Migration — Where’s Alfred E. When You Need Him?

There is a hint that Myspace is disintegrating. Since I started this blog on that site, one entry per day will migrate from there. I have faith in WordPress. It also gives me the chance to edit and update.

Where’s Alfred E. When You Need Him?
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
My initial reaction to The New Yorker cover? (The one with Mr. and Mrs. Obama in full Afro mode doing a fist bump.) I expected to see Alfred E. Neuman with his gap-toothed grin winking at me from the corner. Or maybe some Mad marginalia crawling up the side of the page.

My father introduced me to Mad when I was about eight or nine years old. Daddy had a subversive streak that “the usual gang of idiots” aided and abetted. We loved “Spy vs. Spy” and the “inside celebrity wallets” feature. My mother found the whole thing juvenile, and it was. But then so was I.

The last New Yorker cover to prompt a major outcry was the 1994 anniversary issue when Tina Brown substituted a slacker with baseball cap on backward for Eustace Tilley. (She called the kid Elvis Tilley, Eustace’s grandson.) My parents canceled their subscription. Tilley returned the following year.
As to the present kerfuffle, I think editor David Remnick forgot that other people besides his sophisticated readership would see the cover and wouldn’t necessarily get it. The difference between The New Yorker and Mad is that no one had any doubt about Mad‘s take on the world. The fact that Remnick feels he has to explain himself means the satire didn’t work. Or maybe he’s just taking the cynical view – there’s no such thing as bad publicity.


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