Friday, August 26, 2011

Hetters Gonna Het

October 31st, 1939:
Touche, Het. Having been born and raised in the New York metropolitan area and having lived in Manhattan, I know that I can be a bit of a male Maisie. There's just no place like NYC. See, there I go! Maybe next time this man's a-knockin' I'll think of Het's words to rock me back down to earth.

But I wonder about the specifics of this scene. Was the movie very pro-small town life? Or made by a local production company? I mean, they could have just seen King Kong, right? Maybe they did and Maisie felt it represented New York poorly. Or was she just generally knocking the small-town moviegoing experience? "A New York theater's got padded seats, better candy, and nobody brings their cow!"

Most likely she was just afraid to call any idea swell that she herself didn't come up with. Sounds like someone I know.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Aunt Het: A Brief Introduction

I discovered Aunt Het in July 2011 while searching newspapers online for old Red Sox stories and box scores. There she was, off to the side of the comic strips, a single panel tucked away near the crossword puzzle in the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald. It was the 1930s, but Het was speaking to my generation. And she wasn't holding back. At least not in the witty one-liners in her mind. The woman observes the imperfections of her neighbors and family members, and gives us the unedited scoop. No segment of the population is off limits, either. You probably know an Aunt Het, but you definitely know the people she's constantly ripping to shreds.

Ignore the text, and Aunt Het is a quaint old woman in a small town. And occasionally her words of wisdom are pretty innocent. But this was truly a study in humanity, and even in its tamer moments, the metaphors still ring true today. The writer, Robert Quillen (it was drawn by John H. Striebel), was a real quip-master, and quite an oddball. There isn't much online about him, and there's hardly anything written about Aunt Het. Even the "Aunt Het Festival" in Quillen's adopted hometown of Fountain Inn, South Carolina seems to have nothing to do with the cartoon. I can't even figure out the exact dates the strip ran. But the ones I'll be showing you here are from the late 30s, early 40s. Each post will have its own cartoon (from the Telegraph-Herald unless otherwise noted). I'll probably do a couple per week, but we'll see how it goes.

I'll start you off with this one, from February 24, 1941:

Well said, Het! Taken literally, this is brilliant. In a post-9/11 world, we're all suddenly suspects. You're not going to find a real terrorist judging a person solely by their outer appearance. People see a turban and run for the hills--meanwhile, you're more likely to be swindled by a white man in a nice suit than you are to be blown up by someone who happens to share the same faith as certain high-profile terrorists. But looking at the bigger picture, I get a "sometimes good guys don't wear white" vibe. Het ain't judgin' no books by no stinkin' covers.