Friday, January 31, 2014

280. That's Doctor Sinatra, You Little Bimbo! by G. B. Trudeau


G.B. Trudeau's That's Doctor Sinatra, You Little Bimbo! (Henry Holt and Company, 1985) is the second Graphic Novel I have read, or remember reading. Trudeau covers several issues with interlinking stories. The issues he broaches are those ironies that exist in democratic countries, in this case America. He covers almost every sphere of life: economics, politics, culture, social issues, and others. For instance, with illustrations, Trudeau punches or makes fun at the emergence of TV series, tanning, and the abortion-pro-life debate. In the latter, he satirises how the president's - perhaps Reagan's - role in a propagandist documentary that favoured the pro-lifers. In one of the skits he laughed at medical colleges at universities producing drugs under the guise of research and the FDAs banning drugs with potential psychiatric value.

Trudeau also covers politics - both international and internal. Internally, issues such as racism and apartheid were discussed. Internationally, he clearly showed America's relationship with South Africa, the US-Soviet relations, and China's anti-West policies and state control in everything, including the arts. Some of the stories are geo-specific and peculiar to the United.

On internal issues, we meet the larger-than-the-law status of American celebrities. It is this that gave the title to this book. It shows how those who have the money to spend are always above the law. And Frank Sinatra was one of them. In a casino when he was told that house rules requires that the supervisor of the shuffles the cards before dealing, he demanded that she deals the cards. When she demanded that the right thing be done, because she could lose her job, Sinatra asked for her boss. And when he arrived the boss told the lady
What's the matter with you, girl? Frank Sinatra is above the rules! He's above simple courtesy! he does it his way! [author's emphasis]
The idea that people choose poverty or that only lazy individuals become poor has been with us and still is. The fact that the poor work hard and earn nothing is lost on people. This is captured by Trudeau in one of the skits. In this, he talks about how people believe that helping the homeless is a way of encouraging vagrancy. When a woman on such a campaign approached wealthy white women and broached her mission that she had a strategy to get people off the street into proper accommodation, these rich women were not willing to help, saying that they would have gladly helped if it were a home for animals or for a big disease.
It's not that we don't care. Au contraire, we adore good causes. It's just these shelters for the homeless have a way of encouraging vagrancy. If only it were an animal shelter. Or a big disease. If it were one of the big diseases, I could have a party.
Trudeau also talked about the emancipation of women. In this funny skit, a woman who had been looking for Mr Right for a long time finally decided that she was giving up and was throwing a party to declare her intentions to end her search. In effect, Trudeau is asking that women should take their lives into their own hands and not live their lives as if it is a man that will make it complete. They should not postpone living until they are married. Taking back their lives make them respectable and happy.

However, he also calls for equal decision-making and the dangers of women empowerment becoming men subjugation so that a wife's decisions are the only ones that rule the family. There was also a choice between careers and child raising, an issue that is still discussed. Through this Trudeau discussed the unjustifiable and rapid increases in the cost of standard of living, which put the less privileged in society farther from the city centres and out of habitable homes, onto the streets.

Racism is not strange. Even today, no one can say that racial discrimination is a thing of the past. Even presidents suffer it. Thus, it is not strange that Trudeau covers it. What is strange is that there is (or was) economic apartheid in one section of the country deemed too prestigious for the poor to loiter. In Palm Beach it is required that domestic workers or servants carry their identity cards or risk being charged for loitering. And Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be arrested. And Trudeau compares this with South Africa under apartheid. And like the inventors of apartheid, the people justify their actions, explaining that it gives the workers a sense of belonging - knowing that they are secure. They claim that it is the right thing to do even when until 1979, 114 years after the civil war, blacks could not own property in Palm Beach.
Ordinarily, dear, it's a good system. In fact our employees all love it. It gives them a sense of belonging. The cards make them feel like members of our big Palm Beach family! [Are they?] Don't be silly, dear. It's just something they can show their friends. ... We've really made great progress with the races recently. Why, in 1979 we did away completely with an ordinance banning negroes from owning property. .... [114 years after the civil war?]
The Soviet-US antagonism was expressed in Ethiopia, at a time when Mengistu was the favourite of the Soviets and was credited for anything the US did. It also shows how Mengistu used starvation as a weapon in the civil war so that even the food, medicines, vehicles supplied by the Americans to be used by aid workers remained locked up at ports and it took raids and bribery to get them to the people who needed them to survive. In the midst of all these the people were conscientised to credit the Soviets for every act of kindness - even if they were carried out by the US. And whilst the US supplied food, medicine and others - the Soviets supplied military accouterments. In between, celebrities visited the country in the name of representing the US and working in the interest of Americans. They sang songs, made albums on aid and charity (as they do now, ask Bono) and about the suffering of Africans and became the voice of Africans.

There is also a sarcastic statement of serious import, that bothers on recent pretensions, on the USA-South Africa relations. In this skit president Ronald Reagan was holding a benefit recording for 'USA FOR SOUTH AFRICA' dubbed 'Apart-Aid' with proceeds going to the purchase of computers for the needy security forces. These stories show the mentality of Americans at the time. The message Reagan preached through Rev. Falwell was: 'Patience, Faith, & Trust' and 
[R]espect for the freedom of people to live how they choose, even if that means living apart. Being apart isn't necessarily injustice.
Does this sound like something you have heard before? Yes. It means people do not change. This is a satirical collections of stories that received castigation and was lambasted by senators and other members of Congress. These stories have the ability to make us reflect as and question our actions. Introspection to reveal the emptiness of our boasts is what Trudeau sought to achieve with this book.

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