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Mallard Fillmore Goes Too Far

[ Posted Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013 – 16:40 PST ]

I'm not one to normally get involved in singling out members of the media or pop culture for their idiocy. I'm making an exception today because of the vile nature of what appeared in my morning paper this morning. I feel it needs calling out, and I simply cannot remain silent this time.

First of all, yes, I still get a physical newspaper delivered to my house each morning. I know this is rather Luddite-ish for an online blogger, but there it is. I like newspapers. Part of the reason I like them is how easy it is to immediately turn to the comics page and start my day off with a laugh before I even put my glasses on.

The paper I subscribe to has both the liberally-minded Doonesbury and the conservatively-themed Mallard Fillmore. For those not familiar with this latter comic, the title character is a duck who uses rather unsubtle humor to bludgeon the idiocy he perceives in all liberals, all the time. The humor, like most from the right, is blunt and not nuanced in any way. But I still read the comic, to see what those on the right are laughing about.

The comic's creator is an edge-pushing type who has been known to if not cross then at least tiptoe right up to those editorial lines in the sand over what is allowable and what isn't -- especially on the comics page. His views on race aren't particularly subtle, but for the most part he scrupulously stays within "acceptable" boundaries. Barely.

Today, Mallard Fillmore crossed those boundaries. Think I'm being too sensitive and reactionary? Well, you be the judge. Yesterday was the federal holiday to celebrate the birth of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior, the icon (and one of the many martyrs) of the Civil Rights movement in America. Yesterday, Mallard Fillmore ran a comic poking fun at federal workers who get the holiday off, as opposed to private sector workers who don't (I refuse to link to these comics, you'll have to search for yourself, sorry). All fine and good -- federal workers are a righty target... sure, OK.

Today's comic, however, was completely unacceptable. In the first panel, Mallard is reading a letter of complaint (the title character is supposed to be a journalist of some sort, for context). The letter reads:

Dear Moron, once again you failed to mention that yesterday was Squirrel Appreciation Day. Why are you such a hater? --Outraged

In the second panel, Mallard responds to the letter:

Dear Outraged, I feared that Squirrel Appreciation Day was becoming far too commercial, and didn't want to contribute to that toxic atmosphere.

In the third panel, Mallard gives a smug "aside" to the reader:

The rodent community often has trouble seeing the big picture.

Once again: this comic ran the day after Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Comics creators write their strips weeks in advance, with an eye to the calendar. There is no possible "he didn't know what day it was going to run" excuse, which is made even more obvious by yesterday's offering. He knew full well what day this comic would run. He just didn't care.

Martin Luther King's birthday is, as far as Mallard Fillmore is concerned, "Squirrel Appreciation Day." Although I've never heard of anyone attempting to capitalize on the holiday (unlike, say, Presidents' Day) by commercial exploitation, the Fillmore character doesn't want to contribute to the "toxic atmosphere" surrounding Martin Luther King Day (in his eyes). Anyone who disagrees with his views is part of "the rodent community" who "often has trouble seeing the big picture."

Count me among this community who, contrary to what the comic says, actually can quite easily see the big picture here. The big picture is that Martin Luther King Jr. is not just a "squirrel," but in fact a "rodent." This, after our first African-American president was just sworn in for his second term. This, in the second decade of the twenty-first century.

No other "oh, he was only kidding" or "you're being overly sensitive" interpretation is possible. The comic is patently indefensible, in this day and age. It is beyond offensive. It is, in fact, vile and racist -- and no "but he really meant this" justification works, sorry.

Perhaps you think I'm making a mountain out of the molehill that is Mallard Fillmore. Perhaps there are bigger and uglier forms of racism being voiced elsewhere that should demand my attention. It is, after all, only a comic strip, not all that important in the grand scheme of things.

But we all do what we can, and today, for me, that meant sending a strongly-worded letter to the publisher and executive editors responsible for the content of the pages of the newspaper I read. This same newspaper, for some context, dumped the syndicated "Decodaquote" puzzle from its pages because they had used a false, made-up "quote" from President Obama eleven months ago which was intended to make him look rather silly. Their journalistic standards clearly applied to the puzzle section, so they should equally apply to the comics section.

