Masculinity comics 4

The One Big Happy comic strip from 8/3, a horse and monkey show:

(#1) It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a horse and a monkey, must have no need of a wife.

Ruthie and her brother Joe agree that having a horse and a monkey would be wonderful: a horse to ride, a monkey to entertain you with its hijinks. But Joe thinks that that should be enough for a full and happy life.

From my 10/6 posting “Masculinity comics 2”:

I’ve been accumulating comic strips having to do with boys and masculinity, in particular about what they’ve picked up about normatively masculine behavior and attitudes by the age of 8 or so: the age of the character Joe in the comic strip One Big Happy, who’s the older brother of Ruthie, age 6, who’s the central character of the strip. At the moment I have 5 strips (4 OBHs, plus a Zippy), overing a wide range of themes in normative masculinity for boys. To judge from the comics (and my recollections of boyhood), an 8-year-old has an extensive and pretty fine-grained command of the cultural norms of masculinity within his social group.

Joe’s attitude towards a wife (vs. a monkey and a horse) seems to be a somewhat goofy consequence of Michael Kimmel’s first rule of the Boy Code and the Guy Code: “[normative] masculinity is the relentless repudiation of the feminine” (see earlier postings on Kimmel in this series).

I assume that 8-year-old boys these days have some basic understanding of sex between men and women; that they will have noticed that whatever the Codes say about repudiating the feminine, it’s customary in our society for men and women to marry; and that they will have absorbed the currently dominant belief in our society that people marry for love (whatever that is). I have no idea how boys knit all of this stuff together into a package; I suspect that that there’s widespread haziness about some of it, and an enormous amount of variation as well.

In any case, the value of marriage and a wife will look like a rather dim and distant prospect to an 8-year-old, while the excitement and enjoyment of horses and monkeys is vividly in the present. So what, then, is the point of a wife if you’ve got a monkey and a horse?

Horse and monkey shows. Both horses and monkeys are eminently trainable, and both of them have been used for entertainment in public shows (monkeys for their disturbingly human characteristics). Or: the monkey can be trained to ride the horse, and the horse trained to be ridden by the monkey. As used to be done in circuses in many parts of the world. These horse and monkey shows then become engaging subjects for art, especially art for children.

Which brings me to Vladimir Lebedev’s The Circus, Horse & Monkey Rider (of 1925):

(#2) (photo from the site)

From Wikipedia on the artist:

Vladimir Vasilyevich Lebedev (Russian: Влади́мир Васи́льевич Ле́бедев) (14 (26) May 1891, in Saint Petersburg – 21 November 1967) was a Soviet painter and graphic artist. He became famous for his exceptional illustrations of the poems of the prominent poet and translator Samuil Marshak, such as Circus, Ice Cream, Tale About a Foolish Mouse, Moustached and Striped, Book of Many Colours, Twelve Months and Luggage.

And that is the end of my current stock of OBHs on boys and masculinity. But, still to come, a Zippy on boys and gross-out humor.

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