Monday, October 02, 2006

An Examination of The Comic Strip "Cathy"

Hey y’all…

So I guess I haven’t been a very good Blogger lately. At first I thought that blogging was to be saved for those really significant moments in one’s life where the only way to get it out of your system was to broadcast it to a billion strangers. Actually, it occurred to me that everyone else is blogging everyday about stuff that really has no consequence or deep metaphoric impact that would make you want to live your life differently. So, since I want to be just like everyone else, (especially the one’s that live in huge mansions and have parties with festive hats and those things you put in your mouth so that when you blow on them they uncurl and make a “thhhup” noise... I want to be in that crowd so badly!) I have decided to write about a mailing I received from the post office.

So, here is the catalyst that sparked this entry:

Not much to go off, it would seem... But I did a little research. Did you know that the USPS actually sent out a press release to tell everyone they were going to be featuring “Cathy” on numerous post cards? Yes, I know what you’re thinking... “Postcards? Hell, we want a ticker tape parade! Send out the local marching band, baton twirlers, and those ladies that throw those big flags in the air!” Here’s an excerpt from the press release:

Contact: Media Relations 202-268-2155
February 27, 2006
News Release No. 06-014


130 million postcards will be mailed monthly

Washington, D.C. - Dilbert has some time-saving information for Wally, who finds it too taxing to believe, and Cathy encounters a little chaos trying to find stamps.

Not to worry, though. The U.S. Postal Service is on the way to save the day. A little dramatic, perhaps. But these are comic strips, after all.

Cathy Guisewite, creator of "Cathy," and Scott Adams, creator of "Dilbert" will draw original, three-panel comic strips for a series of postcards that are being sent to 120 million residential addresses and 10 million business addresses.

Each month, "Keeping You Posted" will provide customers with information about a variety of products and services, from flat-rate packaging and Click-N-Ship to NetPost CardStore and money orders.

"We've begun a dialogue with our customers about our services, and chose two characters everyone can relate to in helping to tell our story," said Anita Bizzotto, USPS Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President. "We wanted to connect with people in a way that was interesting and humorous."

"Cathy" will be featured on seven postcards sent to residential customers. She will help spread the word on products and services that may be unfamiliar to customers, highlighting the suite of services available online through The first postcard highlights all of the places stamps can be purchased - in addition to the local Post Office.

Wow! Thank goodness we have Cathy to tell us where to buy stamps! And, it’s clear the post office has a sense of humor, since Cathy has created so many wild spin offs. Besides the long running prime time sitcom, three feature length movies, a host of weight loss products, sensible shoes, breakfast cereal, and grout cleaners, it would seem as though Cathy Guisewite is a media giant. But I can’t help but be suspicious of the relationship Cathy has with her husband Simon... And yes, I know that because I looked it up on Wikipedia... Actually, it wasn’t too long ago that Simon was just the boyfriend of Cathy. But when Guisewite’s real life boyfriend proposed to her in 2004, Simon did the same in the comic strip. Cathy and Simon were married on February 5th, 2005, almost a year after Guisewite’s proposal. Was she making sure it’d stick before including it in her comic? Only Guisewite knows for sure... But, I digress.

Anyway, the point here is I wonder how well Cathy and Simon are getting along here. Let’s examine the first pane, shall we?

Here we see Simon opening the door for Cathy... you can see that after a year and a half of marriage, the simple things Simon did when they were dating have not been forgotten. But what about what Simon says? “We’re just running into the post office to mail this, right, Cathy?” Sounds a little naggy to me. I mean, taking out of context the fact that you and I know how the comic ends, what does he expect to have happen in the post office? I mean, whenever I go to my local post office I usually wait in line for a while, mail whatever it is I can’t mail from home, and leave. But Simon seems to think Cathy might go a little crazy. I can only imagine why if this was Cathy’s first time in the post office... but since most of Cathy’s comic strips deal with the "four basic guilt groups" of life—food, love, mom and work, you would think she’d have had the acquaintance of a post office in the past. (that was another little Cathy fact from Wikipedia... for all your Cathy trivia needs, follow this link -->

So, Simon looks to be a little controlling... maybe he’s having a hard time dealing with married life... maybe he’s having a hard time hiding his discomfort for the post office... ahh... there’s something... what if Simon doesn't want to be seen in the post office? Okay, so let’s take the focus off of Cathy for a second... Since this is a post office, and most of what you do includes waiting in line, why is Simon so apprehensious? Is someone going to recognize him? Perhaps he’s secretly having an affair with the mailman... Oooh the mailman! Simon could be hiding a torrid gay relationship! What if Donny saw him at the post office? Could they hide the smoldering passion away from Cathy? I can see it all unfolding...

Simon sees Donny behind the counter. Donny, a strapping young Puerto Rican gingerly bends over at the waist to pick up some bubble wrap when he notices Simon. He stops in mid bend... his hiney in the air, almost wagging. Their eyes meet. Donny slowly raises up and leans over on the counter, his misty blue eyes searing with intent. It was only a couple of days ago when Simon had called in sick to work, and since Cathy had gone on a business trip, there was no one else there when Donny rang the bell to deliver his package. Suddenly, Simon is awakened from his daydream by Cathy’s elbow. She has noticed that Simon is staring at the Puerto Rican behind the counter, who is now popping the bubble wrap between his waist and the counter.

