Full-Frontal Prescience

2 April, 2011 at 9:34 pm (comics)

There are those who don’t like Doonesbury, finding it too political and too unfunny for the “comics” page. I contend that these people have never read the rest of the comics page, which regularly drives me unerringly to the crumbling cliff’s edge of depression. Doonesbury has wit and vigor, and I hope that anyone who disagrees reads some of the plaudits that creator Garry Trudeau received upon the arrival of the strip’s 40th anniversary, as they go a long way towards showing that his admirers are not just praising his longevity, but his depth, complexity, and journalism.

Perhaps the strip’s strongest asset is its ability to remain current. This happens in part because Trudeau apparently has a legendary deal where he is able to submit his work much closer to when it actually runs than other cartoonists. And in part, this happens because he is a keen observer of humanity and history, and in such observation some truths are immediately recognizable as universal. But Trudeau is also a remarkably canny bastard. In July of 1980, he included the following question on the back of a draft registration form that Zonker was required to fill out: “If called upon by your country, would you be willing to give your life to protect the interests of U.S. oil companies?” Canny, and uncanny. Funny, and — with perspective, while in the midst of the second of two Gulf Wars — impressively depressing.

Which leads me to a story that I saw gracing the crawl of New York magazine’s arts & entertainment column, The Vulture: NBC may be planning to deliberately include nudity in a upcoming show set in the Playboy Mansion. The show will obviously have to restrain itself, pixilate itself, or edit judiciously for primetime broadcast, but Variety speculates that this is to amp up the prurient interest in any potential future DVD releases.

Interesting news, you might say. Envelope pushing, even. But Doonesbury effectively covered this already… in 1978. At the time, Freddy Silverman, former president of ABC, came over to NBC to sex up their programming, and Trudeau produced a few strips to satirize the timbre of the possible consultation.

'Let's take a look at your cleavage situation.'
'Hey! Full frontal nudity!  I love it!'

I’m not entirely sure why I carry this stuff around inside my head. Except that as a teen, reading this in collected form, the idea of that kind of television having potentially been possible, and that — if so — I had missed it burned itself into my brain. It’s no fun being a man out of sync with time. Unless you’re the far-seeing mind of G.B. Trudeau, and perhaps not even then.

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