Friday, August 12, 2016

The Flintstones: Crap and Morp

And with a single issue, Powergoat is my favorite new character of 2016.

I don't suspect this weed-eating goat with an aggression complex will appear again anytime soon, but this fun little nugget of humor acts as a stylized metaphor for Mark Russell's observations on American culture. Much like with Prez, Russell digs deep into the socio-economic framework of colonial capitalism and finds the inherent comedy within: it's funny because it's true.

Powergoat is an allegory for aggressive sales tactics and the supposed strength they are trying to sell; it's literally just a goat (albeit, with a hyper-masculine attitude) tied to a stick and Fred has no idea what "weeds" are, but the perception of wealth through material possessions becomes too much, and poor Fred caves in and buys one anyway.

Russell doesn't sugar-coat his intentions in The Flintstones #2. "In other news, people are buying stuff they don't need. It's called 'crap', and it's taking Bedrock by storm!" I cannot think of a more perfect or eloquent way to explain the root of American capitalism.

The First Church of Animism reveres their savior, Morp, until the bird plays a record and everyone is a bit disappointed, at which point their faith wains. The following mass, the clergy introduce Peaches, a pink elephant who's to be the new god that just wants everyone to have a good time, a pretty solid gospel.

When Wilma discovers Peaches is just a vacuum cleaner the clergy have masqueraded as a deity, the whole charade begins to crumble. In a poignant call to reason by the presiding pastor, he asks "...isn't the important thing that the god makes you feel like your life has meaning? Does it really matter what form a god takes?"

Fred's immediate skepticism is a mirror to Evangelical religious dogma: adherence to an idea instead of the ideals religion is intended to teach. "C'mon, we've done good work in this church. Just because some god didn't pan out, you're not going to go back to smashing people with clubs are you?" At least one gentleman disagrees. Everyone walks out.

So, are these the seeds of atheism in The Flintstones, or the earliest days of the religiously devout, the ones who need a more concrete concept of god to feel fulfilled? Either way, Russell plays with the ideas of spirituality and commercialism throughout The Flintstones #2, reaching a fever pitch when Fred feels the familiar sense of failure -- after only selling one bottle of vitamins in a pyramid scheme -- many Americans suffer through every day, the feeling that he's doesn't deserve the good things in his life. As Wilma is apt to do, she helps Fred see reason and gives him perspective on the difference between real and borrowed happiness. She posits that connections with other humans is what matters, and that all this crap around them doesn't bring anything but regret.

I don't believe Wilma simply meant the material "crap" infesting Bedrock, but also the vitamin-selling scam and the Church of Animism shenanigans -- as long as Fred loves Wilma and Wilma loves Fred, they're going to be okay. Everything else is just crap. So long, Powergoat: Lucky the Dog of 2016.

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