08 April 2008
The urinating 'Calvin'
'I live in a borderland, in a space of crossings, in an in-between. I live in Fort Collins. Sure, with relative ease you can locate and thus seemingly isolate it on a map. But a map lacks perspective, movement, and contour. It does not adequately capture how Fort Collins is pulled, even torn, between the mythical vision of cowboy country to the North and the magical wonders of Californication to the South. Fort Collins, you see, lies nearly equal distance from Cheyenne, Wyoming and Boulder, Colorado. It is perhaps little wonder, then, that while driving down the street one is as likely to see a bumper sticker for Pat Buchanan as for Ralph Nader. I grew up on the East Coast, so when I moved to Fort Collins seven years ago, I was immediately struck by the sheer volume of "automobile art" — alright, cheap car decals. But I guess when you live in a borderland, you feel an irrepressible urge to be immediately clear about who you are, where you stand, and what you like to pee on. With just one well-placed sticker, a driver can unequivocally communicate, "Howdy, I'm an American. I love my Ford F-150. And if given the chance, I — like this little cartoon boy — would relieve myself all over your foreign import." Or if one prefers, a decal that informs fellow drivers, "Dude, I believe we ought to legalize marijuana. And later today, I — like this little cartoon boy — plan to … what was I talking about?"'
- Brian L. Ott, 'To Pee or Not to Pee: On the Politics of Cultural Appropriation', FlowTV, 27 March 2008 (reprinted from 2004)
[Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, has pointed out that the well-known 'urinating Calvin' image was of course never part of his cartoon strip - it was a pirated and doctored image. Wikipedia says: 'Except for the books, two 16-month calendars, the textbook Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes, and one T-shirt for a traveling art exhibit on comics, virtually all Calvin and Hobbes merchandise is unauthorized. One of the widely circulated counterfeit items is a series of window decals depicting Calvin grinning wickedly as he urinates on various companies' logos. As Watterson pointed out during the notes of one of the collection books, the original image was of Calvin filling up a water balloon from a faucet. After threat of a lawsuit alleging infringement of copyright and trademark, some of the sticker makers replaced Calvin with a different boy, while other makers ignored the issue. Watterson wryly commented, "I clearly miscalculated how popular it would be to show Calvin urinating on a Ford logo"']