Shaenon K. Garrity (shaenon) wrote,
Shaenon K. Garrity
shaenon

Day by Day: Project Rewrite

I can't help it. Since my previous post on Chris Muir's right-wing political webstrip, Day by Day, I've been obsessed. Is it really that hard to write a conservative comic strip that's funny, or, barring that, mostly coherent? You know, I don't think it is. And I'm kind of taken by the challenge of writing material counter to my own pinko views.

So what I've got below the cut is a sort of a makeover program for the Day by Day strips I included in my previous post. My goal is to keep the conservative viewpoint but get the material up to scratch on a basic craft level. Ready? Let's funny these up!





This one requires a complete overhaul. There aren't many things that I think cannot be made funny under any circumstances, but blackface may very well be one of them. (What else can't be made funny? I was going to say "rape," but then I remembered the scene in my favorite movie, "Young Frankenstein," where the monster has his way with Madeline Kahn. That scene is kind of rape-y, but I'll be damned if it isn't funny. So it might just be blackface and Robin Williams.) At any rate, blackface presents far too powerful and horrifying an image for the fairly light point this strip is trying to make. So blackface is off the table.

The thing is, "white person trying to act black" is a common comedy trope, but it's usually accomplished by having the white person dress like a modern-day black stereotype, like a rapper. Ideally, though, I'd want to avoid going down that route, since it's as tired and outdated as a license plate that says FRESH and dice in the mirror. So let's pare this down to the basic point Muir is trying to make: that Hillary Clinton panders to black voters by harping on race issues and using "black" language. Okay, we can build off that.

Here's an idea. One of the main characters in Day by Day is Damon, a conservative African-American. How about a storyline in which Clinton tries to solicit advice from him on how to appeal to black voters? The opening strip could go like this:

(Clinton, possibly dressed like Flavor Flav, is talking to a handler.)
Handler: Senator, we're concerned about your recent efforts to court black voters. You're seen as out of touch.
Clinton: Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis? I am down with the Afro-American base! Didn't you hear my "plantation" speech?

Handler: Yes, and your comments comparing black women to cleaning ladies. Frankly, you sound like someone who's never talked to a black person in her life.
Clinton: All right, all right. I'm on it...

(Damon, at home, answers the phone.)
Clinton (on phone): Yo, voter! You ready to shizzle my nizzle?
Damon: Not again...

In the subsequent strips, Clinton could ask Damon what black voters want to hear, and he could respond with the black Republican perspective. There could also be jokes about how the most stereotypically black person Senator Clinton knows is her husband.

Alternate idea: Clinton tries to get ideas about how black people act from Barack Obama.






I'm going to let Muir have the first strip. Even though I personally find it sexist, at least it has a joke. I will, however, have to insist that Muir limit himself to one (1) gagging-a-woman-with-an-hijab joke per month. I run a tight ship, and it's not that funny.




This is another one that gets points for including a recognizable joke. (Of course, Santa can't really be fired for saying "ho"s, being a self-employed philanthropist.) The main problem is those first two panels of people smirking. If I want that, I'll read Sally Forth. Pepping up the dialogue just a little will do worlds of wonder.

Damon: Don Imus was fired for saying "Hos"? Good.
Sam: Yeah, but now the thought police are on the march. They're demanding that anyone who does the same be fired.

Damon: So what? Who wants that kind of language out where kids can hear it?
Sam: Just wait until Christmas...

Santa: Ho ho h--
Lawyer: Kris, Al Sharpton wants a word with you.

Note that I've also excised the "white Christmas" pun. I get it, but I also think that Muir doesn't really want to give the impression that he thinks Christmas ought to be a strictly Caucasian holiday.




This one drives me nuts, because it would be so easy to make the dialogue make sense, and Muir either can't or won't take the trouble. As far as I can tell, there are several disparate ideas he's trying to cram into the strip:

1. The Virginia Tech massacre is roughly anagolous to the situation in Iraq, with a crazed foreigner running around blowing people away.
2. Virginia Tech proves that gun control doesn't work, because it happened on a "gun-free" campus.
3. Liberals are so stupidly in love with gun control that they'd probably try to enforce gun control laws in a war zone.

That's two much material to fit into three panels. If Muir wants to make all these points, he needs to break them up into two or three strips. For the rewrite, let's focus on #3, since it's the basis of the punchline.

