Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Shmoo

For those of you who don't remember Al Capp you might want to read about one of his creations, the Shmoo. My wife recently asked me if I remembered Shmoos and that prompted me to refresh my memory about his work. Mr. Capp was a complex and interesting fellow who became rather embittered in his later years. You can learn more about him and his work by following the links provided.

The Shmoo was a mythical animal he introduced in his cartoon strip Li'l Abner in 1948. This little being rapidly became a national phenomenon, according to the Wikipedia article. Some of the characteristics of the Shmoo were:
  • They reproduce asexually and are incredibly prolific, multiplying exponentially faster than rabbits. They require no sustenance other than air.
  • Shmoos are delicious to eat, and are eager to be eaten. If a human looks at one hungrily, it will happily immolate itself — either by jumping into a frying pan, after which they taste like chicken, or into a broiling pan, after which they taste like steak. When roasted they taste like pork, and when baked they taste like catfish. (Raw, they taste like oysters on the half-shell.)
  • They also produce eggs (neatly packaged), milk (bottled, grade-A), and butter—no churning required. Their pelts make perfect bootleather or house timber, depending on how thick you slice it.
  • They have no bones, so there's absolutely no waste. Their eyes make the best suspender buttons, and their whiskers make perfect toothpicks. In short, they are simply the perfect ideal of a subsistence agricultural herd animal.
  • Naturally gentle, they require minimal care, and are ideal playmates for young children. The frolicking of shmoon is so entertaining (such as their staged "shmoosical comedies") that people no longer feel the need to watch television or go to the movies. (source)
Looking at the fantasized features ascribed to Shmoos, we can perhaps see that many of our cultural narratives surrounding our exploitation of animals more closely resembles a cartoon strip than it does reality. We prefer to think our fellow animals just want to serve us and that they gladly give up their freedom and their lives to satisfy our whims and our appetites...that they don't mind and certainly they don't suffer...or if they do, their suffering is brief and they willingly endure it...all just for us. (Aren't we special?)

We can enjoy fantasy...just as we can enjoy cartoons...but when we confuse fantasy with reality about our fellow animals, there is often a severe price to pay. Sadly, most human animals inflict that price on the innocent of the Earth...our fellow animals. Cows are not Shmoos, chickens are not Shmoos, pigs are not shmoos...no real animal is a shmoo. None. They value their lives, just as we do ours, and their lives belong to them...not us.

Unless you are living as an ethical vegan...you are likely, on some level, to be guilty of inhabiting cartoonland...not reality. Time to grow up and become a responsible member of the community of life.

4 comments:

D.E.M. said...

Weird!! I just read my kid the Barbapapw books,. Kind is similar, but not so carnivorous.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting DEM. Weird is right...the shapes sure look similar. Since the Shmoo was around first ya gotta wonder if some influencing didn't go on. :-)

Bea Elliott said...

Fascinating! Nothing I had ever known about. I knew of Li'l Abner but in more limited context like equating it with the Beverly Hillbillies. Boy was I w-a-y off!

I can see why the Shmoos would have created economic havoc - Everything in our financial system depends on scarcity -not abundance.

And this note that "In their very few subsequent appearances in Li'l Abner, shmoos are also identified by the U.S. military as a major threat to national security." I wonder if that would ever happen with lab-made "leather" or "shmeat"? Hum...

Thanks again for another eye-opener into a genre I was totally clueless about. I can see how the line of thinking regarding corruption and excess would lead us here to the likes of J. Roaringham Fatback and Big Barnsmell. Dog Patch and Lower Slobbovia cleverly disguised in a seemingly harmless comic strip. Genius indeed!

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Bea. Mr. Capp was quite a character. I clearly remember seeing him on late night talk shows railing against student protestors...which is part of the reason I sort of dismissed him. But up until the 1960s he was a gadfly to the powerful and the pompous and did a bang-up job of puncturing societal pretensions.

I'm glad you enjoyed encountering him and his creations.