Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Comic “Strips” - Does nudity in the funny pages reflect society's views?

IN OUR last Bare Platypus blog, the team noted that nudity seems to be the frontier that most science fiction television and movie producers won’t cross. Keeping things light and entertainng, we’d like to discuss nudity in the funny pages of your morning newspaper.  We’d also like to introduce a concept we’ll call the comics “BARE-o-meter.”

First, the funny pages: There’s something about drawn cartoons that’s less threatening to the general public than actual photographs when it comes to nudity.  Instinctively we know that a real person isn’t in “danger” of embarrassment. Plus, as the term “comics” implies, nudity in cartoons is usually accepted as humorous rather than offensive.

That may explain why the comics have always been able to get away with flashing an occasional bare bottom at the folks eating their toast and cereal. The list of comic “strips” in series that we’ve seen is quite extensive, ranging from Beetle Bailey to B.C. (Johnny Hart’s cavemen love skinny dipping). 

Family “strips” include the Family Circus, where Jeffy emerges from his bath to answer the front door from time to time, to nudist antics from Dennis the Menace, Marvin, and the brood belonging to Hi & Lois. (Mort Walker, cartoonist for both Beetle Bailey and Hi & Lois seemed particularly willing to “strip” his characters.) Before Bill Watterson retired Calvin and Hobbs, Calvin made running naked through mud puddles and raindrops a regular event that brought smiles to our faces. 

Zits revolves around the life of high school freshman Jeremy Duncan. It has explored his love/hate relationship with nakedness too. From timidly comparing himself to the gorilla-like hairy bodies of seniors in the locker room, to sleeping naked on the porch outside his room or streaking around the house while his parents are away with hilarious results, Jeremy entertains a wide readership that includes Bare Platypuses.

Now, about that Comics BARE-o-meter:  We’ve got a theory that the volume of nudity you see in your morning paper “bares” a strong relationship to society’s openness or resistance to nudity in general.  Heck, some of you may recall that in early 1970’s California, when nude beaches were becoming all the rage, the Los Angeles Times also ran a daily panel (later syndicated) called LOVE IS… It starred a couple which, albeit sans genitals, always appeared sans clothes too as their bare bums attested.

Economists have the consumer price index and the spot price of oil to fret about.  Politicos have Gallup polls and primary results.  Could the  number of monthly comic “STRIPS” become a bare-ometer of how accepting we are to birthday suits? We lost the Coppertone Girl.  Let’s hope we don’t lose more reasons for artists to reach for the flesh colored ink.

4/21/12 Comics BARE-o-meter:  Marvin decides to go bare bum so mom won't have to change diapers anymore: 

4/24/12 Comics BARE-o-meter:  Wren of Baby Blues sees a bare breast on TV and has no reaction because breasts mean "food" to a baby:

5/15/12 Comics BARE-o-meter: Marvin's Presidential campaign aspirations may be dashed by an incriminating nude photo of him on a fur rug that's on the internet:

5/28/12 Update: We revisit the comics bare-o-meter HERE