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Sometimes you just ask yourself, "is this cartoon in bad taste?" And around here, the answer is, usually, "yes."
But sometimes, you ask yourself, is this cartoon is really bad taste? That's what happened this week. I mean, this idea has been floating around for a while, and given the Christmas theme, it was pretty much now or never. But is joking about terrorism a good thing?
Well, to some extent, the entire concept of "Minions at Work" is based on terrorism. It riffs on the tropes of media super-villians in comics, movies, cartoons, and TV, especially during the formative era when I was growing up mumble-mumble years ago. And while we didn't have such a generic label for their activities, what were those guys (and gals) really, but terrorists? Captain Nemo sinking American warships in the name of world peace? Terrorist. Goldfinger trying to nuke Ft. Knox? Terrorist. Doctor Doom blasting the Fantastic Four's skyscraper headquarters out of Manhattan and straight into space? (Yes, this happened, in the classic Fantastic Four, first series, #6!) Terrorism.
So what is Doctor Coldblood's long-delayed plan to inject greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and bring about global warming (besides misguided, redundant, and just too late) but terrorism? Baron Badseed's plan to unleash flesh-eating plants on the world? Terrorism? Cap'n Rehab's scheme to operate a phony celebrity rehab clinic in a submarine so the paparazzi can't watch his "patients" partying like it's 1999? That's... Okay, that's just kind of brilliant. But that's not my point.
There's plenty of real terrorism in the world these days. According to news reports, a terrorism suspect was arrested recently after detonating a test bomb right here in my little town (a town so small that I should have HEARD any bomb that went off inside it, which makes me suspicious of either news reports, or the size of his bomb). Just a few days ago there was a bombing attack in Stockholm, Sweden. A fellow writer who I know casually passed through ground zero of the attack only minutes before the explosions went off. Only chance saved his life. Nobody is safe from terrorism.
But statistically, anyway, none of us is much in danger of it either. Far more people are killed or harmed every year by car accidents, common diseases, and routine criminal violence, dangers that most of us face without blinking an eye. While it's stupid not to take precautions, its also stupid to live our lives in fear, and the best cure for fear I know is laughter. If we spent more time laughing at people who try to blow up their underwear, rather than trembling and taking naked pictures of one another in airports (naked pictures that apparently can't detect exploding underwear because they're, you know, naked!) our enemies might not have quite as much luck recruiting willing suicide bombers. Because these people think they have nothing to lose, and they're wrong. We can still take away their dignity. We're not laughing with you, underwear guy, we're laughing at you.
So where are we with this week's cartoon? We rarely brush so close to real terrorism, as opposed to the cartoonish kind, but we're not making a joke about bombs going off here. We're laughing at them not going off, not even being made. We're laughing at plots foiled. We're laughing at a scenario so absurd I've got to laugh a little at anyone who would take offense. (Moslem extremists writing to a non-existent icon associated with a Christian holiday to ask for nuclear materials, and the order is intercepted by Minions of Evil who are doing seasonal temp work for a Santa of dubious morals? Yeah, that could totally happen!)
So join me, in this holiday season, in laughing into the face of danger. Pucker your lips, stick out your tongue, and give a big razzberry in the direction of people who would do the world pointless harm. It won't help, but it might just make you feel better.
At least until you're killed in a car accident.
Seriously, wishing all my Minions readers peace, and failing that, safety in the year to come.
See you next week (I hope):
- Minion Master Steve