Gray Flannel Dwarf

7/11/2003

E2 Writeup: Goofus and Gallant

Long before parents could blame their kids’ bad behaviour on ADD/ADHD, and before morals were taught on TV in the form of after-school specials that revolved around students and drug addiction, the magazine Highlights For Children presented kids with a far more benign viewing option that attempted to illustrate the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. Augustine would have recognised the inherent dualism immediately.

“Goofus and Gallant” is not so much a comic as it is an illustrated series of contrasting “A versus B” life decisions. Goofus, always illustrated cowlicked and with bangs and tending to have a scowl or impish look on his face, is the temperamental, misbehaved one who neglected his chores, friends, or manners; he is the antithesis to Gallant, the perfect-haired, clean-cut, well-behaved lad.

An example strip would tend to have each of the boys segregated in separate frames, but in otherwise similar scenarios or environments. Below each pane would be a sentence of text regarding how both Goofus and Gallant would behave in the situation, perhaps playing out something like this:

Frame A: “Goofus reaches across the table to grab the basket of dinner rolls.”

Frame B: “Gallant waits for Grandma to get her dinner roll, before politely asking her to pass him the basket.”

As the two always tend(ed) to look very similar in the various illustrative iterations, sometimes it has sometimes been pondered whether Goofus and Gallant are identical twin brothers, or, since they never appeared in the same frame, whether they were are perhaps different personas of the same protagonist.

Whatever the situation, Highlights is still in publication, and over the years, the behaviours and ages of neither Goofus nor Gallant have changed. This is probably a good thing, however — if they’d both grown up, Goofus would probably be smoking crack and living in an alleyway, whereas overachieving Gallant would have probably killed himself halfway through grad school, due to the intense pressure that he was under from both himself and his overbearing parents.

…and what kind of lesson would that teach your seven year-old?


cswiii @ 4:15 pm