From Irish Simian to Homer Simpson

An Irish Simian, drawn by Fredrick Opper for Puck, February 15, 1882

Like radioactive material, an ethnic stereotype can possess a lengthy half-life, lingering on long after the period of its most deadly potency. We’ve already seen  how the minstrel/blackface image lives on in the guise of Mickey Mouse and other cartoon creations. Something similar has happened to the Victorian stereotype of the simian Irish, which now has mysteriously morphed into the relatively benign form of Homer Simpson, the All-American lovable loser.

My thoughts on this have been inspired by a reading of a new collection of George McManus’ classic comic strip Bringing Up Father, created in 1913. NBM has released a collection of the first two years of the McManus strip.

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