Friday, 29 February 2008

87: William Hewison

“Theatre People” by William Hewison, in “Punch” 19 July 1967
– “The two young men are male dancers seeking employment”.

“Gilding the Peacock” by William Hewison, in “Punch” 3 June 1970

William Hewison was the illustrator for the theatrical reviews in “Punch” after Ronald Searle left in the early 60s. I think his style is enormously like Searle’s. A number of his illustrations of actors, or else of the actors in the roles they perform, feature a certain amount of certain heavy-eyed, pursed lip, limp-wristed depictions. This could be because the actor is gay (McKellen, Gielguld), or the play feature characters who are either codely or specifically gay (Tennessee Williams, “Staircase”), or it may just be commentary upon a particularly theatrical style of acting. In these two pieces Hewison is able to engage in some actual social reportage. He quite specifically focuses on the fashion aspect in both of these pieces. Here we see the public image that gay men had in the late 60s.

86: Chic Jacob

“Sounds” by Chic Jacob in “Punch” 17 March 1968

Having scanned this one I’m now in two minds as to whether it’s a joke about gays at all. I think I have mislead myself because a couple of years later “Mad” magazine also ran a similar piece about comic strip noises being more representative. That “Mad” piece uses “swish” and is definitely gay with a leaping, limp ballet dancer. I think it comes down to the fact that, while in America “swish" usually means fey. In England, “swish” can also have a meaning of snobbish style. I think if this were truly a joke about homosexuals and dress, the character would not have such long hair, it would be either slight more flowing or else totally curly. Admittedly, the head thrown high, walking with almost closed eyes, and the slightly stylised kicked back heels, certainly makes him look hauty/queeny. But given the period in question, if it were really a gay man, I think the clothing would be more form fitting, slight and blousy.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

85: Pitman and Wonderboy Robin Vass

in “Private Eye” 15 April 1966

This was a strip that ran for a few issues in “Private Eye” while Barry Humphries “The Adventures of Barry MacKenzie” was on hiatus. I think the illustrations are actually by Nicholas Garland who was also the illustrator for “Barry MacKenzie”

Originally “Selwyn and his Batman” (a batman is a personal servant for an officer in the army), it became “Pitman and Robin Vass”. Pitman is incredibly familiar but I can’t squeeze my brain cells to recall who he actually is. Robin Vass is old etonian Robin Douglas-Home (hence the top hat), since Alec Douglas-Home was known in the pages of “Private Eye” as Baillie Vass. In each episode, the two conservative superheroes would defend biogotry, privilege and prejudice from the vile forces of socialism, liberalism and social equality.

This comic predates any of the debate about homosexual reform. This is some 40 years old and almost none of these jokes would be out of place on any sketch show. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I leave for your judgement. The characters are very camp, but this is an example of the sissy predator (Dragula was also a good example of this). While gay men are of course less manly, still straight men become instantly vulnerable to their assaults.

The fashion assistant = gay is a longstanding social equation. The most famous example of this probably Mr Humphries from the 1970s sitcom “Are You Being Served”.

Also, in all this is all that Frederick Wertham “Seduction of Innocents” gay-batman vibe. Particularly in the last scene, where having beaten off the perverts, Pitman is a little too intimate with Wonderboy Robin

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

84: Dave Berg - Fashion

Dave Berg in “Mad” October 1968

There are a moderate amount of gags at the end of the 60s about fashion and gender – deriving either from the trend for unisex clothing or the trend for men to have long hair. Gags about hair are usually some sort of variant on a spectator asking how do you tell the boys from the girls. Gags about unisex clothing usually come down to some sort of argument/agreement as to who wears what which day. These gags usually express the older generation’s slight anxiety about the disintegration of the firm rules about performance of sexual roles. What they usually never even faintly touch is even the slightest hint of fagginess. Boys may look more like girls, but its not because they’re actually effeminate or sexually desire other men. Berg’s older beatnik/rebel in the first the three panels offers reasons for his expression of self through fashion, however the reveal in the final panel of the cinched waist, the hands on hips, the wrist bangles, the earring and the suddenly more stylised twirled moustache gives him more the air of a hairdresser than a campus hippy.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

