Cartoon critics Phil Witte and Rex Hesner look behind the gags to debate what makes a cartoon tick. This week our intrepid critics take a look at dieting.
During the pandemic, gyms stayed closed, but refrigerator doors did not. Homes became remote work offices, but kitchens remained conveniently close by. The predictable result: unwanted weight gain. Sweatpants hid the bellies, but now that things are opening up, people want to slenderize.
Many of us have conflicting feelings about food, making it an excellent subject for cartoons.
This one by Mick Stevens suggests that the link between dieting and exercise may have pre-Columbian origins. It certainly predates the modern nutritionist’s concept of the “food pyramid.”
It seems that every year a new fad diet becomes a best-selling book, replete with creative recipes. Results may vary, however. David Sipress’s cartoon implies that some diet books should be taken with a grain of salt.
Even an enterprising child can exploit the diet craze. Paul Noth offers a twist on the old cartoon setup of the lemonade stand. It’s all about the marketing.
Restaurant menus offer customers stark choices: vegetarian or paleo, fries or fruit, Thousand Island or “on the side.” Calorie-counting can result in strategic ordering, as seen in this cartoon by William Haefeli. The perfectly worded caption comically modifies the old “leave room for dessert” phrase.
Women, at least stereotypically, tend to be more concerned about weight issues than men are. Waitstaff are used to questions about sauces. The waiter in this Bruce Eric Kaplan cartoon offers an explanation that zeroes in on the conflict between the pleasure of indulging and the unpleasant consequences that follow.
Special requests to accommodate restrictive diets are common these days. Even the humble pizzeria may have to customize its offerings, as seen in this cartoon by Marisa Acocella Marchetto. Chic, young women frequently appear in her cartoons. Note the image of a face on the handbag, a nice detail.
Here’s another diet-themed cartoon by Haefeli set in a restaurant. A sophisticated woman has had enough of her outclassed, dumbstruck date. Ouch.
Of course, if you’re searching for diet cartoons with a neurotic bent, look no further than Roz Chast. Every restaurant seems to call to—and call out—folks who feel they should lose weight. This restaurant not just tempts but mocks this poor woman. And it’s always open.
In addition to physical appearance issues, there are health benefits to maintaining one’s weight. Cartoonist Barbara Smaller understands that a stout woman may insist on a stout physician.
While most husbands know to give a wide berth to the weight issue, the schlub in this Zach Kanin cartoon isn’t helping himself with an explanation that is both perfectly logical and completely insensitive. He can put his pajamas back on tonight.
The connection between food and adult relationships is explored in Bob Mankoff’s cartoon. Even a dull husband can take a hint. The title in the ribbon above them could just as well read “The End.” And so we, too, end.