Monday, October 11, 2010

Purfect People?

I hate Marvin. I probably won't talk about it much because it's best mocked by the Comics Curmudgeon.

However, I stumbled upon the Wikipedia page, and I just have to comment on this:

In 2010, the Millers got new neighbors, the Purfects, who are so perfect they make the Millers feel inadequate. 

So the Purfects are... perfect? Oh, my! Marvin has been running since 1981, so there must be a need for some new ideas, but this doesn't sound like a very interesting one. In fact, it's a very worn-out idea in comics and TV shows: the perfect neighbors who put our protagonists to shame. Even if the Purfects are, undoubtedly, braggy and loathsome, the Millers will want to spend every moment of their free time with them, so that "hilarious" moments of envy and inferiority may occur. Wouldn't a mature grown up just shrug it off and spend their time with someone who's friendly and doesn't brag about their achievements?

Rodney Purfect has a Ph.D. and is a company president, has won the Heisman Trophy and climbed Mount Kiliminjaro. He is 6 feet 5 inches tall and very manly.

So the perfect man is tall, manly, athletic, and a business genius. Which is, of course, a bit much to ask of all men. Not to mention that "perfect" is always relative. These same qualities might make him an insecure, pretentious jerk who doesn't have time for his family and friends. But I didn't get mad until I read the female bit:

Barbie Purfect is a housewife who attended cooking school in Paris, was a cheerleader, class president and sorority president. 

Wait, what? So she was sorority president. That means she went to college. What was her major? What does she like outside of being a housewife? Why does it matter that she was a cheerleader and class president? That only means she was popular in high school, ages ago. Rodney's achievements were at least all achieved while he was an adult.

The cooking school in Paris is so comically old-fashioned that I had to laugh. This reads like it's still 1950, and a woman may go to college if she feels like it, but her most important achievements will always be in the fields of cooking, cleaning, and child care. It's troubling that the "perfect" woman is depicted as a housewife. Marvin's mother is a writer, so it would be more efficient if "Barbie" - groan; at least Rodney isn't named Ken - were an accomplished novelist or Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist. This would also put her on even keel with Rodney. But no. A woman's highest ambition is to be a trophy wife to a very successful man.
Rodney Perfect II is two and a half but reads at a third grade level, performed his piano composition for Queen Elizabeth II and was potty trained at 6 months.

Well, this is just ridiculous. Rodney Jr is actually putting his own parents to shame, because there's no mention of them performing to Queen Elizabeth II. (Why is it the queen and not the president - this is an American strip after all?) It's a bit confusing that Rodney's achievements are in the field of art, while his parents don't seem artistic at all. Is the idea of the artistic "wunderkind" still this pervasive?

I know Marvin is not the place to look for modern ideas, but do we have to be this backwards? Maybe we could agree, as a culture, that some stereotypes just deserve to die.

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