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"Makes you feel kind of desperate, doesn’t it?" *Mblgpf.*
May 5, 2013 10:43 PM   Subscribe

"By the time Cathy began, the sexual revolution had ended, so the strip stands as a perfect artifact of a moment when the cultural understanding of coercion changed completely—a moment when, one could argue, second-wave feminism basically died. With its baby-boomer characters, Cathy dramatizes the aftermath: the ’60s ended when it became clear that a revolutionary movement toward a just society wasn’t happening; the ’70s ended up being about trying to navigate the wreckage of the ’60s. The ’80s were largely about looking for strategies to accept injustice and inequality, and to construe that acceptance itself as a positive value.

"Cathy takes its place in this cultural progression by drilling in the notion that it doesn’t matter what the law says: you are being coerced not by the state but by your desire to be valued."
posted by Rory Marinich (78 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sarcasm can't make for effective anything. And Cathy is just ACK!!
posted by unliteral at 10:52 PM on May 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Rory, thank you for this.
posted by hellojed at 11:00 PM on May 5, 2013


God, I spent my teen years groaning aloud at Cathy over the breakfast table. It really got under my skin. I never found Cathy sarcastic; I found it resentfully defeatist. How nice to see someone giving it a little analysis; I think she's right about where it sits culturally between waves of feminism, and what it reflects in that sense, but I'm not sure I can see the line she's trying to draw to a redeeming feminist message. I certainly never did. As a 1980s teenager, it depressed me no end.
posted by Miko at 11:04 PM on May 5, 2013 [26 favorites]


Squeezed between Hagar the Horrible and Andy Capp. At least we had Bloom County.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:10 PM on May 5, 2013 [16 favorites]


And thank God for that. I still miss it (but I have the anthology). It was an oasis in the morass of terrible, retrogressive comics.
posted by Miko at 11:34 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not fair to consider Bloom County alongside Cathy. It exists on a whole other plane of being.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:50 PM on May 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


One of those articles that just got going when it ended.
posted by telstar at 11:50 PM on May 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


Cathy was the sort of prosaic face of the failure of 60's ideals. While the Bonfire of the Vanities crowd was hoovering up endless rails of coke and making the fattest sold-out boomer fat-cats fatter, Cathy was the cat-loving boomer next door, railing on about how her love of cake was making her fat.

Compared to, say, Doonsbury's deadpan, or Garfield's almost super-feline sarcasm, Cathy always felt thoroughly consumerist in the most alienatingly earnest way. A good friend, and one of the hippest early adopters I know, used to clip Cathy strips and send them to me. It's a tribute to the Cathy strip's iconic over-the-top banality that I'm still not sure how ironic this was.
posted by perhapsolutely at 11:54 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Weirdly enough, I got into Cathy for a while through my high school's American Humor class, since she participated in a bunch of documentaries about independent cartooning in the '80s/'90s. She was (maybe still is) a fan of Linda Barry. Cathy, like Garfield, started out as not resolutely terrible, then built a brand on inescapable tropes and really roped herself in, away from any ability to comment constructively, and by the end was just this weird byword for a vison of women that was totally outside my experience and the experience of every woman I know.
posted by klangklangston at 11:56 PM on May 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, Cathy was very much one of the early "lifestyle" strips (or whatever they're called) -- small, single-issue comic mineshafts that would target a particularly rich demographic vein. In this case, single women, but obviously others include Baby Blues and Zits.
posted by dhartung at 12:12 AM on May 6, 2013


It's ok to like 'Ziggy'. Right?
posted by mazola at 12:19 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Overthinking a plate of Funky Winkerbeans.
posted by chavenet at 12:26 AM on May 6, 2013 [25 favorites]


Ha ha, all you old people and your dead-tree newspaper comics. How archaic. I'll bet you also looked in the classified ads when you wanted a job. After you've finished reading yesterday's news, of course.

Hey, ouch! Those bottles of prescription medication you're pelting me with really hurt!
posted by MattMangels at 12:43 AM on May 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


Ack.

Ack ack.
posted by Wolof at 12:46 AM on May 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


This induces in me a sort of low level panic about... being.

Ack. Ack indeed.
posted by cmoj at 12:55 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cathy, like an awful lot of long-running comic strips, actually started out as pretty sharp and funny and then had a decline. No, really. It was worn away by year after year of the need to produce a joke a day, every day. Forever. Only a few people have ever been able to really manage that for a period spanning decades without eventually falling into routine, repetition, and the easy gag.

