Friday, October 10, 2008

All Women Are Like That (Apparently)

Where The Better Half explores the utter hilarity of marriage between two angular people with starey eyes,* The Lockhorns explores the utter nastiness, futility, and idiocy of marriage between two short morons who between them embody every single WASPish stereotype of the 1950s...which is astonishing, as the comic has only been around since 1968. I hated it the first time I laid eyes upon it, and I have continued in my hatred ever since.

Leroy and Loretta Lockhorn despise each other. The only reason they have not got a divorce is that they can't afford one. They can, however, afford to spend their days steeped in poisonous loathing and making horrible quips about each other in public. Leroy's drinking and womanising drive Loretta to heights of sarcastic eloquence; Loretta's excessive shopping, terrible driving, and wagging tongue cause Leroy to bemoan his situation to passing strangers. Neither character has any redeeming qualities. Neither is remotely likeable in any way. The two together are doubtless meant as a satire of marriage, but it's hard to believe that any situation involving two such miserable excuses for human beings could offer anything but an opportunity for ridicule.

Today's comic involves an attack on Loretta for her stereotypical fondness for taking two much luggage with her on vacation (and won't that be a fun little trip?). Loretta, of course, is shown carrying only her purse and leaving the big strong men to do the heavy lifting as she smiles in odious smugness; Leroy is sweating copiously, though he appears to be carrying only three rather small bags. Perhaps these bags are implied to contain his possessions, though it is hard to see how he could fit more than a couple of changes of underwear** into them. This strip marks the 3,546,728th time any cartoonist has made fun of a woman for taking too much luggage with her on vacation. I offer my congratulations to the creators.

The fact that Leroy references the Noah story makes the joke even older. In the Middle Ages, there was a rich tradition, associated especially with the Corpus Christi dramatic cycles, of portraying Noah's wife as a scold who richly deserved to be left off the damn ark but just made it on in the end. Chaucer references this tradition in his Miller's Tale; he has a character suggest that for the "new flood" that is coming, a certain carpenter and his wife may want to get themselves into separate boats. Leroy is here comparing Loretta to Noah himself, not Noah's, wife, but the connection to the medieval tradition is clear. I would not be hugely surprised if someone turned up a lost manuscript in which Noah lamented his wife's predilection for dragging along "two of everything...never mind that it was God's commandment!"

Leroy also quite reminds me of John the Carpenter in the Miller's Tale here. Like John, Leroy has vaguely heard of the story of Noah but seems unaware of its actual content and import. Where John has apparently missed out on the bit where God promises never to destroy humankind with a flood again, Leroy seems to have no idea that if he accepts Biblical history as truth, he should believe that everyone on earth is descended from Noah. As it is, he is either extremely ignorant, uttering a heresy, or just plain dumb.

My theory is that the prize is behind door #3.

P.S.: "Trauayle" can mean both "work" and "travel." It may imply that "travel" is "work." I "agree."

*Yes, that's "starey," not "starry." Those bulging orbs occasionally haunt my nightmares.
**Please, let him have a couple of changes of underwear. Please.


Got Medieval said...

And Satan slipped onto the ark on Noah's wife's back, didn't he? Medieval Satan and Medieval Noah's wife, I mean. And her medieval back, of course.

Angry Kem said...

Very possibly. It's been a while since I've read any of the Noah's Wife material. She is certainly associated with the devil in some of the texts. Incidentally, shrewish women are compared to and sometimes triumphant against the devil in many folk tales. It seems that the incarnation of absolute evil is nothing next to a sharp-tongued old lady.

DaviMack said...

And here's me, wanting "travail" to be of the same root. :)