83: Private Eye - Fashion

in "Private Eye", 20 August 1965
illustration by Willie Rushton

Monday, 25 February 2008

82 - Punch

Spencer in “Punch”, 7 May 1969

What is this? What is this? What the hell is this?
Well, actually it’s fairly obvious what this is.
It’s an effete chappy working in men’s toiletries, calling people sweetie. That’s what this is.
But is this the joke? Where’s the actual joke? Where’s the bloody spark of wit, innovation or even humour? This is an idea already ancient and decrepit to the point of needing life support.
But no, other than what might be a vague hint at culture clash between the salesperson and his customer, it doesn’t do anything. Barely 10-15 jokes/cartoons about homosexuality in some 18,000 pages in “Punch” during the entirety of the 60s. Never even a topical murmur about gays despite scandals, reforms and all other social tumult. And at the very, very end of the decade it’s just about bold enough to essay this clapped out, tiny, weak fart of an excuse for a pretence to a joke.

81: Stanley Franklin

Stanley Franklin in "The Sun" 4 July 1984

Stanley Franklin in "The Sun" 28 September 1984

Stanley Franklin in "The Sun" 25 February 1986

Stanley Franklin in "The Sun" 24 November 1987

Since I think I’ve mentioned him quite a few times, here are some editorial cartoons by Stanley Franklin. They’re not spectacularly hateful, but I am offended by their being so simplistically and thickwittedly stereotypical. It’s that, in a national newspaper, they are still are no better than the sort of graffiti someone might scrawl in junior high. It’s just ridicule, without even much thought, every nasty cliché garbled into an ugly mess. Weird and unabashed limpwristed transvestites with clone moustaches. Fairly badly drawn, they’re just designed to elicit guttural chuckling from the “Sun”-reading slopebrows who know poofs are just wrong. Since “The Sun” is a coarse blokey celebration of conventional appetites, anything outside its world is unblokish and weird. So weird, effeminate poofs are delineated in that same coarse blokish manner. We get the street jibes of the bored construction worker, with not a new hint of wit or thought since they were first learnt as children, drawn with exactly the same lack of skill as that same bored construction might achieve.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

80: Gays in the Military 1993 - Mad Magazine 2

From “Mad” September 1993

A juvenile reference (toys), but surprisingly bold and effective. Although we all know that Action Man is packing nothing in his pants, so all the two can do is hold hands.

79: Gays in the Military 1993 - Mad Magazine

from “A Mad Look at the Real Clinton Coalition” in “Mad” July 1993

Unsurprisingly “Mad” aims for 9 year olds of all ages.

78: Gays in the Military 1993 - Robert Mankoff

Robert Mankoff in “The New Yorker” 15 February 1993

Many of the cartoons in "The New York" in the '90s are characterised by addressing topical issues through sideways excursions into unexpected but slightly twee pop culture references. Not much bite, and the humour is more of a self-congratulatory dip into the nostalgia-bath of a generation's guilty cultural reminiscences. Of course, as I write the above I'm listening to Herb Alpert's version of "A Walk in the Black Forest" so I haven't got a leg to stand on.

77: Gays in the Military 1993 - Miscellaneous Editorial Cartoons

The last few editorial cartoons I can find. And what a lot there’ve been. Whether any previous issue elicited such a vast quantity of cartoons in the pages of the US newspapers, I don’t know. This may count as some sort of defining moment.

Editorial columns at the time were prepared to argue that the issue of gays in the military had many similarities with the struggle for racial equality. They pointed out that the same arguments about the undermining of moral and unit cohesion had been made against whites and blacks serving together. This is the only contemporary cartoon that makes the same point. However, since the last two years have seen a massive debate over gay partnerships in America, a large number of cartoonists have this time drawn the same analogy to arguments against interracial marriages.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

76: Gays in the Military 1993 - Military Surveillance

However, for all that the military mostly got its on way, this was only a small battle won in a war it was otherwise losing for public opinion. With recent revelations about decades of misleading Congress to ensure massive increases in military budgets, and a spate of scandals about sexual misconduct in all branches of the armed forces, the military was finding itself subject to a new kind of public scrutiny regarding its morals and efficiency. While much of the public were unsure about the place of gays in the armed forces, the military’s own position had made itself seem distinctly backward at a time of increasing social progress and tolerance. For all the Gulf War a couple of years ago had bolstered much public support for the armed forces (yellow ribbons and all that), this national internal conflict at home only served to cement divisions about the armed services which had seemed to be on the point of repair and which are still outstanding.

75: Gays in the Military 1993 - Bill Clinton

The whole hoo-ha was a testing of Clinton's leadership from the start. The good intentions of the new president and his younger, more liberal administration were shipwrecked by the interests of entrenched conservatism and bigotry.

