The Unfunnies

May 1, 2007

Winger cartoonist Chris Muir, whose Internet comic strip Day By Day (a feature of many wingerblogs) reads like Doonesbury without brains or a sense of humor, apparently decided to fill the moronic racist joke gap created when MSNBC and CBS loaded Don Imus into a cannon and fired him back to his ranch. So Muir boldly reached for Imus’s vacant cowboy hat with a comic strip showing Hillary Clinton in backface and speaking in Butterfly McQueen minstrel show jabber.

No, I’m not going to link to Muir’s garbage, but I will link to Jon Swift, who not only shows the panel but describes what Day By Day is like on a usual . . . well, day:

Day by Day is sometimes called a conservative Doonesbury but it is actually a lot more than that. Like Doonesbury Muir often buries his punchlines, but he has gone Doonesbury one better by making it rarely funny at all. By avoiding jokes altogether Muir never distracts us from the Very Important Points he’s making. These points are reinforced by the images, which usually feature scantily clad characters standing around talking. Muir has come under some criticism by conservative bloggers for being “too sexy,” but by having his characters address serious issues in their underwear, what they say has far more impact than the pronouncements of Doonesbury‘s fully clothed characters.

Muir has not only stripped down his characters, he has also reduced the actual drawing he needs to do to the barest minimum, which gives him a lot more time to think about the intellectual points he is trying to make. As he admits in an interview, “I have templates of bodies, heads, expressions, etc. If you look at the cartoons closely, you may notice that, at this time, each character has about 5-6 head positions only.” Coincidentally, these 5 to 6 head positions correspond to the 5 or 6 political positions Muir takes, which he relentlessly drums into his readers’ heads.

If Chris Muir drew Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, for example, he wouldn’t have bothered drawing a panel showing Lucy pulling the football away at the last minute when Charlie Brown tries to kick it. That would be too Old School for him. Instead, Muir would just have Lucy say, “Democrats always pull the football away at the last minute when you are trying to kick it, Charlie Brown.” Lucy and Charlie Brown would also probably be in their underwear.

I have to admit that sometimes I have no idea what Muir is trying to say because his cartoons are so sophisticated. Once he referred to “Kantian nihilism.” I looked up this phrase on the Internet and I couldn’t find anyone who could explain what it means. When Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings speculated that it doesn’t mean anything at all, Muir offered cryptic hints about the deeper meaning of his cartoon in the comments: “Don’t believe the philosopher in the mirror. What a tool you are. y’all need a life.” Even his comments go right over my head. In another cartoon Muir brought up Kant again to criticize Andrew Sullivan: “The categorical imperative means gay marriage? So it’s not universal law . . . seems more a posteriori.” I think this may be some sort of a reference to Sullivan’s being gay, but I must confess, I Kant make heads or tails out of it.

I don’t know if Kant ever used blackface in his work but I doubt he could have brought as much nuance and perception as Muir brings to reviving racist imagery. Muir has already established that he has a deep understanding of race by having a black character (who is usually shirtless like the hero of the much-admired classic Blaxploitation film Mandingo) mouth typical Republican talking points, instead of the usual liberal tripe that blacks say in such cartoons as Boondocks, drawn by Aaron McGruder, who clearly doesn’t know anything about black people.

A few conservative bloggers who have not yet blown out their gag reflexes defending every act of malfeasance and incompetence from the Bush administration (a vanishing breed, I know, but there are a few) are having trouble stomaching Muir’s “joke.” There is talk of dropping the strip from some blogs.

It will be interesting to follow what happens next. It may even be funny as well. And believe me, that’s the only way words like “interesting” and “funny” can be used appropriately in any discussion of Day By Day.     

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