Blondie Takes On Big Government


January 1996

Blondie Takes On Big Government


or decades, the comic strip Blondie has upheld the values of marriage, car pools, big sandwiches and running into the mailman. But late last year, Blondie shed its apolitical outlook with an eight-week-long story line assailing the inefficiency and diffidence of government officials.

Blondie, the middle-aged homemaker-turned-catering entrepreneur, decides to move her growing business out of the house and away from her hungry husband Dagwood. She rents an empty storefront near Main Street that needs renovation.

Blondie heads to City Hall for the required building permits, but she and Dagwood are alternately stymied by red tape and by jaded, nail-buffing bureaucrats. Later, a "white spotted-leg mouse" is found on the property and government enforcers appear en masse to halt her project.

Blondie cartoonist Dean Young, in a telephone interview from his Florida studio, said he sought to make Blondie's move out of the house a major event, and needed an eye-catching story line. He had read Philip K. Howard's recent book The Death of Common Sense (Random House), and realized that its stories of government regulation run amok contained "comic potential."

Young acknowledges that Blondie, which appears in more than 2,300 newspapers, usually does not address "profound" topics, and added that the only real agenda of the recent narrative was to provide some "chuckles and laughs" for readers to counteract the rest of the news, which tends to be "full of gloom."

And indeed, Young said his unusually large volume of feedback has been overwhelmingly positive-even from such unlikely sources as his local city hall, which asked for a copy of one of the Sunday panels from the series to hang on its wall.

Staff at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the American Federation of Government Employees say they haven't encountered much anger about Blondie. A few years ago, government secrertaries complained that the Beetle Bailey character Miss Buxley was demeaning to their profession, and AFSCME followed up with a written protest to the strip's illustrator, Mort Walker. Recently, another traditionally apolitical strip, Nancy, ran a "Scariest Scarecrow Contest" whose winner was a pinstriped, audit-wielding Internal Revenue Service official. "Obviously we don't like to see public employees portrayed in a negative way at all," says Janet Rivera of AFSCME.

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