By Evan Smith ’11
It started out as a great day. I woke up on time, feeling well rested; I could hear the birds chirping outside. A little sparrow fluttered up to my windowsill, smiled and whistled at me, and the trees were alive with majesty and wonder. After showering, I went downstairs and found a delicious breakfast there waiting for me. Everything was so perfect and delightful. Nothing could ruin a day like today, I thought… Then I opened the newspaper.
I don’t know why I even read the newspaper anymore, because I know it will just upset me. It’s not the stories of natural disasters, brutal murders, economic meltdown—no. The one thing that distresses me more than anything else is Family Circus, the nationally syndicated cartoon panel about a cute little American family going through all their wacky adventures and mishaps.
Family Circus is like a car crash on the side of the road. People are struggling to get out of the car, metal is bent and melted together, the horror is unimaginable. But you can’t look away. Every morning my eyes scan over the funny pages, and I think, maybe today—maybe today it won’t be terrible. Then I go and read it—I read Family Circus despite all my best judgment—and immediately a deep, miserable feeling seeps over my body. The sparrow outside my window is suddenly eaten by a hawk, the sun is blocked by a dark, rain cloud and the trees contract a parasitic fungus and whimper into black mush.
I guess my real reason for hating Family Circus, despite the fact that it lacks cleverness, comedic value or any semblance of creativity, is because it is all a lie. People’s lives aren’t ruled by cute little situations. Oh, it looks like Billy is feeding the dog his broccoli. Haha how cute. Oh my, is little Jeffy dressing up in a suit just like Daddy is? That’s so precious. No, that is not how families work. I want to see a Family Circus that shows Billy with a learning disability, struggling in school, that shows little Jeffy dressing up like a woman and his father beating him for it. I want a Family Circus with debt, with marital issues, with the children alienated from their parents, with Daddy staying out all night at a bar and Mommy crying alone in bed.
Comedy can be cute and nice and sweet, but true comedy is finding the humor in episodes of great desperation. If Bill Keane, the creator of Family Circus, ever wants to earn my respect for his work, he needs to scan his entire life’s work to try and find at least one moment of reality and humanity.
I recognize that it would be difficult fitting even the smallest bit of deep humanistic revelations into a little circle on the funnies page of a newspaper. But then again, I don’t have much room with these column spaces, and I do alright.
Plus, Family Circus has never been quite as funny as I am.