74: Gays in the Military 1993 - Uncle Sam

In the late 60s, Skip Williamson can draw a distinctly flaming “Auntie Sam” to illustrate the issue of gays in the army. Some 25 years on it’s now more a matter of shame on the part of the heterosexuals rather than shame for gays. The icon of army recruitment is turned on its head to highlight the issue of discrimination. The only joke about sexual recruiting is at the expense of the wingnuts.

73: Gays in the Military 1993 - The Closet

The preponderance of cartoons using some reference to "the Closet", shows that there is a prevailing view that the policy is unfair to homosexuals, and that this is a backwards decison, treating gays as inferiors, and rightly feeling some guilt about it.

72: Gays in the Military 1993 - Don't Ask, Don't Tell

That new policy was announced in July 1993 (from when the majority of the following editorial cartoons date). It became law on February 28, 1994 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Congress continued the longstanding ban against homosexual conduct in the military, and that the presence of homosexuals in the military would undermine morale, discipline, and unit cohesion.
The act prohibits any homosexual or bisexual person from disclosing his or her sexual orientation, or from speaking about any homosexual relationships, including marriages or other familial attributes, while serving in the United States armed forces. The policy also requires that as long as gay or bisexual men and women in the military hide their sexual orientation, commanders are not allowed to investigate their sexuality.
Or, as popularly known, "don't ask, don't tell."

In the last cartoon, we have about the only "homosexual" in all of the editorial cartoons I can find. In all of them, homosexuality is discussed, but the cartoonists choose to show either military opposition or a vacilating, conscience-struck Clinton. The issue is largely a political one, the struggle between the military and Clinton, rather than the actual effect of a gay person in the armed forces. Besides, any actual acknowledgment of homosexuality is only going to up the controversy level. Pat Oliphant, however, does decide to show a gay soldier, and he's a flamer. In fact, Oliphant always has used the the old-fashioned negative gay stereotypes in his cartoons. Which is possibly more of a shame than when a hack like Stanley Franklin also uses them, because Olyphant is otherwise an intelligent, combative, if somewhat conservative, bold cartoonist

71: Gays in the Military 1993 - Sam Nunn

As part of his campaign for election in 1992 Bill Clinton had promised to overturn the ban on homosexuals in the US military. In late January 1993, barely a week after Clinton took office, Democrat Senator Sam Nunn, the head of the Armed Services Committee, started making oppositional statements. The military had already made comments about homosexuals undermining morale and fitness to serve, and Nunn backed them up. Nunn also pointed out that Clinton could not merely sign it through if Congress opposed it. Clinton agreed to wait for 6 months of investigation before coming to a decision. Gays in the Military was one of the first major conflicts in attempting to implement Clinton’s new vision of America, alongside reform of the Health service and much else.

70: Gays in the Military - J.B. Handelsman

J.B. Handelsman in "The New Yorker", 30 November 1992

An early shot across the bows, presaging the the great hoo-haa of 1993. Notethe domestic subirban setting, so that homosexuals themsleves are absent from the cartooon. It therefore becomes just an after-dinner musing, with a tone of conciliation. If the same argument were made by a homosexual in-shot, then it would probably have a different tone of strident special-pleading which would not be overly welcome in the always genial pages of the "New Yorker"

Actually, I have a strong suspicion that this is the first explicitly gay-themed cartoon to run in "the New Yorker", while cartoons with actual homosexuals didn't begin to appear until 1993.

69: Gays in the Military - Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie 2

Hysteria 3, London Palladium, 30 June 1991
written by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie
Hugh Laurie: Army Officer

