Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Daisy Duck's Diary

"It's a duck comic!"

"No! It's a hate crime!"

"Duck comic!"

"Hate crime!"

"Duck comic!"

"Hey, guys, guys, calm down--you're both right! Daisy Duck's Diary is a duck comic AND a hate crime!"
We'll be back after this important message: GURLS R DUMM:

It's quite obvious that somebody at Disney in the fifties had serious issues with women (I hope it's only one person). Sure, you can see casual chauvinism here there and everywhere, but this goes well beyond that. All you can do is stand back and gawk. It's true that nobody seemed to really know what to do with Daisy as a character (as we probably all know, Barks' lost ten-pager "Race for the Golden Apples" was supposedly rejected on the grounds that she was shown being insufficiently "lady-like"), but that is not much of an excuse.

You know, there are a number of Disney comics that, due to objectionable racial content, are today not allowed to be reprinted in the US. My understanding is that the current accord allows all Barks comics to be published, occasionally with minor censorship, but there's at least one Mickey Mouse serial, "In Search of Jungle Treasure," that remains on the blacklist (the beginning of "Monarch of Medioka" refers back to it--very frustrating for MM fans, I've no doubt).

Are these comics racially problematic? Yes, absolutely. But here's the thing: the racism is generally just incidental. Which is to say, you might see our heroes being menaced by cannibals, but these cannibals are just an obstacle to be overcome. They're not the main focus of the story; the point is not "ha ha! Indigenous people suck!" Whereas the focus of these old Daisy Duck's Diaries is very much "ha ha! Women suck!" And yet, I'm pretty sure there's no fiat against these latter. Of course, practically speaking, that doesn't matter; obviously, no modern publisher would consider reprinting them anyway. But it is an interesting illustration of the ways our sensitivities towards this kind of thing function selectively.

I should clarify here that I'm really only referring here to the first two issues of the DDD one-shot, published in 1954 and 1955, as illustrated by Dick Moores (I like to imagine that Moores was aware enough to be somewhat appalled at what he was being asked to illustrate, but even if so, the fact that he dutifully plowed on anyway doesn't seem terribly admirable). After that, someone at Western Publishing apparently had the brilliant realization that, huh--if we're trying to reach a female audience with these things, maybe spewing unbridled hatred at all things feminine isn't the right strategy. The later issues--drawn by Jack Bradbury, Pete Alvarado, Tony Strobl, and Carl Barks--are not totally unproblematic, but they are a quantum leap ahead of their predecessors, and some of them successfully depict Daisy as a genuinely strong, appealing character. I feel like I've used the following image elsewhere, but here it is again, 'cause I like it:

However, here at Duck Comics Revue, we're all about the low-hanging fruit, so let's take some potshots at one particularly hair-raising story--as rendered in Moores' inimitably hideous style. Like most such, this tale is untitled. Let us preface this by acknowledging that, yes, if you want to, you could posit that this story and others of its type were in fact written by some sort of subversive radical feminist who wanted to call attention to the disturbing nature of much of children's media. There's not much you can do with that, though--it's unfalsifiable, and lacking any concrete evidence to that effect, there's really not much point in dwelling on it. I think it's overwhelmingly likely that these stories were written absolutely straight.

LESSON ONE: Women: backstabbing bitches.

LESSON TWO: Women: Incredibly vapid and superficial. Actually, to be fair--you KNOW I'm all about fairness--it's not entirely clear to what extent Daisy is being mocked for shallowness and to what extent the author considers her alarm at having gained EIGHT! POUNDS! to be perfectly justified. But neither of these possibilities seems like a good thing, you know?

In passing, I will note this panel from a Barks one-pager, which would seem to indicate some disagreement about how much ducks in general are supposed to weigh.

'Course, this panel from ANOTHER Barks story, "The Tuckered Tiger," would seem to indicate a different notion of duckweight, since presumably Scrooge couldn't steam away a fourth of his body mass:


N.E. Way:

So as I noted, you can take this all as mordant satire if you like, and the above image would seem to support that possibility, but within the context of the rest of the story and the OTHER Daisy stories that this writer would pen, I'm just not seeing it. And IF--big if--this IS a comment about consumerism's effect on us, it certainly doesn't detract from the comic's tone. Either way, it seems designed to just emphasize Daisy's weakness.

Bleh. Anyway, I'm going to skim over the bits where Daisy tries to use spa treatments to use weight, and get to the main meat of this gruesome tale.

Ah yes: Starvation! The old reliable!

She tries to watch TV, but, in a non-hilarious segment, she keeps seeing shows about food, which drives her insane with hunger (come on, guys--it's only supposed to be a few hours at most since she made this vow--aren't you pouring it on a li'l thick?).

So she gets Donald and the kids over to distract her, and we are treated to another, even more intensely non-hilarious segment in which Donald keeps inadvertently saying…well, see for yourself:

She's just deeply, DEEPLY infantilized. Here are some related images from other stories:

It's almost like there's a common theme here. You will note Donald's reaction in the above--he's mainly depicted in these stories as being sort of haplessly at the mercy of Daisy's insane whims. It's not particularly flattering to him, but as any radical feminist will be happy to inform you--over and over and over, most likely--patriarchy degrades us all.