But read the set of early strips where her boss sexually harasses her and she punches him in the face. (Yeah, that happened. In Cathy.) It was kind of a different strip then.

Cathy hadn't been funny for something like thirty years when it finally ended. Which means that not many people remember when it was. Oh, well. At least it didn't outlive its creator and become a zombie strip, the way so many seem to do.
posted by kyrademon at 1:12 AM on May 6, 2013 [21 favorites]


That was pretty good but I don't actually believe the double standard Andrea identifies. Perhaps the world has changed since 1976 but I believe that what we expect of men is that they resist marriage and commitment, they date a long string of women until out of the blue the unthinkable happens, they meet the right one and decide to be a better man.

What do we really say about men who say they want a girlfriend or wife, but always seem to fail. We don't call them sincere, at best we pity them, thinking maybe we have a friend to introduce them to. At worst we call them creeps and losers.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:17 AM on May 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


Bill the Cat's acks are more meaningful and heartfelt than Cathy's.
posted by Sleeper at 2:00 AM on May 6, 2013 [20 favorites]


It seems that Cathy got a lot of mileage out of This Loser Is You trope.
posted by Human Flesh at 2:17 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I miss The Boondocks.
posted by Acheman at 2:57 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


What a nice link, Rory, thanks!
posted by infini at 3:03 AM on May 6, 2013


I never laughed at Cathy; I always found it to be a vaguely threatening indictment against the patriarchy. I'm surprised that a strip this subversive ever got published in mainstream American newspapers.
posted by Renoroc at 3:14 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


If it was supposed to be sarcastic, I never got it. The fact that the insecurity of Cathy was the only theme explored makes me think it was unfunny regardless of the motivation. I have been a little too harsh on the hate perhaps.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:53 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


"By satisfying people's inner selfish desires one made them happy and thus docile. It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate our world today."

The Century of the Self
posted by dragonsi55 at 4:04 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


The column's conclusion was unsatisfactory for me. Rooney gives Cathy authority to ask questions of liberation, but Cathy refused to liberate herself. She was single, childless, and not economically trapped, but her self-value never changed. This is what led me to despise Guisewite -- that choice she made to excuse Cathy's long-term addiction to self-inflicted misery.

Ha ha. Ack!
posted by surplus at 4:17 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Sanctified viewers should be aware that midway through Episode Three of THE CENTURY OF THE SELF are four scenes (approx 5-10sec each) which contain some nudity. The first three scenes fall between 00:37:30 - 00:38:45 and the last occurs at 00:42:00. If Adam had left these clips out of the documentary - we feel it would have been impactful enough. But the fact that these scenes were not removed from the original 2002 PBS BBC-Four "On-Air" Broadcast helps to prove Adam's overall point about the engineering of cultural degradation. We have worked around the problem locally by pixelating those scenes in our "off-line" DVD version. Please contact us via email if you would like to obtain FREE OF CHARGE your own copy of this important documentary on DVD. "

Ack!
posted by fullerine at 4:18 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ack! Thptpft!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:31 AM on May 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Cathy never appealed to me, but from my now far-distant vantage point, I wonder had I paid more attention to the cumulative effect of the strips whether I'd have had a bit more insight about life as a woman in our society. That sounds like I'm lending more weight to the strip than it probably deserves, and with a much broader brush, too, but I think there is a nagging clue there for those who can find it.

It can't only be me who finds it hard to lend credence to the opinions of anyone who thinks Jimmy Carter was (or is) a "desperate loser."
posted by maxwelton at 4:34 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel like I should go back and read some of the strips again, and see if I get something different out of it now than I did as a 5 year old. I honestly think that more than Disney Princesses, more than Barbie and Ken, more than any TV show I ever saw and certainly more than anything I saw in real life, it was Cathy that convinced me as a very young child that the life of a single thirty-something woman would be bland and empty, with nothing but depression, self-loathing and loneliness.
posted by cairdeas at 4:54 AM on May 6, 2013 [15 favorites]


(In fairness, Billy Joel gave me the exact same feeling at that age about people who hang out in bars, with Piano Man, but I guess I got to start personally experiencing fun in bars way earlier in life...)
posted by cairdeas at 4:58 AM on May 6, 2013


I always liked Cathy. It was a newsprint sitcom (and I have always loved sitcoms) with realistic characters whom I could identify with, even as a kid, in their levels of anxiety (if not, then, the reasons for the anxiety.)

