Posted by: CJ | November 23, 2010

Taste and age…

Been reading a bunch of old Tintin stories I got at a library book sale. Made me realize the following.

My dad had good taste in exposing me to Tintin, the Muppets, and Rocky and Bullwinkle as a kid. They’re all kids oriented but still filled with hilarious jokes aimed at older readers. I think I laugh harder at them now than I did as a kid. (Ditto for some of the great computer adventure games of the early 1990s, which were also largely my dad’s choices.)

My mom had good taste in getting me to not watch Marx Brothers or Three Stooges until I was older. As in “living several states away” older. That way I didn’t consider it humor so much as contextual research into humor, satire, and social commentary of 1920s-1940s America. I think it’s developmentally safer to view them that way.



  1. Nicely put… though I’d include the Marx Brothers in the first list rather than the second. (Duck Soup is by far their best work; it’s one of the more inspired pieces of satire ever made — penetrating social commentary with an anarchic soul on the order of Dr. Strangelove. Great comedic bits in some of their other movies, but they can be hit or miss, and require some understanding of vaudeville routines for full effect.)

    The Stooges… well, they’re hilarious, but it’s low camp comedy of the sort found these days in pro rasslin’, Jerry Springer, and various precincts of the television reality show genre — a very different animal from the incredible wit, tight writing, and cultural references embedded in Rocky & Bullwinkle, classic Warner Bros. toons, and Monty Python sketches.

    Re the Tintin books… how’s your French holding up? Having to look anything up?

  2. My french isn’t nearly good enough to read tintin unless I had a dictionary and google translator open. I can dream, but at this point I’d probably rather put my time into learning German or Spanish. Better places to live. Only interesting places to live that speak French are in Africa, and I probably prefer Germany or South America to Africa.

    The books I grabbed are omnibus editions that are English translations.

    I’m definitely noticing, as I’m reading tintin, that either the sorts of story lines that are popular in a lot of TV and movies have been very popular for at least 80 years, or Tintin was very influential in getting those plots popularized. It’s interesting nonetheless. It’s also fascinating to see how some non-European or European-descended nations and cultures were viewed by Europeans (or at least Herge) at that time.

    I should try and watch Duck Soup while I’m home for Christmas, then. I haven’t seen that one. I haven’t seen much Marx Brothers, truth be told. Just enough to recognize that I should see more.

    • Are you forgetting that Americans were quite the johnny-come-latelies to the colonialism game? Part of what made it possible was the deeply embedded racial and cultural paternalism that was so much a part of the fabric of their basic outlook in that time that it just sort of went without saying, and popped up all over the place. (e.g. Babar). And of course, basic story formulas are a big part of popular culture, and always have been — whether it’s pulp literature, movies, children’s books, whatever. (Narrative formulas are a big cornerstone of academic popular culture studies.)

      Re French-speaking areas to live, do you have something against France? (Aside from it being the home of cheese-eating surrendur monkeys?) And I’m not sure those areas of Africa would be very fun places to hang out. Most (not all, but a good portion) of Francophone Africa is in pretty desparate straits these days (e.g. Senegal, Niger, Ivory Coast, Cent. Afr. Rep.). Pretty slim pickings…

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