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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Here we go again!

The other day, as people were enjoying their Christmas holidays, the print and TV media stirred them into an uproar by announcing that the Beano's Dennis the Menace will no longer be called a Menace and that his supporting cast will include a girl in a wheelchair. 

Fact is, the "Menace" part of the title was dropped from the strip over a year ago! The "girl in a wheelchair", Rubi, has been in the Beano for a while now too. Also, the strip was simplified to Dennis and Gnasher for a while back in 2009, and the media stirred the pot back then too:

So... either none of the reporters remembered that they'd covered the same story eight years ago or they simply needed something to fill their papers and distract people from shady politicians and corporate bankers. Either way, it worked, and their readers hammered their opinions into their keyboards. The opinions were pretty much the usual blathering about "political correctness" and "snowflakes" as you can see from these examples...

Although the news items had included reassurances from Beano's publisher Mike Stirling that Dennis "still dances to the beat of his own drum as a mischief-maker and is very much a leader amongst his pals" the public were having none of it...

Dennis and Gnasher writer Nigel Auchterlounie stepped in to explain things further...

Beano artist/writer Kev F. Sutherland went on Sky News to put the record straight too:

Writer Cavan Scott (whose work includes the Beano) also posted a very good piece on his blog about it:

Phil Boyce had a thing or two to say about the silliness of the reactions on his blog too:

A few things occurred to me about this whole hoo-ha:

1) A lot of people seemed upset that Dennis was no longer a bully. That says a lot about their personalities.

2) If you think a comics character in a wheelchair is a sign of modern "political correctness" perhaps you've forgotten Professor X from the X-Men and The Chief from Doom Patrol. Both of whom debuted back in the early 1960s. Also, if you have a downer on people who aren't able-bodied you're not very nice.

3) If you think Dennis shouldn't have a black friend you're a racist. 

4) People who got annoyed about it this week clearly haven't been reading the Beano for a long time or they'd have noticed the changes over a gradual period of years. So who cares what they think? The changes took place a while back and the actual readers accepted it and carried on enjoying the stories.

Here's the thing that most of these stories ignored or didn't bother researching: the main reason that the cartoon series is called Dennis and Gnasher and not Dennis the Menace is so that it can be sold internationally and not be confused with the American Dennis the Menace. By coincidence, both the British Dennis and the American one debuted in the same week in 1951. (Over here, the U.S. Dennis was sometimes called "The Pickle" so it's always caused problems.) I guess the practicalities of a business decision were too boring for the media so they chose to blow things out of proportion and pander to their readers by claiming it was all about "political correctness gone mad".
Thing is, once a rumour gets out, no matter how wrong it is, it's hard to counteract it. Thankfully, most of the people moaning about the "de-Menacing" don't buy the Beano anyway so their opinion is irrelevant. Trouble is, such nonsense could generate an unease about the comic, and could put some parents off buying it for their kids. On the other hand, it could also encourage more independently-minded parents to look out for it and see for themselves what the fuss is about. If they did, they'd find a comic that's still funny, still full of wild characters, and still enjoyed by children. In the end, the children it's aimed at are the only audience whose opinion matters. 

The Beano returns to the shelves after its Christmas break on Wednesday 3rd January. Check it out and have a laugh.


James Spiring said...

Slight correction - a new Beano came out on Wednesday 27th December, they're already back from their Christmas break.

Other than that, great post!

John Kerry said...

I daresay the writers were people who enjoyed Dennis when they were younger. Many people hold on to something as representing their youth, and to change that something is to threaten their youth. By the way The Beano has been available in Canada since at least the sixties so we have had both Dennises with no confusion.

Lew Stringer said...

In which case they should be old enough to understand that nothing in life is static, John. Let's face it, the people complaining that Dennis isn't violent enough would be the first to complain if he was.

Thanks for that, James. Sadly it hasn't appeared in shops around here yet! I hope my local suppliers haven't used the holidays as an excuse to drop it.

Lew Stringer said...

