One of the first comics I ever received as a child was from my Grandfather many years ago. It was a compilation of Andy Capp comics (Laugh Again With Andy Capp no.9), published in 1973. The strip has been running since 1957 in the British Daily Mirror. Now for those of you who don’t know who Andy Capp is, don’t feel so bad (I’ve seldom met a person who does). Andy is an unemployed working class man living in the northeastern harbour town of Hartlepool England. Andy is also a total asshole, whose pastimes include: drinking, womanizing, loafing on his couch, playing snooker, blowing money at the race track and occasionally smacking his wife Flo for one offense or another. Wait, what?! Yeah, Andy and his wife Flo occasionally (frequently) get into physical fights.
“Well that’s preposterous! It’s glorifying domestic abuse! Andy is a scumbag who should be thrown in jail for what he’s done!”
Hold up. I agree that domestic violence is atrocious and not something to be taken lightly. However, given the context of Andy Capp, I find the slapstick humor between Andy and Flo to be quite hilarious. But why is it even able to be published? Well there are a few reasons. The first is historical context. Published in 1957, women’s gender roles were still very much restricted. Men went out to work, and women stayed home and took care of things there (if you’ve seen Mad Men, which is set in the 1960’s, you probably get what I’m saying here). What makes it funny is the fact that Andy is unemployed while Flo works: this turns the tables on conventional roles. Next, the art depicting the fighting is highly stylized and comical, usually depicting a giant dust cloud with fists and feet coming out of it as the tussle. Also to be considered, is the one-sidedness of the fighting, that is to say, Andy takes his fair share of beatings from Flo.
Andy Capp and Flo have a completely dysfunctional marriage from the perspective of our twenty-first century vantage point, but given the context and looking a little deeper at their relationship, you can find a couple who have come to grips with their flaws and love each other through thick and thin (though you`d be hard pressed to hear Andy say it).