Friday, April 1, 2011
MYTHCOMICS #2: BLONDIE #150 (1962)
PLOT SUMMARY for "Shaved and Clipped" (2pages):
Though it's Dagwood's day off, Blondie orders him to shave. "Why can't I give my face a day off?" gripes Dagwood. "Because,"retorts Blondie, "I have to feed that face! No shave-- no supper!" Dagwood goes to the bathroom upstairs and lathers up. Suddenly from downstairs Blondie yells for him to come quick: "It's an emergency!" In his haste Dagwood trips over a carpet-sweeper and tumbles down the stairs. Blondie calmly takes money out of his wallet, explaining that she just read about a shoe sale and must hurry to get a bargain. She leaves Dagwood on the floor with the departing words, "Aren't you lucky to have a wife who saves you money-- I'll be late-- you'll have to fix your own supper!"
MYTH-ANALYSIS: The comic-book cover reproduced above is a rare example of a gag-cover that actually reflects one of the stories inside. (Some of these stories may be comic-strip reprints but most of the Harvey Comics BLONDIES seem to be originals, possibly produced by Chic Young's studio).
The cover actually demonizes Blondie as being even more of a money-grubbing vampire than the inside story. In the story she's a little shocked to see Dagwood tumble down the stairs, though she doesn't pause before plundering his wallet. On the cover Blondie seems positively gleeful as she reaches out for the rain of money, and entirely unaware of Dagwood's impending injury. Indeed, since Dagwood trips on a housekeeping item-- rather than something not directly connected to Blondie, like a child's toy-- one could easily imagine that the carpet-sweeper is Blondie's trap, set to catch an unwary breadwinner.
The vast majority of BLONDIE stories, in comic strips and books, are simply gag-vignettes rather than stories. Like this one their primary purpose is to set up Dagwood as the guy who gets humiliated in some way by his wife, boss, kids, neighbors or complete strangers. Dagwood is almost always the Goat of the World, and most of the stories depicting his goat-ness are no more than *monosignative.*
I rate this 2-page tale as plurisignative, however, because it so adroitly sums up the logic of the BLONDIE franchise--which is to say, a logic in which BLONDIE is always the "domme" to Dagwood's "sub."
It begins with Blondie nagging Dagwood to shave, but less like a wife speaking to a husband than like a mother addressing a small child. The first panel shows her reminding Dagwood that she told him to shave "an hour ago" while the second shows him trying like a child not to hear her, promptly a motherly "I'm talking to you!" Dagwood's rebellion, reasoning that he the breadwinner should be allowed a day off from shaving, is quickly overruled by an appeal to his stomach: "no shave, no supper."
Gilles Deleuze notes that in narratives of masochism like those of Sacher-Masoch, the masochist insists on a contract that establishes just what his tormentor can or can't do to him. But as soon as Dagwood acquiesces to his marital contract with his innocently-sadistic wife, Blondie changes the rules. Her desire to buy some new bit of finery-- a constant motif in the BLONDIE comics-- overrules her promise to feed Dagwood's face if he shaves it. She cries "emergency," prompting her victim to take his pratfall, the direct result of (1) her telling him to go upstairs and (2) her careless deployment of the carpet-sweeper. Then, after Blondie has ignored Dagwood's pain and "clipped" him of his money (note the double-entendre of the story-title), she puts aside the contract for her own narcissistic pleasures, and tells him he has to make his own dinner. Dagwood, lying on the floor in pain, gets the last pathetic word" "*Gulp!* She won't have to feed this face after all!" Based on similar strips, one can even imagine a coda in which Blondie comes home with her purchase and insists that Dagwood admire her new acquisition, while he can only think about how his hard-eared money has been frittered away.
If I had a continuous run of the BLONDIE comic books, to say nothing of the strips, both would prove valuable in illuminating the interdependent mythos of male masochism and female sadism.