Comics and Soaps
More on the hand-waving subject. (It’s funny – I had an opportunity to engage my colleague in debate on this very issue only this morning [this afternoon UK time] but I didn’t take it. We talked on the phone about the publisher’s suggested emendations to the Dictionary, and the word ‘aesthetics’ came up almost immediately. I did think of interrupting and diverting the conversation in order to discuss the more foundational aspects, to query the very notion of ‘aesthetic reasons’ – but I didn’t. Largely because, I suppose, I was far more concerned to protect our brilliant ideas than I was to debate foundational anythings. Still, it is a coincidence, you must admit.)
Jonathan Dresner posted at Cliopatria yesterday on a subject that’s very relevant to this one – and I wrote a comment on his post without even realizing or noticing the relevance. That was stupid. The subject is Doonesbury, and Jonathan’s reaction to a war injury to one of the characters, and his reaction to his reaction.
It’s not funny: it’s very sad. Sure, it’s a little silly to be so affected, as I am, by this fiction. But that’s what great fiction does: it makes things real. B.D. is a representative of many very real people.
I actually don’t think it is silly, and I said so in my comment. I think it’s entirely understandable. I’ve been a fan of Doonesbury’s from the very beginning; it’s about my g-g-generation; we share a history. And besides that, it’s just a brilliant strip. It’s a graphic novel rather than just a throwaway bit of fluff. Yes throwaway bits of fluff are fine things! But so are keepable bits of non-fluff – and this is where we came in. Only I didn’t notice it was where we came in, as I said, until I read Jonathan’s sly answer to my comment.
I agree. I’ve been thinking about this a lot since this morning, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a (objectively meaningless waving of hands alert!) difference between being attached to a piece of literature with critical and satirical and moral/ethical elements like Doonesbury (one of the longest graphic novels ever written) and a purely sentimental story like a soap opera.
That’s my colleague’s cue to deliver a vigorous defense of sentimental soap operas, which he will be sure to do. Unless I point out that he doesn’t need to because Jonathan simply said there is a difference between the two – not that there is a difference of quality. And in any case Jonathan acknowledged the hand-waving aspect. So be it here acknowledged – there are plenty of people who can and do make a case that soap operas can be good in their own way too. But – if I had to advise someone who was about to be walled up in a prison for five years and had to choose now, this instant, between a DVD player and a set of [insert favourite soap here] or a complete set of Doonesbury books – I would advise the latter. If that’s not conclusive I don’t know what is.