Popeye, Bluto, and Danny Shanahan

Passed on by Tim Wilson on Facebook, this Danny Shanahan cartoon from 8/17/98, with Popeye and Bluto holding hands at a cocktail party, talking to a bemused woman:


Background information: on Popeye; on repressed homosexuality; and on Danny Shanahan.

Popeye the Sailor Man. Take 1: mostly on the comic strip, from Wikipedia:

Popeye the Sailor Man is a cartoon fictional character, created by Elzie Crisler Segar, who has appeared in comic strips and theatrical and television animated cartoons. He first appeared in the daily King Features comic strip Thimble Theatre on January 17, 1929; Popeye became the strip’s title in later years.

Although Segar’s Thimble Theatre strip was in its tenth year when Popeye made his debut, the sailor quickly became the main focus of the strip and Thimble Theatre soon became one of King Features’ most popular properties during the 1930s. Thimble Theatre was continued after Segar’s death in 1938 by several writers and artists, most notably Segar’s assistant Bud Sagendorf. The strip continues to appear in first-run installments in its Sunday edition, written and drawn by Hy Eisman. The daily strips are reprints of old Sagendorf stories.

Take 2, on the animated cartoon. From Wikipedia:

Popeye the Sailor is an American animated series of comedy short films based on the titular comic strip character created by E. C. Segar. In 1933, Max and Dave Fleischer’s Fleischer Studios adapted Segar’s characters into a series of Popeye the Sailor theatrical cartoon shorts for Paramount Pictures. The plotlines in the animated cartoons tended to be simpler than those presented in the comic strips, and the characters slightly different. A villain, usually Bluto, makes a move on Popeye’s “sweetie,” Olive Oyl. The villain clobbers Popeye until he eats spinach, giving him superhuman strength. Thus empowered, the sailor makes short work of the villain.

In the cartoon versions, the antagonism between Popeye and Bluto has to do with ther competition over Olive Oyl. The characters — Popeye and Olive, Bluto and Popeye:



Antagonism and same-sex attraction. Somewhere in David Sedaris’s writings he reports harassing other boys as queer, as a strategy for deflecting attention from his own susicious mannerisms and interests and indeed from his same-sex attractions (which were perfectly clear to him but which he could not conceivably admit in public). That was antagonism in service of consciously suppressed homosexuality. But at least since the time of Freud, people have suggested that antagonism towards homosexuals can result from unconsciously repressed same-sex attraction (in general, or towards specific people who arouse these attractions). From Wikipedia:

Latent homosexuality is an erotic inclination toward members of the same sex that is not consciously experienced or expressed in overt action. This may mean a hidden inclination or potential for interest in homosexual relationships, which is either suppressed or not recognized, and which has not yet been explored, or may never be explored.

… [ a] 1996 study conducted at the University of Georgia by Henry Adams, Lester Wright Jr., and Bethany Lohr…  reported that 24% of the non-homophobic men [in the study] showed some degree of tumescence in response to [a] male homosexual video, compared to 54% of the subjects who scored high on the homophobia scale.

So it’s possible that Bluto and Popeye’s intense antagonism towards one another may be concealing an intense sexual attraction. That’s the idea that Shanahan explores in #1 (which appeared not long after the Georgia study got a lot of press). So Bluto and Popeye admit ther attraction and end up as a happy, hot, and really butch couple.

Danny Shanahan.Two Shanahans with puns appeared on this blog on 7/15/12. Here are two more with linguistic content:


(note gender stereotypes)


On the cartoonist, from the New Yorker site:

Since 1988, Danny Shanahan … has contributed nearly nine hundred cartoons and nine covers to The New Yorker. His cartoons have appeared in several collections, including four of his own: “Lassie! Get Help!,” “Innocent, Your Honor,” “I’m No Quack,” and “Bad Sex!”

And from an Ink Spill interview:

This year [2013] Danny Shanahan  celebrates the 25th anniversary of his first contribution to The New Yorker (the issue of September 19, 1988). He’s in that small group of the magazine’s cartoonists who’ve done just about everything that can be done in The New Yorker, cartoon-wise: spreads, single panel cartoons, covers,  and illustrations.

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