Short Story Month: Fame for its own sake

Family Circus (Short Story Month #3)

For decades now (or is it cen­turies?), Fam­i­ly Cir­cus has served as the pre­em­i­nent newsprint bur­lesque of the arche­typ­i­cal nuclear fam­i­ly. By all accounts a hap­py clan made of equal parts love, patience, and igno­rance, the sur­name-lack­ing car­toon dynasty reveals its true pur­pose as a blis­ter­ing com­men­tary on the death of the North Amer­i­can dream, as well as a sly con­dem­na­tion of America’s evan­gel­i­cal Chris­t­ian right-wing patri­archy. Not for noth­ing has the series been labeled “The Handmaid’s Tale of the comics page.” If Mar­garet Atwood were to try her hand at sub­ver­sive car­toon­ing, I have no doubt Fam­i­ly Cir­cus would be the result.

In today’s sto­ry, Dol­ly, the sole female child in an overt­ly male-cen­tric fam­i­ly (and thus the psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly loneli­est and most prone to out­bursts of unfo­cused vio­lence), rails against the injus­tice of her sta­tus both in the name­less clan and in the greater soci­etal sphere she one day hopes to enter (keep dream­ing, O Age­less Won­der!). Going full meta, she asks not only of her typ­i­cal­ly absent fam­i­ly but also the read­er to “cheer her on” as she strives to con­tin­ue slog­ging through the mun­dane tasks that make up the major­i­ty of her exis­tence. Seek­ing an end, any end to this tor­ment, the young/old girl has evolved to encap­su­late the “new” Amer­i­can dream of fame at any cost, where­in our impres­sion­able younglings yearn to one day become not doc­tors or sci­en­tists or even rodeo rid­ers, but famous. Sure­ly, if the gods are kind, Kar­dashi­an-sized fame will be Dolly’s one day, if only achieved through a mass killing spree or Inter­net sex video.

Look at your­selves, and weep, for you your­selves are par­o­dies of human­i­ty!” is Dolly’s sub­text, heap­ing scorn upon the read­ers for their own fail­ures. We have let Dol­ly down, and by exten­sion, our chil­dren and our­selves. Shame on us all.