Sufficient Scruples

Bioethics, healthcare policy, and related issues.

July 3, 2007

Newest Talking Fetus: Humorless, Nonsensical, and Insomniac

by @ 2:03 PM. Filed under Autonomy, Child-Rearing, General, Healthcare Politics, Personhood, Sex, Theory, Women's Issues

Chris Muir is the bizarrely unfunny cartoonist behind “Day by Day” – a conservatively-themed Webtoon that is so consistently incomprehensible that it has spawned an entire cottage industry consisting of the reworking of his strips by liberal bloggers on a desperate quest to force them to make some sense. Adding to the through-the-looking-glass fun are Muir’s many signature artistic tics: utterly non-sequitur dialog, references to Muir’s personal political hotbuttons that are so obscure many of the cartoons appear to have no recognizable content, a cast of characters that consists of weirdly-drawn urban hipsters spouting conservative cliches while striking pointless poses, a female cast that consists exclusively of huge-breasted slim-waisted sexpots with low necklines and bare tummies, artistic skills so marginal that his human poses often simply leave out major body parts or appear deformed, and a strange penchant for showing dialog balloons emerging from implausible parts of the speaker’s body. Plenty of nutty goodness there for those who have the time and energy to wade through it, which I rarely do.

This week, however, Muir joined the creepy talking-fetus brigade of conservative ‘toonists. It’s been discussed before, but it’s apparently a growing meme on the right wing – fetal “personhood” taken to such a bizarrely literal extreme that they imagine fetuses as having fully-functional adult personalities, and sometimes adult bodies (and why not? – with all the retrograde scientific claptrap the right wing has latched onto, the homunculus theory is hardly out of place). This can’t be a coincidence. Literalizing the claim of fetal personhood distinctly changes the relationship between, and relative moral standing of, a woman and her fetus, to the detriment (need it be said?) of the woman. That this delusional characterization of pregnancy has become so common and so widespread of late signals another move in the ongoing assault on the effective moral personhood of women. Here is Muir’s contribution to the war:


Original Muir cartoon: fetus speaks from the uterus, claiming to be


 Classic Muir. The first panel makes no sense. (Emphasizing the word “must” makes the second woman’s response seem like a logical deduction from the first woman’s statement – but it’s non-sequitur. As commentary on the immigration bill issue, it’s equally nonsensical: who is legal? why “must”? what the hell is he talking about?) He hits bottom in the second panel, when the woman’s fetus addresses her directly and declares itself to be an “illegal immigrant” in a voice loud enough to be heard by the woman next to her. This panel’s a three-fer: creepy fetus fetishization, self-contradiction (the fetus appears to be claiming solidarity with illegal aliens, which is against Muir’s own point of view [does he not actually read his own strip?]), plus nutjob rhapsodizing about marriage that is both false and idiotic (there’s nothing illegal about being conceived before your parents were married, as this fetus is said to have been; he’s somehow elevated a right-wing obsession with adult women’s sex lives to the level of a criminal act on the part of the fetus, which is impressive doing even for Muir). The third panel is just dumb. (What has late-night TV got to do with a talking fetus? Is she hallucinating the voice? That would undercut the fetus-fetish message, plus the other woman seems to hear it, too. Is the fetus watching TV? That’s even creepier.) It’s like he feels no responsibility to relate the content of one panel to another, let alone make his weird asides and personal in-jokes make any sense to anyone else.

The bottom line, though, is the talking fetus. No matter how dumb the rest is, talking fetuses are weird, scary, and implicitly misogynistic.

Which means, of course, that it’s time for another Chris Muir cartoon upgrade project. I’ve posted my weak efforts below the cut. Feel free to pile on. (Add your edited cartoon in comments, or just quote the dialog for the balloons.)

Revised Muir cartoon with brilliant and sparkling dialog.

Even better!

Now that's funny!

6 Responses to “Newest Talking Fetus: Humorless, Nonsensical, and Insomniac”

  1. tgirsch Says:

    Unrelated, but this is damn funny! 🙂

  2. tgirsch Says:

    By the way, your third attempt is the best.

  3. Dan M. Says:

    I prefer the first for it’s low-brow start and terror-filled finish.

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