26 June 2005


A while ago I wrote a long post about Doonesbury, saying that the strip had been in the doldrums for quite a while but had come back to life with the sequence about the character B. D. being injured in Iraq. I concluded by saying

Keep it up, Mr. Trudeau.


The B. D. storyline remains very good, and much of the spark has returned to the strip. But in my original post I cited Jesse Walker's article that was sharply critical. There's a bit I didn't quote then which I want to return to now.

Trudeau was in his 20s during the strip's early run and thus had no trouble imagining that college students --- at the time, most of his major characters were in college --- would be smart and engaged with the world. (Or, in the case of Zonker, smart and engaged with his own world.) They have the same self-awareness as the strip, and they speak like educated people.
Those characters, like their creator, are now middle-aged, and they still speak the same way. Meanwhile, there's a new crop of college kids in the strip, and they don't know much about the world. They speak the way an older man expects teenagers to speak: They say "yo" a lot ...

Since I first read Walker's article, this has gotten under my skin. One of the virtues of Doonesbury has been how every character is a little bit smart and a little bit silly. Even neandrethal B. D. and stoned Zonker are permitted the dignity of their own perspective, and get to be witty and wise in their own way.

But not Jeff and Zipper, the current college kids, who just want to watch TV and play video games all day. The joke is almost always about how stupid they are. Even when they make a good point, it's because they're speaking the truth out of their naïvité. And today's strip is a case in point of how mean-spirited Trudeau really is toward anyone who isn't a Baby Boomer.

Don't keep it up, Mr. Trudeau.

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