Opus: No Dad?  

Friday, June 15, 2007

I grew up a fan of the Bloom County Comic Strip. I wish I had more access and time to its newer incarnation, "Opus". The thing I really liked about the strip was that it was just downright silly and idiotic at times ("Real cats don't eat lasagne."), and Bill the Cat was the perfect antidote to a world obsessed with that annoying cartoon cat Garfield, the mere thought of whom still makes my skin crawl.

It seems this week Berkeley Breathed touched a nerve when he published this strip featuring Opus and a couple of kids. Feminazis gloated. The anti-male-bashing crowd bitched. I might have as well, except for one thing: I read the strip. I have a completely different opinion, one a bit closer to Kathleen Parker's position in her column today. You see, Breathed did more than put up just one more overexaggeration of the dark side we all have (both male and female). He called attention to the foolishness of those who depict men (and fathers in particular) so consistently in a negative light. He expertly implemented Rush Limbaugh's technique of "demonstrating absurdity by being absurd", and aroused thoughts and emotions in people. Never mind what those thoughts and emotions were - everyone is going to react differently, and a cartoonist knows that - he forced Americans to THINK for a minute.

Some got the message, others didn't. Some simply applied whatever ideology was most convenient for them, as always happens. Ultimately, and hopefully, the end result of this cartoon will be renewed debate on the merits of fatherhood. Hmm ... hold on a minute while I go hug my daughter ...

You know, my girls give the best "Daddy's Girl" hugs you would ever imagine ...

The merits of fatherhood, and more importantly, the fact that a bad father is more often than not better than no father at all (as long as we're not talking abuse). In many ways, that's my point about this week's edition of "Opus". Still, I think Ms. Parker said it best.

Two mommies may work out fine for some children. And some men, just like some women, are contemptible slobs or worse. But neither observation diminishes the larger truth that children need fathers, most of whom are not, in fact, the cartoonish characters we love to loathe.

Breathed's comic strip, intended or not, revealed where we have arrived as a society in our attitudes toward male role models, otherwise known as fathers: Two lesbian mommies are cool, while dad is a violent, profane, impulsive, substance-abusing slob. In such a world, we can be grateful for an existential penguin whose voice offers a counterweight to the know-nothingness of children.

Opus Penguin asked the appropriate question: "No dad?"
No dad? I couldn't imagine.