Business and Industry

Little Ideological Annie

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Comics historian Ben Schwartz writing at Bookforum finds the roots of Reaganism in that adorable li'l gamine, star of stage, screen, and the comics page, Little Orphan Annie. An excerpt:

"I hate professional do-gooders with other people's money," [Annie creator Harold Gray] once wrote. In 1932, the Depression brought to power one of the world's great professional do-gooders, FDR. Roosevelt's aggressive new liberalism transformed Gray into the new breed of Republican: a pro-business, small-government tax cutter. Feeling that the New Deal destroyed rugged individualism with its programs designed to uplift, Gray spoke out. He never named FDR in Annie. But in 1934, when prosecutor Phil O. Bluster jailed Warbucks on phony tax charges, readers knew why. Inspired by fugitive Chicago millionaire Samuel Insull, then in Europe evading the IRS, Gray torched the New Dealers he saw as hounding businessmen for their success.

One Annie storyline Schwartz described makes you wonder whether Ayn Rand had been reading the funnies with notepad in hand in the 1930s, when you think about Atlas Shrugged's Rearden metal:

Annie befriends a homeless scientist, Eli Eon, inventor of Eonite, a cheap, easy-to-produce, indestructible material. Warbucks envisions it ending the Depression. Millions will work to mass-produce it, creating materials for housing that millions more will build. A corrupt union, led by John L. Lewis look-alike Claude Claptrap and liberal, long-haired journalist Horatio Hack, demands Warbucks give Eonite "to the pee-pul" or they'll strike. Their workers burn down Warbucks's factory (he hadn't gotten around to building it out of Eonite yet), killing Eon. The secret of Eonite, and to ending the Depression, dies with him.

Let us all revive "Horatio Hack" as an insult to journalists we don't like, shall we?

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  1. There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio
    Than are dreamt of in thy welfare/warfare state philosophy.

  2. Maybe Eli Eon should have gone into genetic engineering and made Little Orphan Annie some normal eyeballs.

  3. Now I’m wondering if Eonite might also have inspired Al Capp’s shmoos.

    beavis,
    For little, empty ovals, those peepers were sure expressive, eh?

  4. Alas! poor Warbucks. I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!

    (damn you Max for beating me)

  5. For my Horatio reference, I was going to go with the up-by-the-bootstraps stories of Horatio Alger. It’s a fun name, no matter how you slice it.

  6. no way, Dagny…Horatio Hornblower is made with 100% more FUNNIERITE?

  7. Ho ratio?

  8. Horatio Hornblower is made with 100% more FUNNIERITE?

    Indisputably so. But Horatio Alger stories are somewhat on-ideological-topic, with their Reagan-esque work ethic, etc.

  9. Ho ratio?

    Awesome.

  10. Cool. I wonder if anyone is reprinting the serries as a graphic novel.

  11. Indeed. I felt the awesome bolts shooting out of my hand as I typed it. I must’ve been possessed by my muse, Rick James.

  12. All you whippersnappers getting a chuckle out of “ho ratio” and the like are missing the point of having enjoyed Little Orphan Annie, her dog, Sandy, and Daddy Warbuck’s loyal people: The Asp and Punjab.
    There was a lot to love, and it was deeep!

    Ruthless

  13. But Horatio Alger stories are somewhat on-ideological-topic

    But no one reads Alger stories any more. However, we could then pirouette off of the “Alger” to Alger Hiss and start a huge flamewar over whether he was or was not a KGB sleeper agent. We probably shouldn’t.

  14. I recall a Little Orphan Annie story in the mid-60s which had Daddy Warbucks blowing up the factory he had built in some banana republic rather than let it be seized by the local strong man, who we all recognized as Fidel Castro.

    It was quite a shock to those of us who cut our teeth on the comic strip to find Annie as a huge FDR supporter in the 70s musical.

  15. start a huge flamewar

    Are you feeling alright? You don’t want to start a flame-war?

    But no one reads Alger stories any more.

    Some of my more anti-capitalist profs would reference in passing, as an example of why working hard is such a kooky idea: “See? That old dude with the funny name wrote about it! Those capitalists are so zany!”

  16. It was quite a shock to those of us who cut our teeth on the comic strip to find Annie as a huge FDR supporter in the 70s musical.

    When my high school put on Annie when I was 16, I passed a few excerpts of Lawrence Reed’s “Great Myths of the Great Depression” pamphlet around the cast. The rest of the kids were mostly uninterested. If I had only been familiar with the comics, perhaps I would have gotten through!

  17. Let us all revive “Horatio Hack” as an insult to journalists we don’t like, shall we?

    Sure thing, Horatio.

  18. Forgot to mention, what need for Horatio Alger stories when we are living witness to the greatest of Horatio Alger stories, Obama.

  19. Let us all revive “Horatio Hack” as an insult to journalists we don’t like, shall we?

    Sorry, he’s already better known as “Dan Rather.”