Racist portrayals of Martin Luther King Jr. as a "squirrel" or "rodent" go far beyond running a made-up gaffe in a puzzle. In fact, such racism should be absolutely unacceptable in any context on any page of a major metropolitan newspaper. I urge anyone reading this who receives any newspaper which runs Mallard Fillmore to contact the editors and express your outrage. I don't mind a comic strip poking fun at liberals -- I really don't. I rarely find the comic funny, but then I wouldn't, would I? But unfunniness or seeing liberals skewered is not the basis for my complaint. I don't complain when the comic does so, as that's what I expect from reading it. However, today the comic went too far. It crossed a line that should never be crossed. Because it did so, I would ask you to join me in sending an unmistakable message to any newspaper who pays money to run Mallard Fillmore.

It's time to dump the duck.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

14 Comments on “Mallard Fillmore Goes Too Far”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well said, Chris!

    I doubt that comic runs in any of the newspapers I occasionally read - I've never paid much attention to the comic strips, funnily enough - but, I'll double check ...

  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    hey, two lame ducks on the same day.

  3. [3] 
    db wrote:

    Just a quibble, while not nearly as commercialized as Christmas, I've seen several advertisements for MLK Day Sales. Perhaps the worst; "MLK had a dream, I have a dream: of putting YOU in the car of your choice at..."

  4. [4] 
    RyanMM wrote:

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there actually is a Squirrel Appreciation Day.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bonni-brodnick/squirrel-appreciation-day_b_2496591.html

    Whether or not Mallard was using the fact it falls on MLK day this year as a way to throw some racist shade out there I can't be sure, it wouldn't surprise me, but this is also not the first time he's mentioned Squirrel day.

    He actually covered Squirrel Appreciation Day LAST year too (using the same lame joke as this year, because he's a hack), when MLK day was the 16th, and not the 22nd as Squirrel day is every year.

    http://i.imgur.com/z1lpgYf.jpg

  5. [5] 
    RyanMM wrote:

    You know what, on second thought, both comics are about MLK Jr. Day. I take that back, that's as overt as racism can get without being too obvious to sneak into the funny pages.

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    Just a quibble, while not nearly as commercialized as Christmas, I've seen several advertisements for MLK Day Sales. Perhaps the worst; "MLK had a dream, I have a dream: of putting YOU in the car of your choice at..."

    That IS pretty bad...

    Michale

  7. [7] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Perhaps the worst; "MLK had a dream, I have a dream: of putting YOU in the car of your choice at..."

    Wow ... talk about cheesy. You're helping me feel better about not watching commercial TV anymore (though sometimes I do miss it!)

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    You know what, on second thought, both comics are about MLK Jr. Day. I take that back, that's as overt as racism can get without being too obvious to sneak into the funny pages.

    When one looks for racism, one can always find racism...

    Michale

  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    When one looks for racism, one can always find racism...

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/austria/9820517/Lego-accused-of-racism-with-Star-Wars-set.html

    A perfect case in point...

    Michale

  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    RyanNM,

    As I am wont to do....

    "Welcome to the party, pal!!!!"
    -John McClane, DIE HARD

    :D

    Michale

  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    In cases like this, the immortal words of Sarek Of Vulcan are especially apropos...

    "There can be no offense where none is taken."

    Or, if you prefer the lighter side...

    "In the immortal words of Socrates; 'I drank what!?' "
    -Val Kilmer, REAL GENUIS

    :D

    Michale

  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    Wow ... talk about cheesy. You're helping me feel better about not watching commercial TV anymore (though sometimes I do miss it!)

    I know how ya feel. The wife and I haven't watched network/cable TV in over a decade..

    We sometimes miss the commercials. We sometimes catch them when we are out or over at family's and it's nice to see previews and local stuff...

    Michale

  13. [13] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    db [3] -

    Really? MLK Day sales? I suppose it's to be expected, but I personally have never noticed this. I haven't really been looking for it, though, so I stand corrected.

    RyanMM [4 & 5]

    Welcome to the site! Sorry for the delay in posting your first comment, from now on you should see your comments right away as long as you don't post multiple links per comment (comments with multi-links are held for moderation to cut down on comment spam).

    Thanks for the info on SAD... so I guess he has a thin veneer of "I didn't mean THAT" after all. But I still say the timing of it precluded a joke of this nature. Especially after he ran the Monday strip which did reference the fact that MLK Day was a federal holiday.

    Everyone else -

    I'm glad to see others are disgusted at using MLK Day to hawk products! The ultimate in crassness, seems to me.

    -CW

  14. [14] 
    db wrote:

    Michale, CW:

    I'm a firm believer that the "War on Christmas" comes not from atheists trying to have creches removed from public land but rather the commercialization of the holiday. How far have we come from the original intention of the holiday? How far have we established greed and status instead?

    So also with MLK Day. The more we see sales and advertising; the less we remember the actual man & his service.

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