austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

If you're sinking in quicksand, and it's dragging you down

I quipped in passing about feeling moral outrage at a Mark Trail plot recently and that wasn't simply me being sarcastic. I've been reading it lately and generally having fun with the modestly goofy world therein, but was bothered with the recently concluded plot. In that story, Mark Trail finds one of his many old friends never mentioned before and never to be mentioned again, Patty, has partly domesticated Bucky the deer, and she's anxious about it. Husband Ken hates the deer, but they can't have children and Patty needs something to leave droppings in her living room, and he only really hits her when nobody's looking anyway. Trail learns Ken's business has been in bad shape lately, which makes him understand why he's abusing his wife and a deer. After Ken decides the way to make Patty really obey is to shoot Bucky and order her to stop thinking about the deer, well, there's some clowning around in the Lost Forest, Bucky gets his antlers tangled up with another deer's, Mark Trail cuts the deer free, and Bucky goes off to ram Ken in the stomach. In the hospital, Ken starts to apologize for being a jerk, but Trail says there's no need. And now he promises he won't hit his wife anymore, and they'll adopt a kid now.

Well. For the most part I appreciate the slightly goofy and shaving-oriented moral code of the Mark Trail universe for what it is, but this annoyed me on many fronts. Enough fronts, in fact, that I wrote King Features Syndicate to complain about the bad treatment of the premise. And Claudia Smith, Director of Advertising and Public Relations, wrote back. Quoting in part:

King Features has received approximately 30 e-mails from readers of the MARK TRAIL comic strip who have been very disappointed about the recent spousal abuse storyline.

Cartoonist Jack Elrod has always tried to combine good storytelling with educational information about the environment and other important issues. In this case, he should have done a better job of researching the facts about domestic violence in preparation for writing his story and we should have done a better job of seeing the faults in the story, and suggested changes be made before allowing it to be distributed to our newspaper clients.

[ Smith notes that the Between Friends strip did a well-received storyline about spousal abuse last year. ]

We can only apologize sincerely to the readers of MARK TRAIL for this oversight and endeavor to be more vigilant in the future.

This is probably the most trivial moral victory that anyone could possibly win. It still leaves me glad. And apparently Mark Trail has at least thirty readers interested enough in it to complain when it crosses a line. And I can get back into the new storyline. In this one the two most incompetent fugitives ever realize after spending the afternoon hanging out in the Lost Forest Circle Mall Food Court that a picture Mark Trail's creepy miniature doppleganger took might just have them be visible in frame, so they go up to Kid Trail and offer to buy his camera right then, and when that fails, ask cashier Grover Cleveland where the kid lives, and he tells them. It's weirdly reassuring to be back on goofy message.

Trivia: The Leaning Tower of Pisa's inscription reads (in Latin) ``This campanile was founded in the month of August AD 1174''. Pisa at the time counted years as the year which would be complete the next 25th of March; so the year was 1173 by the modern calendar. Source: Tilt: A Skewed History of the Tower of Pisa, Nicholas Shrady.

Currently Reading: Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson, David S Reynolds.


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