Dumb Liberal: You wouldn't have all these problems in Iraq if you had the kind of gun-control laws that protect us in America! Like "gun free" zones!
Zed: Yeah, I see that worked real well at Virginia Tech...

Dumb Liberal: Virginia Tech was a fluke! If one foreign student hasn't snapped and started gunning people down...
Zed: Look, here we have "foreigners" armed with a lot worse than a .22 and a Glock! Just yesterday, a car bomb in Karbala killed 55 people!

Dumb Liberal: ...maybe we could declare this a "bomb-free" zone?
Zed: I'm sure they'll get right on that.




This one has to go. In the comments for my last post, some people suggested that I misinterpreted it: that instead of suggesting unity between (Mid)East and West, it's trying to portray Middle Easterners as superstitious and Americans as rational and scientific. Either way, it doesn't make sense, as both the West and the Mideast have plenty of both churches and observatories (and I imagine that if Muir tried to argue that America should get rid of its churches, he'd lose a lot of his base). The whole thing's vague and confusing. I can't help him here.




This one's giving me serious trouble. Partly, of course, it's because I'm nauseated by the prospect of trying to write a funny cartoon around the idea that servicewomen who report rape and harassment must be lying. But beyond that, I think this strip is unpleasantly jarring because it violates the level of reality in which Day by Day purports to exist.

Let me explain. People often make fun of Beetle Bailey for taking place in some kind of fantasy Army that never actually goes to war. Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq have all blithely bypassed Camp Swampy, which occupies itself with endless rounds of basic training and mild sitcom hijinks. But it has to be this way, because if Beetle Bailey and his friends saw real combat, their lighthearted antics would seem not just out of place, but monstrous. It's not cool for Beetle to steal a nap while chasing down a suspected Al-Queda cell. A comic about soldiers in a war zone, especially during real-life wartime, requires a more reality-based sense of humor--something akin to Bill Mauldin's Willie and Joe cartoons.

In his Iraq strips, Muir promises jokes about a real war, in a real place, going on right now. But what he gives us here is a Beetle Bailey war, a war in which hot female recruits in belly shirts traipse around with machine guns that they're allowed to wave at any men who give them lip, and no one gets hurt except some foreigners off-panel. You can't do this. You can't claim that you're going to show us the real face of our troops in Iraq, not to mention serious political opinions on the subject, and then give us Bill Murray and Harold Ramis in Stripes.

So this whole thing needs to be redone. I honestly don't know how to sell the concept Muir is trying to get across in a way that's both honest and funny. I'm not saying you can't do a funny strip mocking the idea that sexual harassment can happen in the military. I'm just saying it's beyond my powers. Maybe Muir would be content with some other strips about women in the military. Like, the Dumb Liberal could demand to know why they fight, since she thinks women are "naturally" pacifistic and nurturing (an idea I personally find noxious, but have seen some feminists argue, although I think it's largely out of favor in our post-Gitmo world), and then the female soldiers could disabuse her of that notion with their gun-toting creds. Other than that, I got nothin'.



This one would be fine if you removed the middle panel. And all the dialogue.


Whew. Okay, that was more exhausting than I expected. Before I go, though, I want to share today's Day by Day strip, which may be the insanest one I've seen yet:



Holy cow! Revelations-based numerology? It's like God answered my prayers for the power to pick on Day by Day and the Left Behind books simultaneously! Of course, I can't help noticing a few problems here, even ignoring the laughable but popular conservative concept of the mildly liberal Gray Lady as a haven of extreme left-wing journalism:

1. The New York Times isn't selling its building because it's strapped for cash. In fact, it isn't selling its building, period. The Times doesn't own the building; it's owned by a real estate company called Tishman Speyer, which also recently sold the headquarters of the conservative Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, the Times is spending a fortune on a new eco-friendly headquarters.
2. I can't find any evidence that the Times building is 750,000 square feet. But wouldn't it be cool if it was?

If Muir really wants to go the premillenialist dispensationalist route, which I heartily recommend, he could build something out of the fact that Tishman Speyer also recently sold 666 Fifth Avenue, with its famous neon "666" sign. Also, the Times building was purchased by an Israeli billionaire, Lev Leviev, and his company Africa Israel. I smell a Zionist cabal in the employ of the Antichrist, how about you? If the Times and the Journal start pushing for a one-world government after the Rapture hits, we'll know.

Keen-eyed readers will note that this strip recycles all the art from the Blackface Hillary strip except, well, Blackface Hillary. Waste not, want not.

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