Mayor Pete's Mad Blind Spot Has Me Worried
I woke up this morning to discover that Alfred E. Neuman was trending on Twitter. This was a delightful surprise because that name is magical to me. As you’re reading a blog post here at Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place I’m guessing it’s magical to you as well.
I almost assuredly do not need to tell you that Alfred E. Neuman is the gap-toothed idiot mascot of Mad magazine. It’s hard to overstate the role Mad played in lovingly distorting the comic sensibilities of young people like myself. Mad didn’t just make me laugh: it told the truth.
Unlike every other children’s magazine, with the possible exception of Cracked and, to a lesser extent, Crazy, Mad did not lie to children. It did not pretend that the world was fair or honest or equitable. Instead, it acknowledged, as core principles, that capitalism and consumerism were both greedy, disgusting lies, that commercials try to manipulate us into buying garbage we don’t need and that adults, and the corrupt world that they created, are not to be trusted.
Mad taught me how the world actually worked. It played a similar role in the life and career of American pop parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic, one of its proudest and most accomplished disciples. How important was Mad to Al? It’s referenced in the very first sentence of Weird Al: The Book as the place where Al received his true education.
Seeing Alfred E. Neuman trending was a delightful surprise. The context, however, was not. It seems that Donald Trump, in his capacity as Insulting Nickname-Giver in Chief, has decided upon Alfred E. Neuman as his insult of choice for Indiana’s own Mayor Pete.
That’s not the depressing part. No, the depressing part is that Mayor Pete responded to the president’s pop culture-based mockery by professing not to know who Alfred E. Neuman is.
Mayor Pete claimed that knowing who Alfred E. Neuman is a generational thing, which makes me feel even older than being, at 43 years old, substantially older than someone with a seemingly decent shot at getting elected president.
If Mayor Pete has no idea who Alfred E. Neuman is, then I’m going to hypothesize that he has no special love in his heart for Dr. Demento either, who featured Alfred E. Neuman’s novelty single “It’s a Gas” extensively on his program. Horror of horrors, there’s even a chance that he knows “Weird Al” Yankovic only as the “White & Nerdy” guy and has NEVER owned any of his albums.
Are we sure we want to elevate a man like that to the highest office in the land? The final depressing aspect of Mayor Pete’s unforgivable cultural blind spot is that it makes me identify with Donald Trump, a man I despise with every fiber of my being, as a weird old dude who makes references to stuff like Alfred E. Neuman rather than Mayor Pete, a charming young Democrat and Phish phan.
If I were Mayor Pete, who looks way less like Alfred E. Neuman than George W. Bush did, I would respond to Trump’s mockery by blacking out one of my front teeth before my next press conference and releasing a press release saying that I’m not worried about what Trump and the usual gang of idiots in his administration have to say but that the great William Gaines would be spinning in his outsized Crypt to hear his beloved mascot abused in such an ugly partisan fashion.
Mayor Pete’s honest but unfortunate response to Trump’s jibes makes me worry about what other weird blind spots he might have. I’m sorry, but if Mayor Pete professes not to know who, say, Mayor Quimby or Ralph Wiggum are either, I may have no choice but to vote for Trump in protest and I fucking HATE that guy. But at least he knows who Alfred E. Neuman is.
Support independent media, get access to patron-only content and be an All Star over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace