Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The end of Doonesbury

I used to be a huge Doonesbury fan. Example: once I was involved in a trivia contest and our team was handed a quiz on the strip – I aced that thing (well, mostly me and two other guys). But, with today’s strip, Doonesbury has officially jumped the shark, or, as Jim Treacher quips, “shanked the stump” as the character of B.D. loses his leg in a fictional firefight in Iraq.

I always felt that in spite of his leftist leanings, Garry Trudeau tried to portray the full spectrum of human experience. Thus, the communal characters of Doonesbury – Mike, Mark, and Zonker - were counterbalanced by the conservative B.D. (and to a different extent by the permanently-fried, gun-toting Duke). So while Mark did his NPR show and Zonker smoked weed, B.D. went to Vietnam, became a cop, shipped out again for the Gulf War, and then the war in Iraq. Through it all, B.D. represented the Archie Bunker wing of Doonesbury: he was comically wedded to his belief in country and authority but his integrity and dedication elicited a grudging respect.

But now, in strip that Treacher correctly dubs “That’s Amputainment!” Trudeau has decided to sacrifice the conservative voice of B.D. In the past, B.D. in his authoritarian helmet (quarterback, police officer, military officer) was the perfect foil for the aimless, self-absorbed lives of the Walden Commune. Trudeau has reduced him to a symbol of pity and “misguided” policies. His character, and the strip, will never be the same.

(Bonus trivia: this is the first time that B.D. has ever been shown without his helmet. You see, Trudeau went to Yale and learned about “symbolism” there. He’s so clever.)

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