GARY TRUDEAU SUCKS

From MediaReview via Romenesko comes this Chicago Tribune report of a comics controversy:

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.

FILED UNDER: Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bryan says:

    Hey, I knew you said Watterson. I was surprised John Hawkins left him out of the people who should come out of retirement. I thought Larson was losing it at the end anyway. I mean, how many more cow jokes could you do?

  2. James Joyner says:

    Indeed. Especially after the Chic Fil’A folks got done with them.

  3. Paul says:

    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.

    No, people are well aware what the word means. They use it anyway. Proving Daniel Patrick Moynahan and Judge Bork right.

  4. Paul says:

    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.

    No, people are well aware what the word means. They use it anyway. Proving Daniel Patrick Moynahan and Judge Bork right.

  5. James Joyner says:

    Paul,

    I suspect most people just use it to mean “is really lousy” without thinking of it in its sexual sense. Indeed, given its original meaning, I find that it is thought to be a bad thing rather amusing. Which reminds me of an old Carlin line I won’t repeat here.

  6. cj says:

    Well, no doubt I am unrepresentative, but I HATE the word suck. In our family it’s on the same list with the other no-no four letter words.

    Perhaps Mr. Trudeau would be better advised to direct his energies toward generating an ORIGINAL thought in his comic strip (now there’s an idea!!) — or he could just retire and rerun “Classic Doonesbury” ala Peanuts. Oh, you mean he’s NOT?

  7. James Joyner says:

    cj,

    I’ve gotten acclimated to it, I guess, since even kid’s hour tv shows use it. I’ve heard politicians use it, it’s so mainstream. I think most people use it in a thoughtless way, without regard to its original meaning, even if they are aware of that connotation.

  8. bryan says:

    When I was in high school, I was on a school bus traveling to a state football playoff game when I leaned out of the window and yelled at a car we passed “(name of local rival high school) sucks!” My student ID was taken and I was promptly given three days in school suspension. The reason: I used the word “sucks.” This was about 17 years ago.

  9. david h. doerr says:

    it must be told that gary trudeau is a communist and racist
    he holds the same no values as the rest of the liberals