Outdated Legos

By | Monday, January 29, 2024 Leave a Comment
Here is today's Carpe Diem by Niklas Eriksson...
Let's set aside whether or not you find this funny; that's irrelevant to my point today. My point is that they haven't made Lego sets like this since 1987.

The nature of newspaper strips kind of inherently limits how timely they can be. Cartoonists are usually working several weeks, and in some cases months, ahead so if they opt to put in a reference to something that shows up in that day's headlines, it might already be gone and forgotten by the time the strip is published. I've talked before about how important context is for jokes to work, and used a fifteen-year-old cartoon last year to make that point. But here, we're looking at a cultural reference that is three-and-half decades out of date.

Now, to Eriksson's credit, the specific Lego set illustrated here is irrelevant to the joke. It conveys "space-themed Lego set" sufficiently enough to get his point across. I suspect the people who recognize it as a specific Lego set are all in their upper 40s or older, while everyone younger might see it more as just a set that Eriksson just kind of made up for the comic. Either way, it doesn't enhance or detract from the joke itself. Just in the same way that drawing a cathode-ray tub television in the background of a comic might enhance or detreact from any given Blondie comic; no one has CRT televisions any more, and you can't even get garbage collectors to pick them up with the trash, but drawing one still coveys the concept of a television well enough for most purposes.

I bring up the notion of being separate from the joke in light of a post I made a month ago complaining about how a newspaper cartoonist was using outdated tropes as a central focus of his jokes. Erikkson's drawing is out of date, but that's basically just superficial winow dressing.

Despite the specific Lego set being ultimately inconsequential, I think what bugs me about this kind of thing is that part of a cartoonist's job is to be able to be well-versed in visual shorthand. They need to be able to, with just a few lines, convey a car or a house or a tree or whatever. That means not only knowing what a car or a house or a tree looks like, but what most people think of as critical to the essence of visualizing a car or a house or a tree. And what happens when you alter a few lines to change "a car" into a Tesla or "a house" into Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater or "a tree" into a hundred-year-old dogwood; what do those particulars mean to people? Because of Eriksson's illustrative choices with today's comic, he's not presenting "a Lego space set" he's presenting "a Lego space set that's decades out of date." Which, I suppose, could be intentional inasmuch as he's suggesting the idea of a fake moon landing is also a decades-out-of-date idea, but I somehow don't think that's the case here since moon landing conspiracy theories started at least a full decade before that.

Again, none of this really impacts the joke Eriksson is going for here, so this is really just me nitpicking, but it does unintentionally reinforce the notion that newspaper cartoonists are wildly out of date with their ideas and why many people don't consider them funny. (That's not the sole reason, mind you, but it's a not-insignificant one.)
Newer Post Older Post Home