Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Everything is Funnier With Animals

Though Pluggers has only been around since 1993 and has gone through a mere two creators, it demonstrates the hallmarks of a much older comic. In other words, it is archaic, frequently nonsensical, and imbued with the values of the 1380s.

As a reader-participation comic, Pluggers invites people to write in with their hilarious suggestions about the silly things that "Pluggers"--apparently, working-class American furries--do. The results would not be out of place on the "jokes" page of an average Reader's Digest...if you left out the furry aspect, that is. If you didn't leave it out, you would end up gazing at the comic in horror as matronly chicken Pluggers dined on chicken soup and anthropomorphic dog Pluggers took their non-anthropomorphic dogs for walks. The sentiments of Pluggers are tired; the medium is utterly bizarre.

Yet we twenty-first-century folk may be overthinking this comic. It is medieval almost by definition, as it combines two common medieval genres--the estates satire and the beast fable--to great effect. The results are almost profound.

Estates satire is predicated on the belief that humanity is divided into three "estates": the nobility (those who fight), the clergy (those who pray), and the peasantry (those who work). Pluggers, like a great deal of literature in this genre, aims itself squarely at the peasantry, gently mocking the working man's dress, habits, and general approach to life. The satire is deepened and made profound through the author's choice to tell his little tales as those of animals. As Chaucer's Nun's Priest could use his story of Chanticleer to make certain points about human existence,* so can the current Pluggers cartoonist, one Gary Brookins, illustrate his ideas (or the stolen ideas of others) more succinctly by using beasts.

Consider today's comic. The older canine Plugger (here rendered through false etymology as "Plouer," or "Plougher") is clearly a lazy peasant (ha! ha! ha!) who should be finishing his nightly chores but is instead actually pre-sleeping (ha! ha! ha!). His daughter, whom I suspect readers with certain inclinations might find mildly hot despite her cynocephaly, has more of a sense of her father's responsibilities than he does (ha! ha! ha!), though to be honest, she is probably about to sneak out through the window to meet with the fourth of her fifth paramours and attempt to entrap him into marriage through pregnancy (*tsk*...peasant girls!). We can laugh condescendingly at these stupid people, secure in the knowledge that because we are ourselves not Cynocephali, the activities of the Pluggers/Dog-Heads/Peasants remain entirely Other. Our shameful recognition of bits of ourselves in the slumbering Plugger is obviated by Brookins' framing of him as alien. The reader goes away happy while having been subtly mocked, and Megan Moran can take pride in the fact that though she is probably actually the dog-girl in the image, she is still above the events portrayed because she is not a dog-girl.**

*And sex, of course.
**This paragraph encompasses most of the reasons I am less than fond of theoryspeak.


Alkibiades said...

I adore this blog. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Er, gramercie, gramercie, gramercie.

Do you think the daughter will end up a cynic? :)

Angry Kem said...

I think the daughter is already a cynic. Smart girl.