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.