Little Ideological Annie


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?