“Honey? What are you staring at?” says a curious Cathy.

Simon quicky looks away from Donny. “Oh, me... ahem, nothing, ahh, I just remembered there was something at home I needed to pack.”

Cathy looks again at Donny, who notices her. He quietly puts the bubble wrap down and rushes around the corner, out of sight. She feels a strange coldness coming from Simon, a feeling that only comes when one person is hiding something from the other. Neither one spoke as they wait in line to mail their letter. That night, as Simon kissed Cathy goodnight, all she could think of was the sound of bubblewrap... pop... pop...


So, as you can see there is a lot to be inferred from that first pane. It ends with Cathy blindly realizing that you can also buy a money order while at the post office! WOW! You can? Awesome! Still, when I buy my money orders, I also like to purchase slim jims, malt liquor, and pick up an Auto Trader. So, until the post office catches up, I think I’ll still do all my money order business at 7-11. Let’s continue to pane two.

Here we see Simon resigning to the fact that since neither one has a checking account, Cathy must buy a money order. I can’t think of how many times it randomly occurs to me that I am in dire need of a money order.

Like this one time I was standing in line to use the trough urinal at a baseball game. There were about thirty guys all piled up in a bathroom that smelled like beer pee, and was built to accommodate fifteen pee’ers and room for another ten behind them... just in case one pees with an entourage or happens to have a lot of peeing equipment. So for the other five of us, we were standing as far away from each other as we could, all the while smashing shoulders together and looking up. Then as the man in front of me finished and left an open spot, I froze. While I should have taken my rightful place at the trough, I was unable to see through the haze the lightning bolt thought had left behind in my head. Money Order... Money Order! Man, how great would that be! If only I had one of those things! It’s like having money, but it’s the size of a check... no, bigger than a normal check... ‘cause it’s a money order! That way you have to fold it a couple of time to get it to fit in your wallet! Aww man, that’s so awesome! And I’d walk around the mall with my money order folded tightly in my wallet... folded so many times that when I walk into Spenser’s Gifts to purchase a farting beer mug, the cashier will know that when I pull out my wallet that I’ve got a money order. All right...

Suddenly, I am awakened by an anxious man behind me. He pushes me aside, mumbling something about his teeth floating. I lose my place in the pee line, but I didn’t care. All I wanted was a Money Order.

So, it’s understandable that Cathy could have the random urge to buy a money order... and lucky her, she’s at the post office! I am starting to see the effectiveness of well placed advertising... I mean, at first blush this is just a mere comic strip, but behind the veneer of laughs and the tears that follow, the USPS is secretly brain washing all of us... Wow... Anyway, back to Cathy.

So, at this point Cathy’s eyes are starting to wander. Look at where she’s standing (we’re still on Pane two). Look at all the great things she can buy! In her hand is a very attractive postcard with three flowers on it. Oooh! Look at the top shelf! Packing tape! Envelopes, with stuff already written in the address and return address areas! I mean, pre-stamped envelopes are one thing, but where else can you buy pre-addressed envelopes at? Now that’s convenient. Behind those are a few more colorful envelopes... One with some purple flowers... I like that... Oh! Look! Balloons! Hearts! I am shaking my head just imagining all the things Cathy is going to want to buy! Sure hope Simon brought his checkbook... er... money order! Cathy is also shown to notice “boxes... envelopes... labels” and more, but unfortunately for us, we can’t see them.

One good thing here is Simon is certainly at ease with Cathy’s eye being drawn to all of the irresistible mailing supplies. That way, she has less of a chance of spotting Donny, who usually takes his lunch break at this time. Moving on to Pane three.

Here you can see that Cathy has picked up a lot of cool stuff, more than likely with the intent of purchase. She has gotten some packing tape, a box with hearts on it, the card with the purple flowers on it (I guess she chose that one over the one with the three flowers that she was holding up in the second pane... you see, Cathy is an impulse shopper, yes, but also a comparative one), some other various cards, and a couple of tubes that were sitting by the shelf in the previous pane (with that suspicious red writing on them).

Simon has completely had it. He has thrown his arms in the air, and if you look real close, has somehow put a black bow tie in front of his mouth... I have no clue why. In any case, he has come to the shocking realization that even in the post office, Cathy has found a way to quench her thirst for shopping. He says, “Get me out of here!!”

Cathy, trying to be supportive of her turrets like husband sees the seemingly seven foot sign that says PASSPORTS and makes a funny. “You can apply for a passport!” Ha ha...

Seems innocent now, but the forth pane that wasn’t included in the comic strip shows Simon and Donny relaxing on the beach at Donny’s home in Puerto Rico. Simon is much different looking than in the previous three panes. Gone are the blue sweater and jeans, and instead is a pink Speedo and shades. Donny has traded his postman’s uniform and instead lounges in a teal sarong with a sparkly sash. They sip mojitos and soak in the sun’s warmth. Above Simon is a word bubble saying: “Cathy was right, I did need a passport... I’m gonna miss her.” Below that Donny utters a simple “Si."

Seems as though there is much more than meets the eye in a Cathy comic strip. I hope that I have expanded your mind a bit so that the next time you're reading Ziggy, Garfield... even the Family Circus, that you won't take them for face value. Because, just like the post office claims, I'm just Keeping You Posted.

Your pal,

Michael Lamendola

Want to Read Part Two? CLICK HERE

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