I think if you hate Cathy but like, say, Woody Allen, you should think a little about why it is that "chick flicks" and "chick lit" are derogatory terms, and how often media targeted at women is dismissed as low-brow and banal.

I agree with the article that "Cathy" was critiquing its main character even while encouraging us to identify with her. Like "Of course these are such stupid things to spend your life worrying about. And yet, this is what so many women's lives are like. Isn't it ridiculous?"
posted by OnceUponATime at 5:00 AM on May 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


more than anything I saw in real life, it was Cathy that convinced me as a very young child that the life of a single thirty-something woman would be bland and empty, with nothing but depression, self-loathing and loneliness

This is why I disliked Cathy so much; she was a defeatist who gave up on any cultivating any other other aspect of her life. I for one do not have have thin thighs, but it has hardly been a constant source of pain and depression, there are other things in life more important than thin thighs.

In fact her relationship with her boyfriend irritated me beyond belief. She accepted being a needy, bottomless well of disappointment because he was never going to be the uber-romantic Prince Charming coming to sweep her off her feet.I kept wanting her to grow, to open her eyes to her unrealistic expectations but instead the strip was a flowery, heart-strewn love letter to all passive-aggressive women with low self-esteem and very little curiosity about the world. These are not my people and I admit to despising them a bit.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:17 AM on May 6, 2013 [29 favorites]


SYN
SYN-ACK
ACK
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:31 AM on May 6, 2013 [15 favorites]


On the upside, we did get the strips where Ray prank-calls Cathy out of it
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:31 AM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I read the strip for years when my parents had a newspaper or three delivered every day and then when I did for a while. I never quite got it but figured if I kept reading it, one day I would. Well I never did get it, but in hindsight, maybe I did.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:42 AM on May 6, 2013


When I was a kid, I read the heck out of Cathy. I was not a career woman; I was not struggling to appeal to men; I had no strong feelings about trying on bathing suits or shopping for shoes; my mom was not attempting to fix me up, nor were my friends pressuring me to have a baby. It would be easy enough to dismiss my affection for the strip as originating before I understood feminism or could articulate why so much of Cathy was damaging and retrograde. But perhaps my failure of taste was not a failure so much as a search for social scripts.

Wow, THIS THIS AND THIS. Anyone reading this who knows me can now laugh in horror: I remember Wake Me Up When I'm a Size 5 and Thin Thighs in Thirty Years; I had a copy of both in one hardcover volume when I was about ten.

Reading Cathy provided a response, surprisingly difficult to find elsewhere, to the unutterable question What if I’m average?

I mean, also I just really liked sarcasm as a kid, and I'm not claiming I could have articulated this at the time. But remember how the Barbie jingle in the 80s went "we girls can do anything?" As one of the legions of smart girls praised for achievement but not for effort, and blah blah then I never learned how to learn until adulthood, it certainly feels true that I needed an antidote to "we can do anything."
posted by clavicle at 5:48 AM on May 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Cathy is what Chuck Palahniuk would have written instead of Fight Club if he had been female.
posted by localroger at 6:00 AM on May 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


I started reading Cathy but it didn't take long before I couldn't tell one strip from another and concluded I had read them all.
posted by tommasz at 6:03 AM on May 6, 2013


Unfortunately, my friend abandoned this tumblr a little while back, but it seems apropros to link:

Kathy. Ack.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:20 AM on May 6, 2013 [27 favorites]


Sleeper: "Bill the Cat's acks are more meaningful and heartfelt than Cathy's."

Those are hairballs.

I think Bill's were too.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:25 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


This article reminded me of an incident circa 1990 when Cathy mentioned giving someone a "swirly" in the bathroom. At that time, the term "swirly," meaning to dunk someone's head in the toilet while it flushes, was not widely known. Many readers thus assumed it was a reference to fellatio. At the time the Washington Post ran an article on the mini-scandal, but I couldn't find it on their website.
posted by HeroZero at 6:30 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Uhhh Greg Nog your friend's tumblr is one of the best things I have ever seen. Wow. This needs to be resurrected.
posted by cairdeas at 6:31 AM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I liked Cathy as a kid, mostly because Cathy and her mother talking and then spazzing out and getting flustered was pretty much my mom and my eldest sister.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:36 AM on May 6, 2013


Cathy is what Chuck Palahniuk would have written instead of Fight Club if he had been female.
posted by localroger at 9:00 AM on May 6 [+] [!]