  20. Are you feeling alright? You don’t want to start a flame-war?

    You caught me. By mentioning it, I have the possibility of starting a huge flame war. Which is my fondest desire. Stay out of my head!!!

  21. While I’m young enough not to have read much Little Orphan Annie, I do recall a couple of parodies–one from Mad and Little Annie Fannie.

    What’s Ho Bama’s ho ratio, anyway? Anyone know?

  22. JTUf—Read Schwartz’s article—it is in fact framed as a review of the first volume in a new, ongoing series reprinting Gray’s ANNIE in toto.

  23. “Some of my more anti-capitalist profs would reference in passing”

    Whilewe’re on he subject of anti-capitalists and passing, did you hear the one about Kim Jong Il?

    http://news.yahoo.com/story//ap/20080910/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/us_nkorea_15

  24. Ho no!

    I’ve got hoes…
    I’ve got hoooooes
    in different area codes

  25. As an undergrad, my school’s Ho Ratio was 1:3.

  26. Gosh, who could have guessed that one of the world’s most jejune ideologies could have its roots in a kids comic?

  27. Interesting that Daddy Warbucks doesn’t want to pay taxes. His name would imply that he was a part of the military-industrial complex and a big time war profiteer.

    I can’t say I know much about little Orphan Annie, but wasn’t Daddy Warbucks generally using his wealth and influence to bail Annie out of trouble? Doesn’t seem like much of a proponent of rugged invidualism to me.

    And, when I was a kid, those blank pupils everyone had seriously gave me the willies.

  28. TAO,

    Wow, I resisted the urge to make the Ludacris reference. I admire your courage. I just wish that song wasn’t in my head now.

  29. But no one reads Alger stories any more. However, we could then pirouette off of the “Alger” to Alger Hiss

    Maybe nobody reads the Horatio A. stories any more, but they’re still rehashing A. Hiss. Among other things, the 1st season of Smallville on TV contained an allegoric retelling of that story — with Clark Kent representing an “alien” subversive! They made it pretty obvious when they named one character Roger Nixon.

  30. “His name would imply that he was a part of the military-industrial complex and a big time war profiteer.”

    James J. Hill and Amtrak. Compare and contrast.

  31. I’m young enough to grow up watching Annie the movie everyday, so this post is a strange revelation to me. How on earth did such a pro-FDR, pro-New Deal propamusical spring from such Randian roots?

  32. I wonder how many of you even know what conditions your states were in before and during the Great Depression. Before FDR, Texas didn’t even have roads west of Austin, and few enough east of it. There was no electricity, no sanitation, no FDA to make sure the food you were eating was safe and no regulatory agencies to make sure that water stayed clean when it was sanitized. The state was mainly agricultural, but only the wealthiest planters along the coastal plain could afford to buy a tractor, and because of the thinness of the soil west of those plains and the expense of fertilizer, plowing was always a crap shoot anyway. The only state-wide police force was the Texas Rangers, which meant that a force numbering in the dozens was tasked with stopping crime and hunting down criminals within a state big enough to stuff New England into with room to spare.

    Thanks to the infrastructure built through New Deal programs, many of which were contracted to private corporations not this fantasy anti-New Dealers seem to have of socialist handouts, Texas has been a leader in high tech industries since the 1960’s is currently and one of the fastest growing states in the Union. Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin, towns which would barely have deserved the name in the 1930’s, are now some of the biggest and most economically dynamic metropolitan areas in the Union. Something else you can think the New Dealers for? All those vaccinations you got as a child, for free, which meant you never had to worry about dying of polio or the mumps.

    As to this concept that it stifled innovation and “rugged individualism”, show me a study that shows a drop in business creation over the course of FDR’s, Truman’s, and Eisenhower’s presidencies (though a Republican, he mostly continued the New Deal policies of his predecessors).

  33. bah! That should be “thank” not “think”, and there should be an ‘and’ after “1960’s”.

  34. Something else you can think the New Dealers for? All those vaccinations you got as a child, for free, which meant you never had to worry about dying of polio or the mumps.

    Oh praise Jesus and pass the mashed potatoes. What we would ever have done without SuperFDR and his ability to save us all from certain doom?

    As if there was no incentive outside of governmental ones to cure, say, freakin’ polio.

  35. All those vaccinations you got as a child, for free, which meant you never had to worry about dying of polio or the mumps.

    You heard it here, folks. There is such a thing as a free vaccination.

  36. Wow, I resisted the urge to make the Ludacris reference. I admire your courage. I just wish that song wasn’t in my head now.

    Southern Ho-spitality.

  37. You heard it here, folks. There is such a thing as a free vaccination.

    TANSTAAFV 😀

  38. Before FDR, Texas didn’t even have roads west of Austin, and few enough east of it.

    Roads? This is a libertarian blog’s comments and you should be mindful of our sheer, boiling, incendiary hatred of such collectivist things:)

  39. I recall a Little Orphan Annie story in the mid-60s which had Daddy Warbucks blowing up the factory he had built in some banana republic rather than let it be seized by the local strong man, who we all recognized as Fidel Castro.

