GARY TRUDEAU SUCKS
On Friday, the “Doonesbury” comic strip will include a panel in which one of the characters, a soldier in the Iraq war, uses a form of the word “suck” to describe his reaction to the death of a fellow soldier in an ambush.
“Sucks” has become today’s rough equivalent of what “bummer” was a few seasons ago, although it has far more of a negative, deploring implication and less of an air of sunny, California insouciance.
The word’s appearance in “Doonesbury” comes just a bit more than a month after Geoffrey Brown, the associate managing editor/features, refused to allow its use in another comic strip, “Zits.” When he and his counterpart at the Los Angeles Times both complained about the term to King Features, which syndicates “Zits,” the strip’s creator changed the word to “stinks.”
No such luck with Garry Trudeau, the creator of “Doonesbury.” Trudeau is an 800-pound gorilla in the comics world, a fellow who can do pretty much what he wants.
So Brown had to decide whether to pull the strip for the day and break the continuity of the story, or allow the use of “sucks.” He elected to do the latter.
Brown asked my advice and I urged him to let the word go in. It is crude, vulgar, coarse and inelegant, but not, I think, obscene. Or not any longer.
The now popular meaning originally was analogized from a description of a sexual act, but fewer and fewer of those who now use it so commonly are aware of that. It’s not my word of choice but it is the people’s choice, and not to acknowledge that just stinks.