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Sat Jan 30, 2021, 02:25 PM

Real "cancel culture": For Better Or For Worse, 1993

In one of my captions for today's TOON post, I repeat a question I've asked a lot lately: "Does anybody actually use 'woke' and 'cancel culture' anymore except right-wing assholes?" They're the new favorite chew toys, only partially at the expense of the quarter-century favorite, "political correctness."

They seem to just latch onto these things to vomit bile into, long after the original contexts and people who used them in those contexts have discarded them like worn-out underwear. They were useful at the time, but reasonable people move on.


In this frame of mind, while checking on non-political cartoons that are sometimes worth including, such as Non Sequitur and Pearls Before Swine, my eyes fell on Lynn Johnston's slice-of-family-life For Better Or For Worse (now ended but in perpetual reruns). And boy, did I remember a rock-solid example of "cancel culture" in action. Real cancel culture, the right-wing kind.

In 1993, she was contemplating why one of the regular supporting characters had drifted out of use, and getting a handle on the character (Lawrence, one of the neighbor kids and childhood friend to Patterson family's son Micheal) to better include him. As she put it, "After 'being' with him for some time, I realized the reason he was having so much trouble communicating with Michael and his friends was because Lawrence, now in his late teens, was different. Lawrence was gay."

So, she came up with a four-week story where he comes out to his friend, and his mother and step-dad.

And that was simply beyond the pale for some people.


From https://www.fborfw.com/features/lawrence/index.php
A Major Controversy
Within one week, nineteen papers had cancelled For Better or For Worse outright. Editors who decided to run the series were attacked for having the gall to do so. Those who chose not to run it were accused of "censorship." Editors and publishers were damned if they did, and damned if they didn't. They called the syndicate. Editors at Universal Press worked overtime, diffusing the anger, answering questions, calming, and reassuring these people who were being harassed, picketed, and were in the eye of a storm generated by ignorance. Those editors who wished to confront me personally were given my phone number. My phone rang constantly from 7 am to 10 pm every day. I answered all my calls. I spoke with everyone who needed to know why, what was I trying to do? Did I realize what I had done?

Editors, particularly from smaller communities, were in a most uncomfortable position. In rural areas, where everybody knows everyone else, they were singled out, their children were harassed at school. One editor confessed to me that his brother was gay. He was 100 percent supportive, but if anyone in his area knew that he was in favor of running the story, he would lose his job.

The "No" Mail
It was mostly from the United States that the sound was heard. Canadian papers carried the pro and con letters on the editorial pages. There were two cancellations and a few letters came to me, but by and large, it was a southern and very religious population that responded first and loudest and with a clenched, unyielding fist.

I cannot deny that it was upsetting. When 1,000 people organized to cancel their subscriptions to a Memphis paper, one editor's bitterness came through loud and clear. I had no right to "do this" to people. This subject was best left alone. I think the letter that hurt the most, was one of the first I received. It was from a woman who said she had loved my work for years but I was now no longer welcome in her home. She enclosed about a dozen yellowed strips she had kept on her refrigerator. That made me cry.

All of this, we called the "no" mail.





But also:
As the mail arrived, my assistant and I sorted the letters into boxes marked "Yes", "No" and "Articles" (we had many, many newspaper clippings!). Altogether, over 2,500 personal letters were counted, and, of these responses, over 70 percent were positive.

















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Arrow 12 replies Author Time Post
Reply Real "cancel culture": For Better Or For Worse, 1993 (Original post)
JHB Jan 2021 OP
AleksS Jan 2021 #1
sinkingfeeling Jan 2021 #2
planetc Feb 2021 #3
krispos42 Feb 2021 #4
Bernardo de La Paz Feb 2021 #5
BobsYourUncle Feb 2021 #6
niyad Feb 2021 #7
Hekate Feb 2021 #8
FakeNoose Feb 2021 #9
Hermit-The-Prog Feb 2021 #10
dsc Feb 2021 #11
ShazzieB Feb 11 #12

Response to JHB (Original post)

Sat Jan 30, 2021, 02:50 PM

1. Yeah this right wing fauxtrage re: "cancel culture" is just one more in the long

list of times that the right wing only had a problem with something when it came back to affect them.

When their "Million Moms" or whatever the heck their anti-gay group was, was out there canceling anything that had a a hint of non-cis gender identity or sexual preference, they were all for it. Now that they're on the receiving end? Not so much.

It's just the way they roll. Hypocrisy, thy name is conservative.

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Response to JHB (Original post)

Sat Jan 30, 2021, 05:03 PM

2. I remember that. The strip was one of my favorites.

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Response to JHB (Original post)

Mon Feb 1, 2021, 08:36 AM

3. A fine example.

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Response to JHB (Original post)

Mon Feb 1, 2021, 09:06 AM

4. Wow, I brought this exact issue up in conversation a couple of weeks ago

I used to read that comic, among others, when I wss growing up and I remember how the gay kid had to be written out of the comic due to controversy. I hadn't thought about it for years.

Thank you.

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Response to JHB (Original post)

Mon Feb 1, 2021, 09:26 AM

5. Rs have been cancelling blacks, gays, indigenous, so many people for decades. . . . nt

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Response to JHB (Original post)

Mon Feb 1, 2021, 09:30 AM

6. I always liked that cartoon...

It wasn’t published in the local rag in rural North Carolina where I lived in ‘93.

Been there, Done that as far as several of the panels are concerned. So few have ever told me “l’m glad I know you.” I definitely got the “Don’t be ridiculous!”
It cannot be canceled.

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Response to JHB (Original post)

Mon Feb 1, 2021, 11:29 AM

7. Thank you for this find.

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Response to JHB (Original post)

Mon Feb 1, 2021, 02:49 PM

8. How i loved FB/FW. I bought all her books...

They were my imaginary family, as I suppose they were for millions of people.

Lawrence didn’t disappear after this episode. He continued as an important subsidiary character. As with their high school buddy who ended up working at and finally buying the local mechanic’s business, Lawrence worked at the local landscaping/gardening business where Elizabeth worked for so many summers. What for her was a temp job to pay for college became a passion for him. Last I saw him he owned the business and was partnered.

In Lyn Johnston World, some things get spelled out and some things don’t need to be. After Lawrence came out, we knew he was gay and would end up in a relationship with a man — and he did. They brought the floral arrangements for their friends’ weddings — and someday they might tie the knot themselves and their friends would rejoice.

I told you, they were my imaginary family.

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Response to JHB (Original post)

Mon Feb 1, 2021, 03:02 PM

9. All the outrage ... it never ends ...

And yes, the Repukes did invent "cancel culture."

I believe their first outrage campaign was against the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, back in 1969 or 70. Am I right?

For you youngsters, the Smothers Brothers was a comedy variety show that was wildly popular among the baby-boomer crowd. We were mostly teenagers and early 20's then. Tom and Dickie Smothers were also vocal protesters against the Vietnam War, and they enraged the Republican set with their anti-war songs and skits. As a result the Repukes started boycotting the show sponsors (advertised products), writing letters to the networks, etc. and they got the show cancelled, despite very high ratings.



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Response to JHB (Original post)

Mon Feb 1, 2021, 03:12 PM

10. There's that 70/30 split again.

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Response to JHB (Original post)

Mon Feb 1, 2021, 03:23 PM

11. thank you for the trip down memory lane

I very much remember this in real time.

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Response to dsc (Reply #11)

Thu Feb 11, 2021, 09:39 PM

12. I was about to post the same exact thing!

I have always loved that strip, and I remember the Lawrence Coming Out story so well! This was a great memory refresher.

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