    It was quite a shock to those of us who cut our teeth on the comic strip to find Annie as a huge FDR supporter in the 70s musical.

    As someone whose second-favorite Heinlein book was Starship Troopers, I’m tempted to once again mention the disgust I felt upon watching Paul Verhoeven’s version and its subtle ideological inversion, but I’ll resist it.

  40. PS: If it wasn’t for FDR, we wouldn’t need those roads, because by now we’d have cars that fly!!!

  41. If it wasn’t for FDR, we would’ve found the Monolith by now (it’d be near our moonbase) and would all be Star Children.

  42. I don’t know about flying cars and star children, but we know that FDR killed the Eonite dream.

    the bastard.

  43. Ideologically, FDR didn’t have a leg to stand on.

  44. Wow, we have Hamlet riffs and Randian jokes, but no:

    “Secret decoder pin”

    and

    “besuretodrinkyourovaltine”

    jokes?

    A strange and sad group.

  45. I’m tempted to once again mention the disgust I felt upon watching Paul Verhoeven’s version and its subtle ideological inversion, but I’ll resist it.

    Subtle? Say what you will about the film and its “ideological inversion” (I personally found it amusing, but I can see why a guy would hate it), but absolutely nothing about that film was subtle.

  46. but absolutely nothing about that film was subtle

    Verhoeven is the opposite of subtle. Ever seen De Vierde Man (The Fourth Man)?

    As an aside, Cronenberg was originally on board to do Total Recall. As much as I love Verhoeven’s version, a Cronenberg version would have been fucking awesome.

  47. Ever seen De Vierde Man (The Fourth Man)?

    Sadly, no.

    As an aside, Cronenberg was originally on board to do Total Recall. As much as I love Verhoeven’s version, a Cronenberg version would have been fucking awesome.

    Yeah, I remember reading that. I dunno; Cronenberg can’t usually resist making a film grosser than it has to be. He’s mellowed some these days and restricts his gross proclivities to portrayals of the physical consequences of violence (A History of Violence, Eastern Promises). Except for ExistenZ. Fucking exception breaks the rule.

    p.s. Did you see Fringe?

  48. Before FDR puppies couldn’t wag their tails and a kittens were 50% less cute. Before FDR merciless robots hunted infants by moonlight. Before FDR everyone had to drink their own urine and thought a car was a mythical beast from a far off land that ate dirt and shit out silver ingots. Before FDR people only had sex outside in the pouring rain and only conceived when passing horse splashed muddy semen into a woman’s vagina. Before FDR everyone ate with their hands and mixed rocks and twigs in with non-FDA approved corn and tomatoes. Before FDR most people worshiped the burning sun and stared at it for hours a day.

    All hail the Most Holy of Holies FDR! May He Roll Forever!

  49. p.s. Did you see Fringe?

    No spoilers, junior.

  50. Did you see Fringe?

    TiVo’ed, not watched yet. I was busy watching Vic Mackey hunt for Lem’s killer, and watching Shane freak out about it.

  51. Before FDR merciless robots hunted infants by moonlight

    FDR is John Connor?

  52. By the way… there actually is a worst cartoonist than Chip Bok.

    No, really.

  53. FDR is John Connor?

    And Jesus Christ, Muhammad Ali, Superman, The Sun King, 16 Popes (the good ones), MLK, JFK, RFK, Willy Wonka, and Cato the Elder all rolled into one. Don’t you know anything?

  54. But not Pliny the Younger?

  55. Seriously. A can marked “Food 4 Kidz.” Really?

    Please. Someone tape up my sides. They are about to burst.

  56. Dude, you fail to point out her greatest sin: she’s ugly.

  57. But not Pliny the Younger?

    Pliny the Younger? Fuck that bitch-ass punk! He’s all like “Oooo… I witnessed the eruption of Vesuvius! I’m so much better than alls y’all!”

    No, seriously… fuck him.

  58. Insults to Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus will not stand, NutraSweet.

  59. Sugarfree, you forgot Ghandi, Buddha, the Great Gatsby, and Underdog.

    But seriously, how can you argue with the assertion that “you’re never fully-dressed without a smile”?

  60. Although being fully-undressed generally tends to make me break out into a full raging “M-O-O-N, that spells moon” smile.

  61. Thanks to the infrastructure built through New Deal programs,

    Yeah, the gargantuan oil wealth that began flowing in the ’30s had nothing to do with it. Texas was built on handouts from Washington!

    Nice try, but not sale to this Texan.

    Before FDR, Texas didn’t even have roads west of Austin, and few enough east of it.

    This, of course, is an outright lie, as this depiction of my town, San Angelo, demonstrates.

  62. And my party is also gonna let the senator with the least redeeming positions, Joe Lieberman, speak at the convention. He’s a big spending, big government liberal Democrat who supports the tragic Iraq war and other reckless, needless, interventions in the mideast.
    http://www.mirei.com

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