Saturday, June 27, 2009

"The 'Colossalest Surprise' Quiz Show"

Barks was, if not exactly obsessed, certainly very interested in the idea of quiz shows. We see this in "Voodoo Hoodoo" and "The Golden Nugget Boat;" there are also at least three stories that center around the concept. This 1956 short is one of them. Even though it's not an adventure story, "The 'Colossalest Surprise' Quiz Show' illustrates, in a nascent state, some of the same theoretical problems that Barks was grappling with in the character of Scrooge later in his career.

So our hero is watching the quiz show of the title.

I think quiz shows are emblematic here of the way the world works today, as compared to the way it did in Scrooge's heroic past. Back in the day, you had to be smart and tough in order to make it big--

--but now it seems to be more a matter of luck. There's no comprehensible connection between wealth and merit. Naturally, this drives Scrooge crazy. Most of his earlier adventure harken back to a time when it was all about adventure and grit, but faced with this provocation, his reaction isn't to rail against it as a general concept, but rather to think, man--how can I get in on that? The world is not such a heroic place anymore, alas, and Barks became increasingly unable to elide this realization as he grew older and more cynical.

So anyway, Scrooge learns that he can get on the show just by being first to show up at the station, so he sets his clock and gets there before anyone, and now he's going to be tonight's contestant. Hurrah! But alas!

Karmic payback for trying to make money without earning it? He can't not show up at the station, because he PROMISED to be there (there's that frustrating, anachronistic honor showing up--it's not even that he signed some sort of contract; he just made a PROMISE--and promises cannot be broken)! And the questions are too easy to miss! What to do? Why, hurl himself out the window, of course!

Donald makes the obvious suggestion--why not just play dumb?

He IS kind of a square--that is, not really equipped to play on this world's terms.

So he succeeds in missing every question. But surely you didn't think this plan was going to work?

He can't win--smarts simply have no causal relationship with success, and this mocks the very idea. His effort to engage the system on its own terms fails by virtue of the fact that it's own terms are fundamentally non-rational.

This recalls the ending of "Back to Long Ago." In both cases, the reaction isn't a logical one, but it does make a certain amount of sense if read as nothing more than a lashing out in blind anger at a world that JUST...ISN'T...WORKING...LIKE IT...SHOULD! ARGH!



Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I think there is something tragic about Scrooge clashing with our modern times and seeing how easy it is to make money now compering to his times and I like that Barks toched upon this subjcet :)

February 27, 2013 at 2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cannot fathom how there could be an income tax bracket higher than the one Scrooge is already in.

January 23, 2019 at 1:04 PM  
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January 31, 2022 at 3:17 AM  

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