Gary Trudeau and Berekley Breathed on Donald Trump’s Comedy of the Grotesque


Marx famously remarked in the The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” I was reminded of Marx’s adage when reading Gary Trudeau Yuge!: 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump, not because it applies to Trump, but because we have emerged into an era where tragedy and farce have merged as a grotesque comedy – a mutant hybrid of Chaplin’s Great Dictator and Jackass.

I came to Doonesbury later in life (only Uncle Duke made perfect sense to me after devouring Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Curse of Lono in junior high). Trudeau’s portrayal of Trump is a masterwork in seemingly effortless satire. Framing Trump’s antics in a strip brilliantly revealed Trump’s character from the 1980s onward. 

Yuge!should be required reading for anybody voting into the 2016 Presidential Elections.


Nonetheless, Trump does not deserve Trudeau. 

As a teenager, I didn’t know enough American politics to appreciate Doonesbury, so my first introduction to Trump was through Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County. Breathed’s greatest creation was the anti-Garfield Bill the Cat, lead tongue player of the legendary heavy metal band Deathtongue, cult member, televangelist, and Presidential candidate for the National Meadow Radical Party.
Donald Trump comes into Bloom County when his brain is implanted into the body of Bill the Cat. Trump in the body of Bill the Cat briefly struggles to adjust.
Not surprisingly, having his brain transplanted in the body of a hairball vomiting feline does nothing to change Trump’s character or behavior.
Bloom County ends with Trump buying up the county and firing and evicting the characters.

(Check out Raymond Cummings’ close reading of these strips.) 
Gary Trudeau reflected Trump and America back at us, but Berkeley Breathed anticipated our current political malaise. Behind the horror of the 2016 Presidential Elections is an uncanny sense that it has all been a preposterous hallucination. Our avatar is Bill the Cat.

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