It’s always interesting when the rare independent film “crosses over” and becomes so popular that it starts being referenced in editorial cartoons, talk-show-host monologues, water cooler conversations, and so on. Three examples of the last few years are such films as THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, FAHRENHEIT 9/11, and THE MARCH OF THE PENGUINS. Though never quite accepted as being 100% part of the “mainstream” culture of the time, these movies were all lightning rods for controversy, opinions, and a lot of affection in places across the country where indies normally fail to tread.
The most recent example of this phenomena is of course, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, which has touched many a heart and many a nerve since its expanded release in January. Apparently, “the gay cowboy movie”–no matter how beautifully filmed, tremendously acted, and multiple Oscar-nominated–is still ruffling some feathers out there. Monday’s BLONDIE comic strip by Dean Young, syndicated in God knows how many newspapers, contained the following dialogue:
Panel 1 – Blondie (reading a magazine with her back turned to Dagwood, who’s stretched out in front of the TV, their dog asleep behind his chair): “What are you watching, honey?”
– Dagwood: “This is great!”
Panel 2 – Dagwood: “It’s an old-fashioned movie”
Panel 3 – Dagwood: “When the cowboy only kissed his horse” (Blondie has turned her head around with a shocked look on her face and the dog has now opened his eyes wide as well)
Whatever the author’s politics or sexual orientation (though I would say that’s pretty obvious or he wouldn’t be taking a shot at BROKEBACK), I thought comic strips were on the “funny pages” because they were supposed to be humorous or mindless escapism–not criticisms of an aspect of popular culture that doesn’t adhere to someone’s idea of “family values.” (The always critical, satirical, and often hilarious DOONESBURY was banished to the editorial page in section A of the Orlando Sentinel for the flipside of this very reason.) After over four decades of reading this classic comic strip, I can honestly say for the first time that I find this particular BLONDIE extremely offensive.