Unfortunately for everyone, he wrote "Invisible Monsters" instead.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:37 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing about Cathy is that it worked as both commentary and meta-commentary.

You could read it and say, "yeah, God I hate it when my coffee is cold by the time I can drink it."

Or you could read it and say, "yeah, God I hate it when my life is basically all about worrying about whether or not my coffee is cold by the time I can drink it."

It's really a cautionary tale with a cloaking field.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:41 AM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I really like this reading of Cathy. I mean, you're not supposed to assume Cathy is a real person, right? In the same way that Garfield is a (poorly-executed) symbol for all the catness that makes cats amusing, Cathy is the sum total of all the meaningless anxieties that patriarchal society is careful to cultivate in women (i.e. their bodies, the race to motherhood, meaningless rituals that supposedly give you access to higher social value like marriage and Valentine's Day) in order to control them. I agree with Sean up there; Cathy is a pithy warning not to get caught up in that stuff lest you end up ACK!ing away your best years.
posted by Mooseli at 6:54 AM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sweat drops, sweat drops.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:54 AM on May 6, 2013


Cathy was Sex and the City without any sex. Discuss.
posted by emjaybee at 7:03 AM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Like the Utz girl before her and the Bratz after her, Cathy is part of our long tradtion of female noselessness.
posted by jonmc at 7:10 AM on May 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


And the reason why Cathy had to cloak its meta-commentary is that no one wants to read a comic strip about how sucky their life is. I firmly believe Cathy occupies the same strata of social commentary as All in the Family.

There was humour within that show you didn't have to think too hard about to appreciate if you grew up in that era, but it was also a meta-commentary about a particular type of family.

You could sit in the same room with your own asshole father and your own febrile mother and you could all laugh at Carroll O'Connor berating Maureen Stapleton for fucking up because she was afraid of being berated -- because it was exactly what was going on in your own home, but rather than trying to highlight how sad a situation it was through heavy handed pathos, it cranked the situational dial to bathos instead -- and you could all laugh while still realizing how fucked up it all was. And they got away with it for 9 seasons and how many Emmy awards?

Cathy wouldn't have lasted as long as it did if she'd rubbed your nose in how much your life sucked. Instead she just pointed out time and again how annoying it is to have to clean your nose every day.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:18 AM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Nice piece. As telstar said, it had just got going when it ended, but the end is worth posting here so it doesn't get overlooked amid all the snark:
The title of a Cathy anthology from 1980, the year of my birth, asks: What Do You Mean, I Still Don’t Have Equal Rights??! To its credit, this title asserts the right to equality not just of exceptional women but of all women; the sentiment gains more rather than less authority when expressed by a stressed-out, pudgy, romantically frustrated and professionally undervalued female character. Note the terminal punctuation: the interrogatives invite discussion while the exclamation conveys critique. Thirty-two years later, Cathy’s question is still worth asking.
And for all you "But it didn't advance women's liberation!" folks: not everything has to advance good causes. Lot's of good things just say "Hey, this is what life is like (for me/someone/a lot of people)." Also, like kyrademon said, Cathy started out sharp and funny.
posted by languagehat at 7:20 AM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Even though I am not an American woman, I am now really tempted to write "Do not ACK! away your best years" in lipstick on my mirror as a mantra for daily living.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:20 AM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is a good article, but . . . any piece of popular media about everyday life that reappears every single day for thirty-four years is going to go some distance towards normalizing whatever it portrays, and in Cathy's case what it normalized was self-hatred.

Hating or blaming the strip itself for the problems it portrays is kind of missing the point, but at the same time, I'm glad it's not out there anymore.
posted by ostro at 7:31 AM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


It seems that Cathy got a lot of mileage out of This Loser Is You trope.

That was sort of the point of the article:
Reading Cathy provided a response, surprisingly difficult to find elsewhere, to the unutterable question What if I’m average?
But I don't think she was as much loser as mensch.

