Friday, September 12, 2014

Class and the Sunday Funnies

Somehow, while washing dishes, I thought of Joe Paluka for no discernible reason. There followed names of old comic strips--Bringing up Father with Jiggs and Maggie, the Katzenjammer Kids, Gasoline Alley. These weren't my favorites, but I read them all, Sunday funnies spread out on the living room floor.

Got me thinking about class, and how central it was in the old comics. Has anyone done a serious study of changes in how class was depicted in comics, and how that changed over the years? Related, I'm sure, to changing audience. Change was particularly noticeable through the 50's, As the largely working class audience, home from the war, college on the GI bill, moved into the middle class, the comic characters, too, 'graduated' from the immigrant, working class world that was so much a part of comics in the 30's and 40's.

The total absence of blacks, except for gross caricatures now and then, is telling. By the mid 60's, comics no longer represented the kind of mythic universalizing (white) lens of America the way they did when FDR would read the Sunday funnies on the radio. There's an interesting story in this. I wonder if anyone has done it?


  1. Interesting observation

    I don't think it's limited to the funny pages anymore, though. Somehow the ruling class, the 1%, the American aristocracy, whatever you want to call them, has managed to demonize any discussion of class in
    America as "class warfare," as if that is some sort of dirty term.

    Back in the days of gasoline alley, the poor seemed to be acutely aware that they were poor, and they were possessed of a healthy resentment of those for whom the system worked, while failing so abysmally to work for them.

    Now the defenders of the status quo are largely dirt poor themselves. They turn out in droves to protest policies that would benefit them and support policies that hurt them. Because, by and large, they do not see themselves as lower/working class, oppressed by the wealthy. They imagine themselves to be future rich people. They believe in an illusion of social mobility that is not based in objective reality.

  2. Those poor working class peeps turning out to support right wing, neo-liberal policies are overwhelmingly white, which suggests that race has a lot to do with this. They have in mind that benefits will go to blacks and come out of their taxes.

  3. What always works against developing class consciousness: perceiving the threat to your status as coming from below you, rather than those actually wield power.

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