1970s-Era Popeye the Sailor Is Here to Give You Career Advice
Unlike actors and Ashton Kutcher, cartoon characters can't decide what products or ideologies they endorse in their off-time. Snoopy has no say in whether he sells MetLife. The Ninja Turtles most definitely get high-they are pizza-eating sword collectors named after artists-but they have to warn kids off drugs anyway. And Popeye, the cursing, brawling sailor man, had to learn a whole new vocabulary in the 1970s, to teach kids about their
Culture writer Alan Scherstuhl
examines one of these comics,
Popeye and Consumer and Homemaking Careers
, on his comic book
Scherstuhl has been carrying the educational Popeye torch for years; he wrote about the comic series in 2010 for LA Weekly, inserting juicy panelswhere an unsettlingly articulate Popeye narrates, "House maids are not required to be high school graduates. Most girls acquire the skills they need in this work while they are growing up in their own homes."
Scherstuhul compares these with the original comic, where Popeye punches his friends on the jaw and delivers lines like "I'll sock 'im til I croaks an I'll poke 'im in the eye with me spirik after-an' I ain't dead yet neither."
Thanks to this dissonance, Popeye's presence only heightens the absurdity of the comic's claims, undercutting their depiction of a Richard Scarry world where every housekeeper can work their way up the ranks, where service workers are polite and thankful and treated well in turn, where anyone can make it in America, unlike those poor Soviet bastards. It's as realistic as a world where Popeye is a well-spoken career counselor.