I'll add that no changes to the character today will affect people's memories of Dennis. The comics of our childhood still exist in physical form as well as in our memories. If the old Dennis is so precious to them, I wonder how many of the complainers are buying cheap back issues on eBay or at car boot sales? I'd venture that few of them are, or they'd mention it. They just don't like change. One has to accept that everything evolves and fiction often reflects changes in society for the better. Denying that just leads to self-created misery, which is why those blaming "political correctness" on equality and fairness are always grumpy.

Manic Man said...

His surname is Menace now?
and didn't they bring back the 'the Menace' bit after the last cartoon show ended?

ah, don't know and can't say it's that major.. very old story.. Remember in.. i think it was the 90s when they got the Jacket and Sunglasses? that was a pretty good story.. also kinda feel he looks less scruffy when they gave him the rugger jumper.. If it's a smooth change over time, i have no real problem with any character change if it keeps true to the core of the character. If it's a quick switch then i'm less happy but still don't really care too much. If it' s a quick change and loses the core of the character, it's a great jump off point.. what people these days call a 'Jumping on' point ^_^

ParryS said...

Lew, the blog entry, and your post about change, are spot-on.

There's an era of Dan Dare I am not fond of. So when the Dan Dare "bug" hits me, as it often does, I just seek out the era I like.

Regarding the right-wing media, I do feel they have a purpose for me. I don't buy the M**l or the S*n, but I glance at their headlines. And when I do, I take the opposite view, knowing that what they are pushing will no doubt be untrue, with an agenda, etc. So, thank you, right-wing tabloids, if I'm ever in doubt about something, I'll look at your headlines and take the opposing view!

Lew Stringer said...

Manic, the sunglasses/new outfit story was just a publicity stunt for one week. By the time the media reacted to it, Dennis was back in his stripey jumper. I'm sure it had the intended effect of boosting sales though.

Yes, the "Menace" title returned after the 2009 change. As I said, it was only for a while.

Thanks Parry. Sadly, I know people who DO believe what they read in those papers. One recent example: my local newsagent was complaining about benefit scroungers the other day because of a Sun headline. I told him it wasn't accurate but he said "It's on the front page! It wouldn't be there if it wasn't true!" I gave up at that point.

Kal said...

Tangent: The name of the strip can get confusing. Looking at the 2014 annual (first one to hand), the strip is called 'Dennis and Gnasher' - based on the CBBC show - and 'Dennis the Menace and Gnasher' in the same book.

Anyway, this whole "I don't like this thing so it shouldn't exist" nonsense gets bloody old despite some of the comments being hilariously overwrought. Yep, DC Thomson have sacrificed your precious childhood memories to the alter of PC. Woe, woe and thrice woe.

It doesn't matter! If Dennis is no longer a Menace, the comics you last read as a twelve year old still exist. DC Thomson put out a book of reprints every Christmas, go buy that.

That extends to every part of fandom when things change. Disney killing off the Star Wars EU doesn't stop those books from existing, go and read them; if you hate the latest Doctor regeneration, go watch old episodes, buy a book or listen to a Big Finish play featuring the Doctor you liked most; DC faffing about with Watchmen doesn't stop the original from being one of the greatest stories in comic history, so go re-read it.

In other news, let's talk about something great in the Beano: Joe the Crow returning to Roger the Dodger in this year's annual. How blummin' awesome is that!

Manic Man said...

Yeah, i know the story was only for one week.. But it was a fun story.. used to read the one collect years ago which focused on it include newspaper clippings about moaning how he was going soft and stuff and the whole fact of the matter was just that one story ^_^ Media never changes cause well, the whole thing about media panneds to the lowest, thus gets the bulk of readership etc.. Just check up on Orwell or Nigel Kneale (who was a fan and you could tell.. He did a decent job on his version of Nineteen Eighty-Four (Peter Cushion was great in the role but sadly, due to his appearance, failed to capture the tortune effects right), and his 'Year of the Sex Olympics' captured the feel of stuff well. don't get greats like him much any more..

Stevie.H said...


Characters have to evolve and adjust in order to reflect changes in wider culture/ society

It can't be exactly the same Denis from the 1950s but the DNA of the character is still there.

If the Daily Mail are unhappy then it shows the Beano is doing something right!

Happy New Year


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