I Don't Think Doonesbury Should be Censored, But I Do Wish It Was Funny Once or Twice a Year.


Ziiing! That's one of the controversial Doonesbury abortion/contraceptive mandate strips that many outlets are deciding not to run this week. And by controversial, I mean about as funny and insightful as a daily Crankshaft strip or a Mary Worth peregrination on milk of magnesia. And despite all the pretense that Doonesbury is a serious venue for serious thought, the strip is about as intellectually daring as a Mark Trail Sunday strip about tidal waves and fauna.

For the record: I think it's totally within the rights of newspapers not to run particular strips whenever they feel like it; that's not censorship, that's editorial oversight.

I am old enough to remember a time when Doonesbury was considered hip and cool and smart and funny. It never was really any of those things; we just had better drugs back then.

More signs that it's all downhill for comic strips after the first one: Here's the original Peanuts strip. There were some that equalled this one, but none of the subsequent ones ever topped it (IMO).

A decade ago in Reason, Jesse Walker wrote of "the decline of Garry Trudeau - and baby-boomer liberalism." A big part of the problem was the safe-as-milk controversies in which Trudeau engaged. Here's a snippet:

Controversy and quality are not the same thing, of course. But there is a direct link between Doonesbury's declining relevance and Doonesbury's declining merit, a common cause for both afflictions. Trudeau's career arc mirrors the evolution of baby-boom liberalism, from the anti-authoritarian skepticism of the 1970s to the smug paternalism of the Clinton years. 

Ten years on, Trudeau is still widely published and suffered all around the country. Good for him and good for the rest of us, who live in a world where censorship is largely a thing of the past and reader empowerment (especially the power to ignore and go elsewhere) just keeps getting stronger every day.

Read Walker's whole piece.