Given that today’s “funnies” aren’t found in the papers so much as they are Twitter threads and listicles, a cartoon like Scott Adams’ workplace satire Dilbert probably isn’t something you’re still following. And, if Miles Wray’s new piece for The Awl is any indication, this is a very good thing. Sure, we knew that Adams has become a bigoted, misogynistic Trumper over the years—see: MRA Dilbert—but no one’s really asked how that’s manifested in the comics.
Wray’s piece finds the author wrestling with his long-running love for the comic and the ways in which Adams’ repulsive online presence has soured it. The most fascinating piece of his article, however, is in his look into how the comic itself has changed. “For so long,” he writes, “Adams was so compassionately attuned to the absurdities and infinite micro-tragedies of being just a quiet adult guy thrust into the world.” Now, however, the comic’s Pointy-Headed Boss character, once the comic’s Trumpian antagonist, has become, by Wray’s estimation, “an increasingly sympathetic character.”
“The Dilbert reader of, say, 1997 would find it sacrilege to learn that, in 2017, there are comic strips where the Pointy-Haired Boss is the discerning voice of reason and it is his employees who are difficult, selfish, stupid,” Wray writes, sharing several examples from latter-day comics. The character’s also enjoyed a physical makeover, his old, pudgy silhouette giving way to a younger, trimmer one over the years. Considering Adams, an avowed alpha, tends to combat haters by showing off his abs, it’s very likely the author sees himself more as the boss now than he does as Dilbert, who’s remained doughy and decidedly beta.
“Somewhere along the way, Scott Adams became incapable of seeing the world clearly,” Wray writes. “He cannot see that he has made the antagonist of his cartoon the protagonist.”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?