Aw! Look how eager they are to help her with her anti-eating crusade! I know, I know--it is REALLY hard to read this in places and not think, there HAS to be some goddamn satire here SOMEWHERE. But I really do believe that this is just because we live in a (somewhat) different culture, and we just don't want to accept it. I'm pretty sure that their cheerfully enabling behavior is supposed to be entirely laudable, instead of seriously fucked-up.

More Daisy-humiliation coming up!

OH GOD NO. Just TRY to tell me there's not an unbearable element of quasi-sexual degradation here. Again, pretty sure we're meant to identify with Donald in the bottom right. Since when does Daisy have a dog named "Fido?" Since the author decided that this stunningly creepy allegedly-humorous action was a good idea, is since when. Don't expect to see or hear anything more from the dog.

Slightly less creepy on Daisy's part, but it makes her look even dumber/more infantile. It also makes Donald look like a complete psychopath. Tell me this doesn't look like we're verging on some Story of O shit.

So, to cut a long story slightly short, Donald locks her in her room. She escapes and, weighing herself again on a public scale, realizes that the previous one was wrong, and she hasn't gained weight after all. Huzzah!

But Donald, exhibiting every bit of understanding and sensitivity the rest of the story would lead you to expect, refuses to let her out of her room. Pretty sure this is actually illegal, you anonymous asshole. Anyway:

Yup. And that's that.


What, you're still here? No, seriously--those are the last panels. The story ends like that. Donald locks her in her room, and she has to eat her diary to keep from starving. And this is supposed to be a humorous denouement.

In summary: somebody thought this was a good story for young girls. Somebody else agreed to the extent that they fuckin' published it. The mind boggles like a motherfucker. Do you hate this anonymous author as much as I do? 'Cause I gotta tell you, I hate him a lot.

Still, however ugly this is, it's an aspect of Disney's past, and it should not be whitewashed. In a future entry, to get the bad taste out of all of our mouths, I'll take a look at a less-horrific Daisy story. But for now, we're just going to have to grin and bear it.



Blogger Chris Barat said...


I hate to say it but there's at least a chance that Moores both wrote AND drew this. He wrote some MICKEY stories so I assume it's possible that he did the same here.


July 15, 2010 at 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Women also can't drive:

July 24, 2010 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

True dat. There's actually a story in one of these DDD issues to a similar effect, but that cover you linked to is rather more blatant.

July 24, 2010 at 2:34 PM  
Anonymous Richie said...

Notice the nephews' looks on the final image. Holy mother of Zombie Jesus.

October 21, 2010 at 6:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i liked the Brazilian version of her comic books. I read the very first issue, when she becomes a feminist. Then for what I remember both Donald and the lucky cousin are shown as stupid for the rest of them. I miss that.

November 20, 2010 at 10:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I agree that this comic is infuriating, I don't think it's all that big a deal that they thought it "a good story for young girls". Girls don't have to look to EVERYTHING for role models. Chances are, they thought girls wanted a funny story about a funny girl character, and, uh, somehow thought this was it.

That being said, this is possibly the most disturbing comic I've ever seen. EVERYONE is completely insane and not exactly comically so. The ending is especially deranged.

September 6, 2011 at 9:26 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Ow, Moores is only being true to life. I known a girl once and they do cry all the time.. :P

October 18, 2012 at 6:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I mean... wow.

I've read and watched a lot of dark, chilling, disgusting, disturbing fictional scenes in my life, but only once have I ever watched something fictional that made me feel dirty watching it. Never outside of watching Nickelodeon's first bisexual heroine be symbolically raped (for the 5th time) with mercury have I seen something purely made up that actually made watching it a sickening ordeal I had to force myself to endure and felt afterwards like I'd done something vile and obscene by watching it.

Until now. I actually felt dirty reading your descriptions and excerpts of this comic. At least the scene from The Legend of Korra was supposed to be disturbing -- the fact that whoever wrote and drew this thought it was FUNNY just makes it worse! It's literally -- no hyperbole, no exaggeration -- the most disgusting fiction I've ever read. Thank you for summarizing it and sparing the rest of us from having to read the whole thing! I honestly don't know how you had the strength.

February 23, 2016 at 5:56 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

It's funny but… I can't help but feel you're all over-reacting a bit.

The characterization of Daisy as such is obviously derivative of stupid, sexist stereotypes; I'm not disputing that, nor the fact that this irreparably brings the story down. But from the premise "[Character X] has gone on a diet and goes ludicrously ravenous with hunger", once we look past that character also being a gender stereotype, I don't find all the ensuing "hijinx" all that objectionable. I could easily imagine the exact same story, except with Fethry, with his latest obsession-of-the-week being losing weight. If we make the mental switcheroo then it becomes hard not to see it all for what it is: comedic escalation, to a level that would, admittedly, be more at home in a Tex Avery cartoon than a duck comic, but which doesn't have any creepy undertones.

Within this view, where it's all running on toon logic and you shouldn't dwell too hard on the idea that these are flesh-and-blood people, the story's entire second half can be funny. Not very funny, but rightfully entertaining. The ending gag in particular I found to actually be somewhat clever; chuckle-worthy if nothing more. Again, because I unthinkingly didn't see it as "a poor woman locked in a room trying to avoid starvation", but as its intended reading of "a cartoon character goes to increasingly absurd extremes to achieve its abstract goal of eating stuff".

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