Short Story Month: Ignore reality at your peril

Blondie (Short Story Month #11)

If you should perchance happen to look up the definition of sanguine, you will in all likelihood discover an image of Dagwood Bumstead staring back at you. Forever put-upon, this cartoon everyman is an eternal scapegoat, a Biblical Job who always fools himself into seeing hints of silver within every dark cloud; a sensibility which, of course, makes him a patsy par excellence.

Not that his “better half” is substantially any different. A true enabler, Blondie Bumstead née Boopadoop unwaveringly supports her husband’s many vices: his gambling addiction (an appetite often fed by close friend/neighbour/ne’er-do-well Herb Woodley); his lackadaisical attitude concerning work; his bulimia (never shown but certainly implied, as the man never gains an ounce of weight). Together, the hapless duo have withstood 85 years of 3-panel peril, all without once giving up hope, acting as avatars for unceasing optimism in the face of crippling reality.

And the audience? Blondie is classically designed less as a “slice-of-life comedy” and more as a showcase for Schadenfreude, the reader deriving all pleasure through witnessing the Bumstead’s boundless capacity for misfortune. Yes, times are tough for many of us 99 percenters, but surely we’re not all as far gone as this chump. Dagwood’s “head in the sand” mentality serves as warning to us all; ignore reality at your peril.

At this strip implies, the Bumsteads will be dining on tins of catfood before the year is done. Yet even when the inevitable destruction of the family unit finally occurs — Blondie flees her marriage to begin a mutually abusive relationship with Mail Carrier Beasley; Alexander and Cookie resort to unspeakable acts to feed themselves; Daisy finds herself over a barrel fire and devoured down to the marrow of her bones — the scarecrow-haired Dagwood will be smiling his idiotic grin as he wallows in the gutter, still looking up at the stars.

Good for him.