Doonesbury Passes the Torch to a New Generation

Posted on August 3, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Doonesbury was the voice of my generation.  Joanie Caucus and I started law school the same year.  As the Doonesbury characters were getting married and having children, and surviving the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, my friends and I were, too.  Vietnam, Watergate, AIDS, the women’s movement, yuppies, gay rights, oil, scandals, dictators, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, love, loss, families, from the personal to political and back again — all were reflected, mocked, and illuminated in Garry Trudeau’s comic strip, in some papers placed on the editorial page instead of the comic page.  His insightful and sympathetic portrayal of wounded veterans has been exceptionally moving.

And now, with the wedding of Mike’s daughter Alex to the Iraqi war veteran Toggle, the strip is shifting to make her and her generation the focus.  Alyssa Rosenberg has a lovely and touching  tribute to this generational shift on Think Progress.

Daily cartoon strips may not get as much credit as they ought to for shaping the cultural zeitgeist, but throughout her life, and mine, Alex Doonesbury’s been one of the best female characters, of any age, in any medium. She’s a child of divorced parents with a complicated relationship with her mother that made her mature and self-protective rather than the victim of cliche trauma, and loving, collaborative tie to her stepmother, a Vietnamese refugee adopted by American Jews. In addition to both of these women, Alex has a father who spars with her on politics, works with her on business projects, and treats her like a mature person with worthy ideas. She’s been a full member of the cast almost from her birth because she was that important in Mike’s life, and she became so in ours. Alex is a computer genius without falling into sexy hacker tropes, and her skills brought her closer to her parents and all the way to MIT, a point of pride so fierce that MIT students rigged the voting to win her as a fictional fellow student. And her love story with Toggle, a disabled veteran with less education and a decidedly different family background from Alex’s own, has been part of Doonesbury’s transition into a more expansive portrait of American life.

In walking her down the aisle to Toggle at her June wedding, Mike ceded pride of place in her heart to a new man, and informally deeded the strip to a new generation of characters.

 

Once again, Trudeau’s timing is impeccable, and I look forward to following Alex and Toggle — and watching how the original characters continue their own adventures as elder statesmen and emereti.

 

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Tribute: Doonesbury’s Mom and Marshall’s Dad

Posted on January 8, 2011 at 1:39 pm

We don’t often see death in comic strips and sit-coms. But on “How I Met Your Mother,” Marshall Erickson (Jason Segal) lost his beloved father Marvin (played by Bill Fagerbakke). And the title character in Garry Trudeau’s comic strip, currently celebrating its 40th anniversary of publication, lost his feisty mother Daisy. In both cases, the deaths occurred out of sight but the audience shared in the loss as we see the impact on the characters that to some of us feel like family.
Doonesbury has run a week of strips about the memorial service for Daisy, mostly focusing on the insensitive behavior of Mike’s ex-wife J.J. and his brother. In “How I Met Your Mother,” Marshall, who was very close to his parents, got the bad news in the last moment of the episode. I hope future shows will show Marshall and his wife Lily as they try to understand their loss and find a way to keep the best of Marshall’s father close to them.
I admire both Doonesbury and “How I Met Your Mother” for their willingness to bring the challenges of parental loss to their stories.
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Doonesbury Honors Our Military and Veterans

Posted on November 11, 2010 at 3:58 pm

toggle.jpegNo one in the mainstream media has done a better job of portraying the valor of our military and the challenges they face during and after their service than Garry Trudeau. His Doonesbury comic strips, especially those about the wounded veteran Toggle, show tremendous dedication and understanding. B.D., a football player who served in Vietnam, appeared in the very first strip, 40 years ago. He returned to combat in Iraq and was injured there. A one-dimensional character almost never seen without his football helmet became a fully-realized and sympathetic figure who had to find a way to deal with his feelings about the loss of his leg when his daughter was frightened by his withholding and anger. In a thoughtful interview in the current Rolling Stone, Trudeau talks about that story.

I literally blasted B.D. out of his life of settled complacency. Exposed to sudden, brutal loss, B.D. became vulnerable in a way that was unfamiliar and frightening to him. He had to change to survive, to rebuild his resilience and create a new normal for himself.

A Washington Post article by Gene Weingarten provides a rare glimpse into the visits the famously private Garry Trudeau makes to veterans hospitals and his other contacts with the people who serve in the military. Trudeau also established the Sandbox blog for military and their families to share their experiences.
if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget(‘4219b29c-51c3-4695-b16d-c72c1fe3c75c’);Get the Doonesbury’s The Sandbox: Military Blog widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)

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