David Austin in "The Spectator" 19 June 1982
Curiously, of all the hundreds and hundreds of gags, spoofs, jokes, comics, cartoons, sketches, songs, sitcoms, parodies and Christ alone only knows what I’ve let pass before my barely functioning eyes, I think this marks a watershed in humour using homosexuals.
It isn’t sneering or belittling. It isn’t proposing some particular stereotype or trying to keep up with new trends. It doesn’t allude to some new scandal or public contretemps. It isn’t arguing some satirical point, or even attacking modern bigotries from a liberalising viewpoint.
It is just a silly joke.
Homosexuality is allowed to play in the realm of nonsensical fantasy. It is not sectioned and limited for adult, topical, political or moralistic reasons.
As we have already seen there was a massive backlash on various fronts against homosexuality, but this is a backlash stemming from a sudden discomfort arising from the fact that the matter of homosexuality is acknowledged and homosexuals themselves more prevalent. And in its own innocuous way this cartoon proves it.
And this in the early 80s in a magazine like “The Spectator”. The “New Yorker” would run an almost identical cartoon a mere 25 years later. And that the “New Yorker” in America only really started to feature gay cartoons in the absolute end of the 80s and gradually through the 90s only proves my point.
(If one really really wants, one might just possibly catch the slightest sniff of early 80s gay-feminist politics and strident articles in “Spare Rib” about lesbians raising children and challenging the traditional heterosexual family unit. Please try not to, I ask you. Let’s not spoil this moment.)