Ladies and gentlemen, as I'm sure you're aware, there's been over the last few weeks a great deal of nonsense spoken in the newspapers and written on the television about the issue of homosexuality in Her Majesty's Armed Forces, or HMAF, as we call them for short, or FSH as we call. . . Anyway, there are just a couple of points I'd like to make. The question, it seems to me, is does homosexuality, as a way of life, or even just as a hobby, diminish the fighting efficiency of a military organization, which is essentially what the British Army is in the business of being?
Now, I should make clear first of all that I myself have nothing against homosexuality in principle. My concern is whether or not it actually works in practice. I have always taken the view that if God had intended men to be homosexual, he would have issued them with more attractively shaped bottoms.
However, I should point out that I have known several homosexuals quite well - in fact, I used to go to bed with a young Turkish boy called Abul when I was stationed in Cyprus. Most obliging lad. . . But anyway he, it later turned out, was, in fact, homosexual. I had to stop seeing him once I'd found out, naturally. But I raise this in order to show that I have nothing personally against homosexual men. I wouldn't want my daughter to marry one, perhaps, but that is another matter.
However, I must confess to very severe misgivings when I hear the idea being mooted, and it is being mooted, possibly over-mooted, that our national defence be placed in the hands of gaysexuals of any description. The fact is that your modern homosexual is a highly trained, highly motivated individual, capable, if he or she so chooses, of resembling an ordinary person at a moment's notice. Precisely. Chilling thought. You take a handful of these dedicated chutney ferrets, place them in the midst of a modern British fighting unit and they are going to have a bloody field day.
Let us imagine, for the sake of argument, the pilot and navigator of a Tornado ground-attack aircraft flying a dangerous mission into enemy territory. Two young men, far from home, thrown into very cramped and uncomfortable surroundings. Suddenly, and without warning, they are fired upon by enemy aircraft. With only seconds in which to avoid the impact of an air-to-air missile, the pilot removes his hands from the controls, turns round in the cockpit and begins to make sexual advances towards his navigator. Strategically speaking, this would be the worst possible course of action. Instead of getting their heads down and flying the aeroplane. . . Well, instead of flying the aeroplane, they would be getting their heads down. An extremely valuable piece of military kit would be put at risk, and a thoroughly bad example shown to anyone who happened to be listening on the radio. That way, quite obviously, madness lies.
But let us imagine an even more alarming possibility, what I call the absolute nightmare scenario. A young infantryman, called Jimmy - for he may very easily be Scottish - comes face to face with his Arab foe under the fierce desert sun. But, instead of shooting his-enemy dead, Jimmy throws his rifle to one side and, in halting Arabic, suggests that the two of them repair to a nearby motel bedroom. Instead of engaging the enemy Jimmy has become engaged to the enemy. Once again, chaos. I can only say that if you study your military history closely enough, you will see that no war has ever been won by going to bed with your opponent. It simply does not make military sense.
Now, of course, there are those who say that in its attitude to homosexuality the British Army is being hidebound. Take the Foreign Office, they will say. It is well known that there are one or two heterosexuals in the Foreign Office. . . I'm sorry, one or two homo­sexuals . . . No, I'm sorry, one or two heterosexuals . . . in the Foreign Office, and that, after all, seems to function pretty well most of the time. To them I would say, when it comes to the defence of our country 'pretty well most of the time' is a long way short of being good enough. The idea that the flower of British youth, instead of getting out there and killing people in the most cost-efficient manner possible, should simply spend its time going to bed with itself just does not bear thinking about.

Almost all of these cartoons have been from America. This may be because in the last 50 years, America has had more of its national identity invested in a sense of self-worth deriving from its military presence in the world at large. Therefore homosexuality is a direct threat to that sense of masculinity. Britain has also had its problems with gays in the miltiary over the last 15 years or so. This dates from 1991 when the issue was first seriously raised.

A frank man-to-man chat from a contemporary updating of the Colonel Blimp stereotype. Definitely not in charge of his brief, he unwittingly reveals his self-satisfaction, hypocrisy, and that peculiar right-wing quasi-sexual fetisisation of the soldiery as a point of national pride. And underlying it throughout is the fear of the pervasiveness and irresistible appeal of gay sex and men themselves, which could lead to a fighting force vulnerable to a different type of assault and whose priorities are in thrall to unspeakable pleasures.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

68 - Gays in the Military: Hair

from “Hair”, 1979

Oh my god


Oooooo no
Argh sweet Christ no
Oh my eyes the bleeding

The blood everywhere

The blood running from my ears
make it stop

The horror
the pain
the horror
the unending tortuous pain
Make it stop ohgodohgodohgodohgod

Move along please. There’s nothing to see here.

67 - Gays in the Military: National Lampoon

“Guerre” by George Trow, Brian McConnachie and Henry Beard in “National Lampoon”, September 1973

With this one I may pushing the point too far. Really it’s just a parody fashion magazine about army life. However, the gossipy, precious style of a fashion mag is the clipped camp manner of a certain type of gay man. There’s not a hint of homosexuality or homoeroticism in the piece (except maybe for the cute model), but the entire tone of the parody is what we would now recognise as “Queer Eye for the Military Guy”