Friday, August 18, 2017


Aw, that raccoon really loves him.

As I continue my tour of the early-1970s career-oriented Popeye comics and their distinctly art-house feel, I stumble upon Popeye and Hospitality and Recreation Careers – which appears to be Popeye’s condemnation of capitalism. Stick around, kids.

"They're gonna fuck!"
Popeye is a great symbol of the irrelevancy of capital; he spends the first few decades of his existence earning and giving away fortunes (primarily to widders and brunecks), acquired with little more than grit and savvy, and lost through charity and mercy. Money grows on trees in Popeye’s world! A chicken can break the bank at the greatest gambling house in the world! What need has Popeye of money? What is a King to a God, and what is a God to a Sailor Man?

Which allows for the quotidian jolt of Popeye’s travails in the world of give-and-take, navigating the choppy waters of labor and its constantly contested value. In Popeye’s world, there are no bosses – there are guys putting up the money, but they’re your pals and equal partners. They go on your adventures with you, they take an equal share for equal risk. The guys behind the desk, laden with sacks of “$”-emblazoned dosh and growling under their handlebar mustaches – those aren’t bosses in Popeye’s world, they’re the enemy*.

*And in the real world too.

What does this have to do with careers? Is this about
the commodification of the female body?
In this installment of Popeye’s world tour of soul-crushing jobs, some of Popeye’s radical New Deal-era sentiment slinks through, at least insofar as it doesn’t too seriously disrupt the educational component of the book. More or less.

Right from the git-go, Popeye establishes the boundaries: “There are blue collar jobs as well as white collar jobs in the hospitality and recreation field, kids, all important!” Despite inevitably resigned to grunt physical labor, Popeye shills unconvincingly for the Suits on the top floor. His loyalties inevitably lie elsewhere…

Popeye’s manifesto includes the segregation of workers into the intellectual and the physical. “Some people like to work with ideas, some like working with people, and some like working with tools.” And just when you think that Popeye has taken a Randian turn with his labor sentiment, he adds “People who work with things usually do more physical work than those who work with ideas. They are important to the professionals because both are needed to carry out a program.” Popeye, did I just hear you advocate for the seizure of the means of production? I’m pretty sure I did.

The young will eat the old, it's true.
Going through the long list of hospitality-related professions (and continually cheating the reader of getting to hear Popeye say “horspiktalitky” or something, thanks to the banal bowdlerization of his dialect), Popeye seems to be hinting at the secret key of capitalist oppression of the workforce. He opines about tipping in a sneering manner, “A waiter who likes his job and understands the people he is working with gets compliments and large tips.” I read that in David Thewlis’ voice, from the last season of Fargo. It begs to be capped off with some sentiment involving the word “neutered” and “meaningless.”

Perhaps the slyest element of the book involves Popeye’s tour of deprecated professions. Hey kids of the early 1970s, try to retire early – Popeye just recommended that you seek a career as a dance instructor at a retirement community!

I mentioned in an earlier article that these Popeye Career Guidance comics have a Tati-esque feel about them, and this one almost most of all. Having navigated the sparsely-strewn hospitality careers, occupations which involve constant kowtowing and scraping for tips, Popeye and Swee’pea disappear into a sort-of vaguely defined, misty carnival environment. So many of their friends are waiting for them there. Roughhouse is making burgers, Wimpy loiters nearby. The rides spin and whirr. Modest and charming cottages line the wide thoroughfares and banners hang happily from the sky. “Humans are creatures of play” Popeye seems to be saying, “So let us forego the theft of labor for the wealth of play.”

Or, perhaps, “Letsk us forgoesk the theftsk of laborks for the whelks of playing huh kuh kuh kuh…”

"Drugs, guns, pornography, nachos ... the whole magilla!"


Johny Longtorso said...

I interpreted the attractive scenery panel as an open admission that prostitution has always been an important component of The Hospitality Industry. Popeye's a goddamned sailor, he understands that truth better than any landlubber.

Noah Riggs said...

That raccoon is a skunk!

Jonathan Morris said...


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