And yeah, to be honest, sure, the humor was sub-par, but as a cultural artifact, how many other leading ladies in any medium of that time were allowed to be failures? It certainly registered with me as a child as well.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:48 AM on May 6, 2013


That analysis of the 60s, 70s, and 80s is extremely sophomoric.
posted by Twang at 8:25 AM on May 6, 2013


But remember how the Barbie jingle in the 80s went "we girls can do anything?" As one of the legions of smart girls praised for achievement but not for effort, and blah blah then I never learned how to learn until adulthood, it certainly feels true that I needed an antidote to "we can do anything."

*blink*

....Oh my god. this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:29 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


What do we really say about men who say they want a girlfriend or wife, but always seem to fail. We don't call them sincere, at best we pity them, thinking maybe we have a friend to introduce them to. At worst we call them creeps and losers. -- Ad hominem at 1:17 AM

At best we call them unconfirmed bachelors, single, lucky, divorced, careful, skittish, uncommitted, unlucky, conflicted, or closeted... etc.

At worst... Ouch I hope you're not a post-divorce therapist.
posted by surplus at 9:01 AM on May 6, 2013


I liked Cathy in the 80s because it WAS one of the only comics that featured a woman, and that didn't HATE women, like The Lockhorns or Andy Capp. Even better was Sylvia, by Nicole Hollander, but that became hard to find.
posted by jfwlucy at 9:34 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


While the Bonfire of the Vanities crowd was hoovering up endless rails of coke

It's not easy to snort coke when you don't have a nose.
posted by Ratio at 9:40 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh shit, I've got a new theory coming on. Is Cathy the same character as Charlie Brown, just post trans* transition? And despite the transition that fixed some of her problems, is she still haunted by the same depression and ennui that snatched so much of her potential childhood happiness like a Lucy-held football? It's all there, the humor that's only funny until you think about it (at which point it becomes soul-crushingly brutal), the oversized head, and most of all the relentless unhappiness.

This isn't even touching on the "ACK!/AUGHH!" comparison.
posted by stet at 9:41 AM on May 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


"By the time Cathy began [1976], the sexual revolution had ended..."
"the ’70s ended up being about trying to navigate the wreckage of the ’60s"

The writer obviously did not experience the 70s firsthand. Pop culture, unprotected sex (beyond the Pill), drugs and excess in general dominated across generations and other demographic demarcations well into that decade's final year. The 60s were barely an afterthought. The Iran hostage crisis, the '79 energy crisis, Three Mile Island, and the Soviet's invasion of Afghanistan were a wake-up call for conservatives to retake power and suppress new-found freedoms, and from which this country never fully recovered.
posted by Ardiril at 10:00 AM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


HeroZero: "This article reminded me of an incident circa 1990 when Cathy mentioned giving someone a "swirly" in the bathroom. At that time, the term "swirly," meaning to dunk someone's head in the toilet while it flushes, was not widely known."

I can assure you that the term 'swirly' was known as the toilet head dunking term at Hummingbird Music Camp in NM in the early 1980s, as well as the YWCA camp in the late 1970s.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:07 AM on May 6, 2013


jonmc: "Like the Utz girl before her and the Bratz after her, Cathy is part of our long tradtion of female noselessness."

The missing nose isn't as jarring as the vacant stare of Little Orphan Annie, or the pantslessness of Donald Duck.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:14 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think if you hate Cathy but like, say, Woody Allen, you should think a little about why it is that "chick flicks" and "chick lit" are derogatory terms, and how often media targeted at women is dismissed as low-brow and banal.

I agree with the sentiment completely, but I disagree that those terms are necessarily derogatory. I’m a fairly manly man and I occasionally have read and enjoyed "chick-lit", and call it that. I don’t mean anything disparaging by the term. I just mean that I know that I’m not the target audience so I should be careful not to judge it on my terms, but instead appreciate it for what it is.

Is Fight Club "dude-lit"? I say yes. Along with "Lost in Translation" and "Up in the Air" (the book and the movie) some of the few things that actually seem to be written/filmed with any understanding of what men are actually like, instead of the constant stream of bachelor party schlubs and ass kickers.

I liked Cathy when I was younger, but that was the 80’s.
posted by bongo_x at 10:25 AM on May 6, 2013


From kyrademon, above: Cathy, like an awful lot of long-running comic strips, actually started out as pretty sharp and funny and then had a decline. No, really. It was worn away by year after year of the need to produce a joke a day, every day. Forever. Only a few people have ever been able to really manage that for a period spanning decades without eventually falling into routine, repetition, and the easy gag.

