Despite what a lot of people say, there has always been a line to cross when it came to comedy. I have heard it said that the twentieth century was a dark age when all things were funny and nothing was too offensive to make a joke about. A lot of evidence for this comes from the comedy of the late century, when many comics declared straight out that if jokes were not offensive, they couldn’t be considered comedy. This is all a touch extreme. The line has always been there: there were jokes you could laugh at when you were among friends that you could not laugh at when out in public. The line just keeps moving as the world turns around.
I see this a lot when I go through the comic postcards of our ancestors, and watching that line move is fascinating. Butt jokes, as we have observed in this space, seem to be perennial, but laxative jokes seem to have largely vanished after mid-century. Ethnic jokes have wobbled for a long time between a celebration of a group’s unique ways and accents and being cruel mockery of the outsider. Jokes about sex were generally reserved for private use, but today I spotted a T-shirt in a dining establishment which, though it made me chortle also made me wonder why the manager didn’t ask her to put her jacket back on.
Now one thing that has become less publicly funny as time went on is the spanking joke. Spanking jokes were all around me as a child, featured in children’s comic books, shown off in dozens of cartoons and comic strips. There are hundreds of postcards on the subject as well. I think our ancestors regarded being spanked as a child to be so universal that the subject would appeal to a wide audience.
I have not, so far, discussed the subject here, though I have plenty of material to work with. It is not only considered offensive, but comes down in some people’s minds as outright pornographic. I won’t use this space TOO often to critique how other merchants of postcards advertise their wares, but there are those who try to sell these postcards by warning “Child Abuse Postcards” for sale, to let you know they disapprove (but apparently don’t want to die and have these found in their estate.)
So today I am not going to discuss spanking postcards. I am going to turn the subject around and discuss the opposite. Non-spanking postcards are all around us, and it bothers me that some of my competitors do list these as spanking postcards, offensively trying to make a buck on….wait, I’ve done that now and again myself. Forget that bit.
Some postcards are simply misfiled because of what they seem at first glance. The postcard at the top of this column shows an equally common sight of bygone days: a mother fixing the pants her kid just tore sliding on the sidewalk or climbing a tree. It’s sort of a visual pun: you need to look a second time.
Similarly, any hand raised near a person’s southern side can mislead the eye (and or an online customer.) This chap (who was reused for a similar card in which both are wearing swimsuits) is merely waving hello.
And so is this young lady, despite the fact that her presumed target is bare. (Babies with bare bottoms were once much more common, though they still appear, sometimes to raised eyebrows.)
This sort of thing annoys me, though I have made use of it myself. There is a difference between a “spanking” and a swat on the rear and then duck for cover, as this chap will have to do.
This was a wildly popular theme in postcards.
There is a whole world of postcards inspired by a now nearly forgotten music hall song “My Word, If I Catch You Bending”. The swift swat is considered in some circles to be peculiarly British humor.
We, fortunately, had the motto “Do It Now” to take the place of that song. Note that this sort of humor does not have to be a joke between two different sexes.
I would like to know how this particular twosome got onto so many different postcards. Was the same artist involved in all of them? Why the wishbone? Why the “Lest We Forget”? Do you see how much confusion we can get into when we consider the backsides of our ancestors?
Our ancestors also considered physical altercations between married couples to be funny (especially if the wife was winning.) Someday, perhaps, we will consider this phenomenon and study the evolution of the rolling pin through the years. This lady is using a much more easily wielded weapon (can’t quite tell what it is) and I have seen THIS described as a spanking postcard. Nonsense: she herself would simply call it “hitting” because she doesn’t care where the implement lands.
And it is the same thing here. I have seen this advertised as a spanking postcard, but her aim is off for that. This peeping tom is merely going to be de-peeped about the head and shoulders.
So there. I hope you benefited from this discussion of not-at-all-spanking postcards. You’re welcome.