Friday, 29 May 2009

257 - American Unisex 1: Jules Feiffer

As I’m sure I’ve noted elsewhere, most jokes about unisex style tend to run not much further than third party comments about “How do you tell the girls from the boys”, or couples deciding who’s going to wear what. As far as boys with long-hair go, you’ve got the standard cry of “Get a haircut, you commie fag”, but that’s just cheap abuse. Unisex jokes about homosexuality are rather more rare. Stereotypes about homosexuals and a penchant for fashion are as old as the hills, but these unisex jokes are more about sexual collisions resulting from the blurring of obvious gender signifiers.

Jules Feiffer, “Village Voice”, 25 August 1966

When not worrying his cartoon monologists, Jules Feiffer’s subject has been the psychic battle grounds of male-female relations. Homosexuality doesn’t usually get a look-in.
This one, well, now the boys and girls can’t even tell one other apart. Since it’s in dialogue, it’s a bit more informed and involved than usual. Upon rereading, knowing it’s actually a male character, he is certainly rather more fashionably effusive and androgynous than normal. Also note his posture – that’s the same stance that Ronald Searle used, and also crops up in a few other cartoons and comics. And besides the sudden comic reveal at the end, emphasied by the sudden leadenly limp wrist in the final panel, also the suggestion that unisex will lead to transvestism.

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