Comment of the Day: Daily Comics Ethics: When Did Erection Gags Become Appropriate For The Funny Pages?


Traversing such seemingly unrelated topics as aphrodisiacs, “Mr. Ed,” post-war culture, literacy, and the evolution of childhood,  Penn’s Comment of the Day is one of my all-time favorites. Here it is, a response to the post, “Daily Comics Ethics: When Did Erection Gags Become Appropriate For The Funny Pages?” I have a lot of reactions, but here are three:

  • If kids really don’t read the funny papers any more, what good are they? Who does read them? The Washington Post and other papers used to take “Doonesbury” out of the section and place it in the main body of the paper on the theory that it’s humor was “adult.” (Of course, “Doonesbury’s” humor has also been non-existent since around 1978—but I’ve never seen an erection joke there, either.)
  • Just because little kids are familiar with the term “horny” doesn’t mean they have any idea of what it refers to.
  • I like the “Mr. Ed” song!

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.

4 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: Daily Comics Ethics: When Did Erection Gags Become Appropriate For The Funny Pages?

  1. This issue enters the territory of the home-schooling movement, which includes parents seeking to protect their offspring against the vicissitudes and other impure acts wrought by public-school classmates. I think a picture of peace officers riding armored vehicles, wearing combat uniforms and knives (what, no grenades?) and sitting behind automatic weapons on tripods is also an obscenity. There is no kind of schooling that will prepare anyone to adjust to that…. In the United States, that is.

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