Thursday, January 15, 2009

I Bet You Had to Restrain Yourself Physically from Drawing a Sarcastic Halo

It's been a while since Jeff Keane (all grown up) has compared his big brother Billy to Jesus. Last time, he managed to humiliate Billy by drawing him standing in cruciform position while wearing a frilly pink dress. This time, Jeff is, on the surface, slightly less cruel; instead of implying that his brother looks ravishing in lace, he merely assaults the poor guy with a brain-cell-destroying pun. It is not a particularly good pun. Actually, none of the puns that appear in The Family Circus are particularly good puns. It does, however, allow Mr. Keane to use his knowledge of medieval philosophy to make Billy look like a jerkwad.

I seriously believe that Jeff Keane had a hard time not drawing a sarcastic halo here. Little Billy is very much a type of Christ in this comic: glowing, surrounded by the Little Lines of Enlightening,* ready to accost the poor unsuspecting world with his revelations about how 2+2=4. Mary and Joseph--er, Bil and Thel--are amazed by their son's raw intelligence, as well, I suspect, by the Little Lines; they are so impressed that Bil just has to say something incredibly stupid.

However, there is a dark side to this portrait. One should certainly aspire to the imitation of Christ, but Billy's smug smile implies that he is very pleased with his own brilliance. Was Christ not humble? Beware, Billy, of the Sin of Pride. To know you are a type of Christ is to prove that you are not a type of Christ. Jeff Keane, by portraying Billy as a self-satisfied Christ-like figure, is saying to his brother, "Billy, you're going to burn in Hell. In Hell, I say. I don't care that you work for Disney. I'm not at all jealous. You are going to weep blood as you boil in the fat of your victims! Want to come over for dinner on Sunday?"**

*We can't use the word "enlightenment"--oh, no--because that would destroy the pun. Heaven forbid we destroy the pun.
**We're having roast pork and baby peas.


Malkuth said...

Dear god. The pun was so bad that I had to read it a few times before I actually got it. I wonder if the authors of some of these comics lie awake at night, staring at the ceiling, wondering where it all went wrong. Or maybe it's just a diabolically subtle expression of misanthropy and making cruel puns like "enlightening" is the only way these people can find joy in their empty lives. I envision a black and white world, and every time a newspaper reader groans in intellectual agony, a dash of color returns to the landscape.

Anonymous said...

That left hand looks to be well on its way to a benediction sign. That should properly be the right hand, of course - another proof that poor Billy is straying from the path.

The Prettiest said...

Ah, but little Billy needs his right hand to hold his pencil wrong*.

* I hold my pencil (or more often pen) the same way. It makes writing a bit of a pain, but holding it the right way results in illegibility, and, ironically, even worse cramps.

jackd said...

I could be either ashamed or proud to say I failed to detect the pun at all. I think I will settle for 'relieved'.