Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, August 16, 2010

Cathy and her Cinderella liberation legacy of laughter

Word has been out since last week that cartoonist Cathy Guisewite plans to end her comic strip Cathy this coming October,after 34 years. Guisewite's reasons for doing so include wanting to spend more time with her loved ones and having other projects that she'd like to focus more on and I say good for her.

When she first started up her strip in 1976,the life and times of a single woman trying to juggle work,love and family responsibilities was slowly becoming a pop culture theme in films and TV,but not in the realm of comic strips which was still considered to be a kids zone for the most part.

Cathy's appearance on the comic strip scene took the everyday struggles of the modern "you can have it all!" working woman and allowed those ladies to blow off some much needed steam.

Between being overworked and under appreciated in the business world,looking for the perfect man and trying to reassure their mothers that yes,there will be grandchildren at some point in their lives,a lot of women found Cathy to be a humorous haven for them to huddle in.

The popularity of the strip grew over time,with not only the usual line of tie-in merchandise and books but even a few animated TV specials on CBS as well. The first one even won an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program in 1987,quite a feat for an adult oriented female centered cartoon there:

Cathy was more,however,than just an excuse to bitch about clothes not fitting right or to sell cookie tins;she was a frustrated yet fun gal pal for the evolving independent woman to hang out with and someone just like them who decided to take the constantly changing world around on her own terms with a laugh or two along the way.

Often times,the strip satirized the current trends that many middle to upper class folk eagerly embraced(work-outs,fad diets,self help schemes)and abandoned soon as the next new one came along. Also,the notion of a woman being a successful cartoonist(which like many other creative industries,is strongly male dominated)started to take hold in both pop culture and society,even inspiring a sitcom in the mid 1990s called Caroline in the City,which had a pretty decent four year run on NBC:

Of course,like many other cultural icons,Cathy has her fair share of detractors who either mock her over dramatic flair for freaking out about things or see her as an easy stereotype of typical female behavior.

While even the most sacred of cartoon characters are not above being the punch line of other people's jokes themselves,some of Cathy's best traits have been too quickly brushed aside in the rush to rub her face in non-waterproof mascara.

For decades,it was hard for women to have any sort of discussion about their feelings or to express their doubts about the role that society wanted them to have and when the feminist revolution came along,all of the talk was dead serious and as just as polarizing as past expectations about what a "real" woman should or shouldn't be.

Cathy gave those looking for a reasonable middle ground a safe place to come up for air while trending these turbulent waters and allowed them to be express their vulnerability and confusion about things without being sneered at. Her influence spread beyond the comics page,as other pop culture venues took on the "four guilt groups"(food,work,love and mom)that gave fictional female characters a focal point for real life women in the audience to identify and giggle along with:

While reveling in the past can be amusing,facing the future is just as important. Cathy's day in the sun may be over but she's leaving on a good note,not mention a well paved path that others are already following and more to come with each new generation of witty women in cartoons.

All good things must come to an end,as they say,and a true artist knows when it's time to stop fine tuning their creation. Cathy Guisewite and her comic strip sisterhood leave us with a better sense of how to handle the stresses of modern life while not taking ourselves too seriously,plus the joy of being a woman who can be both feminist and feminine all at once. Thank you,Cathy,for being there when we needed you the most and for bringing the laughs along with the chocolates:

1 comment:

Ladytink_534 said...

Is there anyone that hasn't heard of this strip?! Cathy was never my favorite but I always liked it anyway.