Thursday, July 2, 2009

The New Yorker: Life in Cartoon Motion

Of mice and bad jokes

I took advantage of a very long car ride to brainstorm pages of ideas for this cartoon. Dozens and dozens of lines. They ranged from overly complex ("We should go back to giving them cheese instead of calculators") to abstract and downright goofy ("Hey, where'd Doctor Elephant go?"). Ultimately, it was decided to go with a clever reference to Steinbeck:

"So much for our best laid-plans."

A well-known quotation aimed at an appreciative literary crowd? Perfection. Or so I thought. The finalists are as follows:

"Ok, let's slowly lower in the grant money."
"Relax, for them it's publish *and* perish."
"The research is conclusive - mice are even cuter when you dress them up in little coats."

While none of these are any good, the most aggravating part for me is the fact that one of them is a variation of one of the deliberately stupid lines that I came up with in the car:

"The results are in: the coats look much better on them."

Had I just pandered to the obvious, rather than trying to reach for the stars, that could be my brilliant wit splashed across the pages of the New Yorker. This is a lesson for the kids: always strive to meet the lowest common denominator, and you won't ever feel like you've overworked yourself for no reason. I could have also fallen back on one of the staples.

"Man, these mice could sure use a martini."
"This reminds me Jenkins: you're fired. Because the mice do better research than you."

While I had been intending to write about the mouse cartoon anyway, something in a recent issue caught my eye, and it seemed too surprising to ignore:


What's surprising in this case is not, as usual, how shockingly bad all of the entries are (listed below). All three entries, submitted by men, seem to point to how self absorbed and nagging women are. Keep in mind, I'm no ardent feminist. Anyone who thinks "women" should be spelled with a y needs to get over themselves. The saddest part is, all of these entries are things that my friends or I may have come up as a joke to make fun of people who talk this way. We say them in a goofy voice, putting on the character of one who thinks their joke is funny, laugh a bit, and then dismiss them and move on to something that is actually funny and not just based on a well-known and easily dismissible stereotype.

I feel like perhaps The New Yorker isn't helping itself by providing a known symbol (sexy high heels) of supposed womanhood, and nothing else. Juxtaposing it with manliness and airplanes led to the inevitable fallback on wacky gender roles. However, I find it hard to believe that there were no other entries that fit the bill, or could have at least broken up the incredible string of bad, misogynistic jokes:

"She thinks her bomb bay makes her look fat." This is probably the most painful. Did she buy the shoes to make her feel better about looking fat? Do the shoes help her not look fat? We don't know, because there's no reference to the shoes. Just to the hysterical woman-plane hybrid wearing them.

"It's a pretty good aircraft, except it keeps nagging you to ask for directions." Haha! Wow, women sure are obnoxious. Good thing she's at least not the one driving in this equation, because we all know how that would go. Crazy woman drivers.

"She's a lover, not a fighter." I don't completely understand this one. I'm going to go ahead and assume the guy wants to have sex with his plane. Well done.


  1. haha, i bought the new yorker at the airport yesterday and i had the same reaction about the stupid airplane captions! all thought up by dudes, all playing off of ridiculous and dated gender stereotypes. and of course i thought of you. for the record, i think that your captions are brilliant and those fools at the new yorker clearly don't have a very good sense of humor.

  2. You know what they say about great minds (they're always thinking about *me*). If you have any alternate captions, do share. And can we talk soon?