Wednesday, 4 November 2009

314: Days of Future Past

A rather feeble title to show how ideas of the slightly comic idea of gay integration have now been overtaken by fact.
During the previous 10-15 years from the mid-60s onwards there had been a continuous development in the public’s awareness of homosexuals. At first it was the public just getting used to the idea that homosexuality existed, and then the existence of actual gay men. Of course, homosexuals were always someone, somewhere, and, to be honest, something else (Terry Southern syndrome). Then came Gay Lib and Gay pride, as gay men insisted that they weren’t ashamed of their sexuality and were just like everyone else (the general trend of sitcoms during the ‘70s). Then the was the growing awareness of homosexuals as a community, of the gay scene with a separate gay life entrenched in the major cities (hence films like “The Ritz”, “Saturday Night at the Baths”). Accompanying this, the actual practices of a sexual identity start to overtake all the sissy clich├ęs, and gay couples start popping up in films and sketches. By the end of the ‘70s gay men have an established identity. They are a part of a society, but are not yet integrated within society. Hence all those jokes about ultra-leftist tokenism with jokes about gay centres, gay Santas, etc (which I find I haven’t posted yet)
These cartoons show the next stage during the 1980s of changes in modern attitudes towards homosexuality, as the typical social trappings of heterosexual life are extended to and overlaid onto gay men and couples. So the joke here is - isn’t it slightly funny when homosexual couples do exactly the same things as straight couples? Of course, some 25 years later it’s impossible to look at these cartoons un-ironically, since inclusive assumptions about gay life are now all part of modern life. Whereas this cartoon by Handelsman from 1973 is about how futuristically unlikely gay marriage would be.
Of course gay magazines had been running these sorts of cartoons since the mid/late-70s, but that’s another thing entirely.

by Gahan Wilson
in “Playboy” June 1980
The one chief’s distaste is a way to put a handle on what is otherwise just a gay wedding cake. A gay wedding cake isn’t quite enough of a joke to stand on its own without the tag line about time’s changing.

by Tony Husband
in “Private Eye” 24 April 1986
Either cluelessness or an inability to confront the matter head on by the manager.

by Ken Pyne
in “Private Eye” 24 August 1984

by Kipper Williams
in “Private Eye” 22 September 1982

by Tony Husband
in “Private Eye” 8 February 1985

Acceptance here is comic because it is nervous and fumbled, and overcast by second-thoughts. Is this right? Can this be right? is the message of these cartoons. Unless explicitly emotionally-wrought any gag cartoon character will look self-possessed. These gay characters, deliberately not gay caricatures therefore casually inhabit these little worlds, and so only the two characters in the Husband cartoon suffer the embarrassment we’ve all experienced at the hands of a well-meaning but inept associate. These cartoons are the first indication of a trend of social development which when mirrored in comedy reaches ludicrous fruition in Harry Enfield’s “Modern Dad” sketches some 15 years later.

by Spencer
in “Punch” 7 July 1982

by Marc Boxer
in “Private Eye” 22 October 1985
Gay men means cartoonist have a new tool in their array of adultery gags. An element in these particular cartons is the belief that aftershave was really for poofs.

Oh, and one final thought these cartoons elicit.

Piss on “The New Yorker”.

Most of these shouldn’t have been out of place in “The New Yorker”. Indeed, subsequent cartoons in “The New Yorker” have covered the same territory, making much the same jokes. It’s just that “The New Yorker” cartoons are at least 10-15 years later than the ones I’ve shown you – which isn’t necessarily the cartoonist’s fault. Whether you think the cartoons above are good or bad, “The New Yorker” lacked the balls to run any gay-themed cartoons until about 1993. This one from the end of 1992, merely a toe dipped in topical waters, is possibly the first properly gay-themed cartoon in “The New Yorker.”
Bear in mind that “Private Eye” and “Playboy” had been publishing gay cartoons since the beginning of the ‘60s, and even “Punch” and “Mad”, with their particular audiences, had followed suit by the end of the ‘60s, while “National Lampoon” had started in 1970 and never blanched at any gay gag. In different ways, editorial and strip cartoonists in popular newspapers and journals in America and Britain made individual forays on a case-by-case basis in the ‘70s and ‘80s. (And that’s before you even think about TV, radio, LPs and films.) The gay cartoonist William Haefeli, who has since produced a significant percentage of “The New Yorker”’s gay gags, with a career of twenty years in almost every major magazine, didn’t begin appearing in “The New Yorker” until 1998 with the appointment of a new cartoons editor, Bob Mankoff.
Was it cowardice, bourgeois distaste, or simply polite consideration for an oppressed minority? Whichever way you look at it, homosexuals were comedically unprintable in the pages of “The New Yorker”, one of the major venues for cartoons, until just over fifteen years ago (coinciding with the appointment of Tina Brown as the editor of “The New Yorker”.) Since Lee Lorenz was “The New Yorker”’s cartoon editor from 1973 until 1998, it’s fairly obvious who didn’t grow a fucking pair until his last five years in post.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

See how life imitates art...