Sunday, February 28, 2010

Confused Readers, Drunk Editors












(click the pic to make it big)

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I admit this cartoon is a little opaque. I got a few emails wondering what it meant, which was not a surprise. I was thinking that the dog sees Rorschach images and interprets them as messes on the floor, to which he replies, "Bad dog." The man rewards the dog for his performance.

One odd thing I only just noticed while posting this is that in the fourth panel, there is a comma behind the "Bad dog," instead of a period. This was a mistake on my part and I'm surprised my editors didn't catch it and ask me about it. Or maybe they fixed it in the version that went to papers and forgot to tell me. Or maybe they were drunk and thought they'd told me. Or maybe they did tell me and I was drunk. Life presents so many possibilities.

If any of you had a different interpretation of this gag when you first saw it, let me know. I enjoy hearing about the way reader's minds work.

P.S. I drink, but I never get drunk. At least not on purpose. I have no idea how often my editors get drunk.

15 comments:

Jezzka said...

got it. loved it. :)

Anonymous said...

I'll admit that I didn't get that the spots were "messes." Had I known that, I would have gotten the joke. I'm guessing that was the common misunderstanding, not the comma thing.

Keith Robinson said...

I didn't get that he was seeing the ink blots as messes; I thought he was seeing a therapist because he had low self-esteem: he is interpreting everything as "bad dog" because he sees himself as a bad dog. Maybe that's all his family ever says to him. So I thought it was sweet that the doctor calls him a good dog; this dog can be saved.

JohnM said...

Dan,

I didnt think of messes on the floor, I just figured "Bad Dog" was what the dog heard all the time, so that was his interpretation of everything, and probably why he was in therapy. That the dog can talk seems perfectly natural, like the old talking dog/talent scout joke with the punchline "Maybe I should have said Dimaggio" If you don't know that one, let me know.
I thought it was pretty straight forward, and I liked it.

The style of this drawing reminds me of Kliban, (the fur on the dog, the doctor's glasses, etc.) probably intentional on your part.

Isaac said...

It's pretty easy for me to see growly dog faces in the Rorschach blots in the first and fourth panels. When I read the cartoon, I figured that the dog was recognizing them, too, and seeing faces in the other two panels that I couldn't quite see.

That didn't make much sense as a joke, but it made sense as a narrative, so my mind stuck with it until I read your explanation.

But since when is indoor dog mess so symmetrical?

ArTH said...

Well, my first thought was that it's a critic to psychoanalisis, using the Behaviorism/ Pavlov's conditioning as a method to explain what happens in a session.

Something like: In therapy you are never right. Your analyst is always right. The more guilt you feel, the more rewarded you get. The more rewarded you get, more often a behavior appears (to feel guilty), and you come back next week at the same time.

hawkgirl said...

I thought this dog was just humoring the shrink, telling him what he wanted to hear so he could get the heck out of therapy. He reminds me of that famous Japanese dog http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi2296906777/

Marte Lilleberre said...

haha

Aaron said...

I thought it was a therapy session and the dog was telling his feelings.

"This ink blot reminds me of a bad dog."
"Good Ubu, thanks for sharing."

Jodie said...

Nope, I got it right away.

Luis said...

So, is that a Shiba Inu? My wife wants to know.

Yet Another Steve said...

I completely missed the "messes on the floor" idea, and assumed that the dog was so used to hearing only "Bad dog!" that it's the only phrase he knows. Probably thinks it's his name, too.

ojeano said...

I found it rhythmically funny and didn't see the images as messes on the floor, just the dog was used to hearing "bad dog." Of course he gets a pat on the head: he answered quickly and HE CAN TALK!!! (And that's the other funny part; the psychiatrist rewards the dog to a greater degree for doing what he wants than for being able to talk.)

And that is how my mind works.

Jan said...

I saw it as "Bad dog" being in dog language that only we can read, while the therapists hears a bark. Dunno why really. So the dog whould just actually say "bad dog" to the therapist for showing ore pictures instead of patting him. Weird...

Richard Green said...

The dog looks at the ink blots and sees something that he should be ashamed of, like biting someone, or urinating in the house. As the dog sees each image, he thinks of the shameful action and says "bad dog."

The psychologist, for his part, has the goal of encouraging the patient (the dog) to reveal shameful things about himself. Once the dog has revealed all his shameful thoughts, the psychologist praises the dog, saying "good dog" to reinforce the self-revealing behavior.

I see this cartoon as a criticism about the unequal relationship between therapist and patient. in each of the first five frames, the dog reveals something shameful about himself, while the therapist reveals nothing. The suggestion is that therapy is about getting the patient to reveal shameful things. In the last frame, the statement "good dog" demonstrates that the therapist is firmly in control.