville.

I was simply giddy to find how masterfully the animated team over at the Simpsons were able to capture the aesthetic for each of the films and franchises they pastiched (sometimes I make up words).

The question, then, becomes why these films are so pastiche-able (full of ‘em). These films must in some way already be a part of American popular discourse in order for Fox to assume these clips would be read as “funny” to their esteemed viewing audience.

I mostly just thought the Nixar clip was super-cute.

Tin Tin et Moi, eh?

2011 March 12
by Jonathan Doucette

While watching Tin Tin et Moi, the documentary on one comic’s late legends, Herge, a few questions began to circulate in my head. The juxtaposition between images of Herge’s Tin Tin and the gritty, black-and-white documentary images of World War II made me wonder: are comic books (I would say “art,” but I know what a contested term it continues to be for our class) inherently political? Herge seemed to conceptualize his own work as distinctly apolitical or, at the very least, not implicated in Germany’s crusade of destruction across Europe. And yet, he was arrested for being a Nazi sympathizer for having his work associated with a German-run newspaper. I was hoping the documentary would dig deeper into these questions of art’s relationship to politics (and, perhaps more disturbingly, Herge’s apparent ambivalence about being associated with Nazi politics). What responsibility to artists have to be political (or not) at particular historical moments?

Hmm. I’m going to try and show an example of what I am (desperately trying) to say. Bear with me, kind reader.

We have had numerous conversations in class about the ways comics and cartoons of the past have used problematic racialized images that by today’s standards would seem entirely disturbing. Regardless of whether or not these artists “meant” to be racist, its clear that the politics of their time deeply informed the way their art was made. Politics, it seems, can certainly shape art. What of art’s potential to influence politics (even if art simply reproduces the politics of an artist’s time)?

Just as a footnote, when I say “politics,” I refer both to Politics (capital P) as it refers to systems of government, and politics (small-p) to refer to identity, cultural, social, familial, etc. politics. I do not mean to suggest the two are distinct categories, but I digress.

Gendering Gertie

2011 March 1
by Jonathan Doucette

In our meeting on Monday, I urged our class to bring a gendered analysis to bear on McCay’s “Gertie the Dinosaur.” While I may not have articulated myself to the best of my abilities (you’ll have to forgive me—I did not have time to grab a coffee before class), I would like to take this opportunity to ask a different—though not entirely unrelated—question: when are we, as contemporary scholars, allowed to ask questions about gender while watching cartoons from the past?

As a CAST major, I fear I cannot help but see the ways gender and sexuality act as organizing tools in American society. In other words, those unconscious set of norms that regulate the ways we interact with one another, norms that dictate gendered reactions, and norms that tell us how to relate to our own and others’ bodies. Gertie the Dinosaur—while an anthropomorphized character “like a dog” or a “pet,” as some astute academics in our class mentioned—may very well have nothing to do with gender. That is, at least not explicitly. If we take the time to dig and look beneath the surface a bit, perhaps some compelling questions can be raised. What can this cartoon tell us about gender politics in the 1910s? How does McCay’s interaction with Gertie inform an audience member about appropriate forms of masculine and feminine identities?

And then the most daunting question of all. Are these questions entirely irrelevant? If Gertie is, after all, simply a “pet”—purposefully ungendered—are we even allowed to ask these questions? I would argue, quite succinctly: yes, yes we are. If we look at the words McCay uses to talk to Gertie, we can see specific gender dynamics in play (for instance, when he asks Gertie to take a “pretty bow,” or chastises her by saying “now that’s a bad girl!”), it’s clear that Gertie’s gender is not unimportant to the way McCay “interacts” with her. At one point, he chides Gertie by asking her if she is “in the habit of seeing things,” calling her a “fibber” when she says “no.” I cannot help but wonder: would such an interaction make sense if Gertie was a male (or, at the very least, gender non-specific)? Why choose to gender Gertie at all? McCay’s character is able to tease and interact with Gertie in particular ways due to the gendered norms of the society from which he was raised (and, perhaps more importantly, the ways an audience member of his time would digest and make sense of the relationship between Mccay and Gertie).

I do not mean to suggest that this cartoon is only about gender. I would challenge my blog reader, however, to think of the unconscious assumptions that shape all our gendered interactions and ways of seeing the world.

At the end of the day, I ask these questions because they excite me. The intellectual stretching I have to do to think about gender in these complex and perhaps unnoticed ways is fun. Perhaps this post has offered little by way of clarification. Just thought I’d try and make a case for Gertie the gendered dinosaur.

[Insert witty title here]

2011 February 21
by Jonathan Doucette

You will notice as you are typing that there are buttons above this text area. The large letter “B” makes your text bold. I do, in fact, believe it will help make my point.

Jonathan is nervous to begin his soiree into the blogsphere.