Daily Comics Ethics: When Did Erection Gags Become Appropriate For The Funny Pages?

Grimm cartoon

When did I miss the evolution of the newspaper comics, always regarded as the young tyke’s entry into the newspaper perusal habit, into one more entertainment medium requiring ratings and advance parental review? The comic above appeared in today’s Washington Post and elsewhere. I think it’s funny—for a Playboy cartoon. Maybe it’s not too racy for the New Yorker. But the funny pages? Seriously? This is an erection joke! In a strip with Mother Goose in the title! (The strip is “Mother Goose and Grimm” by Mike  Peters, who is also an award-winning political cartoonist.) It refers to the classic naughty line that had censors screaming when Mae West said it (after writing it.) My Dad read the daily comics to me before I could read, then explained the jokes that I couldn’t understand. Is this the kind of joke toddlers will be having explained to them now?

I suppose this is one more step in the progressive vulgarization of American culture. No place is safe, apparently. Is innocence so terrible that we have to work overtime to obliterate any shred of it for any child who can form a complete sentence? Okay, at the risk of being forever tarred as being an old fuddy-duddy, I’ll say it: the comic is inappropriate for the funnies, even today, when Cialis ads start popping up on TV as early as 8 PM. Editors who failed to ding it for vulgarity were irresponsible, and Mike Peters was guilty of rudeness and a breach of trust.

I’m guessing that newspaper editors catch hell from readers for this. I’m also terrified that they won’t.


Source: Grimmy.com

14 thoughts on “Daily Comics Ethics: When Did Erection Gags Become Appropriate For The Funny Pages?

  1. It has been an annoying tidal wave of sophmoric humor for the better part of a decade. I’m not sure if the main part of blame is the comedians/comics that go for the cheap and easy crotch jokes, even when they sometimes are more clever. (late night comedians like Conan and some non-family hour comedies too early led the way on major networks) ot the blame is on the audience (or laugh tracks) that laugh at the same old jokes that aren’t clever or funny anymore. This joke was sly and funny for adults when it was new, but it was like eighty years ago. It’s not clever anymore, it’s a derivative cliche now. They owe Mae West’s estate a fee, she was funny.

  2. Can anyone explain to me how it’s harmful, shattering, or corrupting for children to know that erections exist? This is an honest question. I’m an asexual Aspie, and I can’t understand in what way sexual knowledge is different from any other kind of facts. Can this be explained logically or is it just one of those things that have to be respected as part of the culture?

    • I think it can be explained logically the same way that explaining history certain ways to different age groups can be explained logically. For example, suppose there is a memorial to the soldiers from one of the wars this country fought in the middle of town. A six-year-old family member asks what it’s all about. You are going to give that child the simplest possible explanation because they aren’t going to understand the politics behind any of the wars and might find the details of some of them upsetting. For a ten or twelve year old you might be able to give more of an explanation because they might grasp a little more and be able to handle tough facts better. By the time the kid is sixteen you can tell them the whole story (if they ask it, or will listen), since by that time they will have both the understanding and the emotional maturity to grasp it, one hopes. Let me emphasize that these ages are arbitrary and might vary on a case by case basis.

      A young child isn’t going to grasp what it means or is supposed to mean when someone becomes sexually excited, especially at early ages when there is still some magical thinking going on, and parents are going to be hard-pressed to explain it to them in a way that won’t cause problems. There’s also no avoiding the fact that sex and reproduction are serious topics, especially when first encountered, and kids aren’t going to grasp how something serious is also fodder for cheap jokes. There’s also the very real possibility that a kid who hears a sexual joke from friends will repeat it at an inappropriate time or place and embarrass the parents.

      There is no one-size-fits-all way to handle this issue kid to kid and family to family. The best I can say is that parents need to parent if they want to keep their kids on the right path until they are ready to stay on the right path on their own. This is particularly trying when you throw something like Aspergers into the mix, in which sometimes the controls and sensors that keep us from acting inappropriately outside what is considered acceptable aren’t there.

  3. In reply to your rhetorical (and tertiary) query, Jack, you missed (that small part of the) evolution just as we all did and do, because it was an evolution, a slow-moving American tsunami of post-war change beginning in the late 40s.

    As a child, I recall controversy, strictly among adults, over things that wouldn’t be even thought of today such as the idea of having a girl (Lois Lane?) take up a weapon against a villain instead of waiting, albeit bravely, for Superman, to come rescue her. It was argued to be unladylike – and therefore, unsuitable for children’s comics — for females to fight for themselves if there was a man around, even as the WACS, nurses and ambulance drivers returned home, joining widowed moms & rosie-riveters in job-hunts. Or unless it was Wonder Woman. And oh the struggles to allow Wonder Woman — she of the skin-molding, crotch-height tights and the noticeable chest bumps, however well armored — into the son’s bedroom. Or the daughter’s wardrobe (next, she’ll want a bra!)

    Discretionary income grew, kids began to have their own money, the marketers took over, and so it has been ever since. Kids didn’t even need to read, just watch TV. I wasn’t in the country at the time, but a teacher friend wrote to me in 1964, that her PTA was up in arms about Mae West (talk about Wonder Woman) and Mister Ed. The teacher said the boys’ gym teacher had quizzed them jokingly about the content and was actually shocked, not at the content, but that they understood every nuance… and more, one of them referring to “that’s why they never show Ed’s bottom”.

    That was 50 years ago. And variations of the Use of the Unicorn Horn in its natural salacious connection with the word “horny” have been in childhood/adolescent giggle-vernacular a great deal longer.

    Just watched the episode and realized that I’d scream for Superman to come rescue me if I ever heard the theme song — one of the most annoying in jingle-creation — again, but that I’d never seen Mr. E in action or speech before. Don’t want to see any more of the horse, front OR rear, either, but the episode is a prize:

    Agreeing with Jeff H above, I don’t think many children nor perhaps many young adults read newspapers, either in hand nor even online. I don’t know where they get their “news” from, but I’m pretty sure they don’t need cartoon entendre, subtlety or innuendo to figure out what’s going on in erotica. Explicit sex (human, animal or infinitely alien) in the gaming world is second only to violence.

    The following article broadens the subject, FYI.

      • I’m delighted you decided to go sarcasm-free. Now I can read your comments knowing the context, which helps a lot. There should be an emoji we could use that indicates “100% sarcasm-free.” The percent sign has a sarcasm-free expression on it’s face when seen sideways. Maybe %-). (Or is that one already in use?)

  4. > I’m guessing that newspaper editors catch hell from readers for this.

    Readers? What readers?! There’s a reason newspapers are bleeding to death and this is just one of the symptoms.

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