Sometimes cartoon characters take on an existence of their own and become bigger than life itself. This was the case with Mafalda, an Argentinean born character which has influenced at least two generations in many countries down south.
The US has “Peanuts” with Chuck, Linus and the gang. In Latin America it has been Mafalda and her group of friends; these include a social butterfly, an avowed capitalist, a dreamer and the main title character, who practices a fairly straightforward life philosophy; sometimes caustic, sometimes very direct, but always on the money. Born from the pen and drawing board of Quino, an Argentinean writer creator, this small group of indeterminate age children were (and still are in many areas) the stuff which parents used to teach their own children, since it was a world seen from the eyes of the children themselves; a world where adults were present and dealt with, but on the quasi-outside of the children’s own reality.
Why put Mafalda on this blog? You may ask... Well, you have a point. As it happens, we have been watching a lot of her lately. We gave up on regular TV for a while, and have been watching movies every night, something we had not done in a long time. At the end of the "main" show, somewhere around 11:30 or so, we put on the cartoon movie of Mafalda, which has become our sleep inducer. Not because it is boring; it is really not. It is more an issue of having grown accustomed to her comments, as well as the comments of the other members of the group, often funny and stinging at times. When you pay attention to them, you begin to see yourself and many of your adult friends very well represented in this small microcosm. We usually fall asleep with a smile on our faces. Besides, my wife is a life long fan of this little girl and, she, like many other parents has fed them to her own children as they grew up. In fact, this CD was sent to her as a gift by her son. Probably as a funny reminder, not knowing it would become a nightly staple.
Why would I write about this girl? How could I not, when she can bring out, with one comment, all the frustrations that homebound women may have. She “innocently” looks at her mother(quiz... what is the mother’s name?... Only a true Mafalda-ite will know) who is cleaning dinner dishes, and tells her: -“Don’t worry ma...I will go to school and then to University, get a career and have a productive life, not get stuck in a boring treadmill like the one you live in” Then, while her mother goes into a funk, she goes to bed thinking she has done her daughterly duty by reassuring her mom about her study intents.
Then, there is Little Susan (Susanita), whose only goal in life is to marry, produce a “beautiful son who will become a rich doctor or lawyer, or some such...” She is very concerned about status and income, and is the typical social butterfly. When Mafalda asks her about helping the poor with food, shelter, clothing and an education, her response is somewhat “Scroogean” –“Why do all that?” she asks, -“all we have to do is hide them from view”. Do you know someone who might think like this? Yeah, I thought so and I also know one or two.
Manolito’s father owns a grocery store, and this child’s only dream is that when he grows up he will become a very important executive, at the head of a very important chain of supermarkets. While other children draw small trees and little houses at school, he draws a Peso sign. His opposite is little Felipe (Phillip), a dreamer full of fantasies. His hero is the Lone Ranger, and he goes about on his stick horse trying to right perceived wrongs. In one scene, he sees Manolito going to deliver some goods, and creates a fantasy that the grocery box is a stolen gold box. He goes up to Manolito and says –“I am the Lone Ranger and in the name of the law, hand over that box of gold” Manolito looks at him and, shaking the play pistol says, “Mr. Lone Ranger, I am Mr. Rockefeller, nice to meet you” As a defeated Felipe goes away, you hear him mutter: -“Aw man, there is always a capitalistic fool who is ready to destroy the best fantasy”.
There are many entries like these, and each one is more to the point than the one before. It really makes one think, after the smile fades away, that these cartoon children do indeed represent a true section of our adult society. We can be egotistical, greedy and often are willing to step over (and on) others in order to get whatever we may believe is our right; usually without much thought about that someone else. And yes, there are those who, like Mafalda, will try and do their best in order to help others. Unfortunately, much like in this cartoon world, these are the few.
As for Mafalda... her creator, as he was nearing his own end, decided he did not want anyone continuing the life of his make- believe cartoon girl. He did not want to chance her beliefs being changed in order to continue to make money, but wanted her to remain as she was: a symbol. There was only one way to accomplish this so, she died in an accident in her last strip. Believe me when I tell you she was mourned like a real person might have been.
As is often said: "words (and drawings) are mightier than the sword"
Be Well..! Be Back..!!