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Here’s a story that demonstrates the kind of ambiguous rules that the newspaper comics business operate under.
Back in October of 2012, one year ago, the vampire cartoon below was rejected as being too suggestive to run in newspapers, purely because it contains the word, “suck,” which newspaper comics editors dislike because it can be interpreted to allude to fellatio. (As though a vampire would be referring to homosexual prostitution as opposed to good-old-fashioned murder of a mortal.) So, I changed the comic to the second version, “Why lie? Need blood.” It’s okay but not as funny as the original, in my opinion. But that brings us to today’s cartoon, a mere year later, which raised no eyebrows at all. Huh?
The woman is obviously a prostitute, which one would think would be off limits in newspaper comics all by itself, and her sign refers to food, which leads one to wonder why anyone would care that she was “gluten free” unless they intended to “eat” her?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that no one denied this cartoon because I think it’s really weird and funny. But the rules of the newspaper cartoon world are often inscrutable and always confusing. This week, for instance, I was told that I could not use the word “crap” in a future comic. Really?
Here’s the bigger point: Americans (and maybe all humans, I’m not sure) are more obsessed with words than with their meanings. I will never understand this as long as I live. Under FCC rules, in broadcast TV you can talk about any kind of depraved sex act you wish, as long as you do not use the word “fuck.” And the word itself is so mysteriously magical that it cannot be used in any way whether the topic is sex or not. “What the fuck?” is a crime that carries a stiff fine –– “I’m going to rape your 8-year-old daughter with a trained monkey,” is completely legal. In my opinion, today’s “gluten-free” cartoon is far more suggestive in an unsavory way than the vampire cartoon, but it doesn’t have a “naughty” word so it’s okay.
Are we a nation permanently locked in preschool? The answer, in the case of language, is yes.
One of our Jazz Pickles said she imagined the radiologist’s “selfie” might be an X-ray of his butt, the way office interns sometimes like to do with a photocopier. I was immediately reminded of a few years ago when my wife was injured in a traffic accident and had to have her pelvis X-rayed. As we waited for the results I was strolling around the emergency room for a couple minutes and happened upon a desk where three or four doctors/interns were staring at a large computer screen. As I moved closer, I saw that it was her pelvic X-ray and that you could clearly see a ghosted image of her sexy bits. I know medical exams are routinely invasive of one’s privacy but for a few seconds, I felt a little weird about three strange men staring at my wife’s schmadoodleflobbin in full view of anyone who walked by. I laughed at the silliness of it, of course, but it was one of those odd moments when societal norms are suspended but the brain still has an automatic response to it.
Now that I write that, it doesn’t seem all that amusing. But I found it so at the time.