THIS. Comedy is hard. Continued, always-well-done comedy written by one person that doesn't fall into cycles is almost impossible; there's a reason why Jonathan Winters was so revered. (As an experiment, try this: start making up random numbers, as fast as you can, and saying them out loud. Go on for some time. How long will it be before you notice you're repeating strings of them? And you're not even trying to be funny there.)

Comedy relies on finding new perspectives, new ways to look at old ideas, and that's one of those things you can't do reliably and continuously. Every long-running comic strip falls into long ruts, from Cathy to Peanuts to Hagar the Horrible. It's why Bill Watterson ended Calvin and Hobbes early.

So, what's really at fault here is:
1. The syndicate system, for keeping these things alive long after their sell-by date.
2. The readers who grow to find it comforting that the strips they remember as a kid are still in print.
3. Our work-or-starve economic system, which means if you find some relatively easy work that caters to someone, anyone, willing to pay, you take it, because that's all most of us can hope for in life.
posted by JHarris at 10:45 AM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Cathy, like an awful lot of long-running comic strips, actually started out as pretty sharp and funny and then had a decline.

Anyone got a link to any of these allegedly good early Cathy strips?
posted by straight at 11:17 AM on May 6, 2013


Even better was Sylvia, by Nicole Hollander, but that became hard to find.

Sylvia was the old lady I wanted to grow up to be and Cathy was the woman I was afraid I'd grow up to be.
posted by immlass at 11:38 AM on May 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


A main function of the comics page seems to be to reassure miserable, trapped, mediocre readers that everyone else's life is just as bad as theirs, and "Cathy" fit right in to this role.
posted by thelonius at 12:11 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sylvia was the old lady I wanted to grow up to be and Cathy was the woman I was afraid I'd grow up to be.


I assumed I'd spend a couple of decades as Cathy before becoming Sylvia. This seems to have been my mother's path, certainly...
posted by like_a_friend at 2:01 PM on May 6, 2013


Cathy has become part of my internal vocabulary -- specifically, a curse. It's not easy for a lifelong feminist and Seven Sisters grad to admit, but now that I'm in my thirties, I have been struggling with internalized chauvinism. It seems like I can't let myself feel lonely or try to lose weight without berating myself for "this Cathy Guisewite bullshit."

Being a woman, in our society, is about never being enough. Not thin enough, not pretty enough, not hairless enough, not GGG enough, not sweet enough . . . It's human nature, I suppose, to hate those who suffer for showing their suffering, and I expect that's why Cathy is so instantly irritating.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:32 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


> "Anyone got a link to any of these allegedly good early Cathy strips?"

I googled around a little, and the online archives of Cathy strips that I could find seem to go back to about 2001 or so at most. Since the strips I was talking about are from around 1980 ... sorry, my internet-fu is insufficient to help, if indeed those strips even exist on the internet at all.
posted by kyrademon at 3:09 PM on May 6, 2013


There's a short form I can use with my female friends when it feels like life is kind of shit and you've succumbed to all these cliched society-driven feelings about it but you can't bear to get into the details: "My life is a Cathy cartoon right now".
posted by marylynn at 8:06 PM on May 6, 2013


I can't find the early ones online either. Oh well.

I stopped reading Cathy so long ago that I didn't even realize that she actually did get married.
posted by Miko at 8:13 PM on May 6, 2013


Wait, what, Cathy got married?
posted by localroger at 8:21 PM on May 6, 2013


Guisewite had Cathy's longtime boyfriend Irving propose marriage on Valentine's Day 2004. The two characters married in the February 5, 2005 strip.
posted by Miko at 8:38 PM on May 6, 2013


A main function of the comics page seems to be to reassure miserable, trapped, mediocre readers that everyone else's life is just as bad as theirs

If that's true, then Funky Winkerbean should have won multiple Pulitzer prizes by now.
posted by straight at 10:24 PM on May 6, 2013


We didn't get Cathy in the UK, and I wonder if Roberta Gregory's Naughty Bits might have had a different dimension if I knew that papers carried a comic about a single thirty-something obsessed with diets and men.
posted by mippy at 4:32 AM on May 7, 2013


Wow, I just fell down a Cathy hole--I don't remember thinking much of these the first time around, and now it'a a little disturbing to me how much I identify with them! Ack!
posted by Edna Million at 7:50 PM on May 7, 2013


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