The End of Hope As We Knew It

The Core Belief

86 years ago, cartoonist Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie first graced the pages of American newspapers. The adventures of the curly red head and her “adoptive” father Daddy Warbucks quickly found themselves part of the fabric of America. The strip inspired a doll for children, a long running Broadway play (which helped launch the career of Sarah Jessica Parker), movies, radio and TV shows.

Unfortunately, on June 13, 2010 Little Orphan Annie will be published for the last time. Our favorite red head will exclaim ‘leapin’ lizards’ one last time and then fade into a special place in the history of American cartoons. Yes, Little Orphan Annie was among the longest running cartoons of all time and yes, its importance in our popular culture cannot be underestimated – even Jay-Z has mentioned Annie in two songs. However, for my money the most important thing Gray’s creations accomplished was to give the country a sense of hope during the Great Depression.

During the strips run in the 1930’s, Daddy Warbucks would lose it all, go to prison, go blind but would regain his stature and status. Annie would hit the road, be taken in by an honest but poor (and everyone was poor in the great Depression) family and be reunited with Daddy Warbucks. Simplistic? Sure but in complex times simple messages are very soothing, if not heartening.

No one in today’s popular culture has taken up the banner of Annie and Warbucks. Glenn Beck, Keith Olberman, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Maher? They all aspire to be Prophets of Doom. So as the country streams headlong into a frightening ‘Double Dip’ recession we have a bunch of ‘I told you so’s’ and ‘it’s all Bush’s fault’ dragging us into their personal reckonings. There is no one out in the entertainment/popular culture segment who approaches the Little Orphan Annie/Will Rodgers School of Giving hope and reaffirming the very nature of the citizens of the Republic. Yes Gray and Rodgers mentioned their political views but it wasn’t important – keeping the country entertained, positive and pushing forward was.

If you are so inclined, look up one of the last 20 papers still carrying the Little Orphan Annie strip. (I recommend the New York Daily News, which has run the comic strip since panel one.) A sad day for Americana and a sad day for the fabric of the Republic is upon us. Maybe the memory of Annie and Warbucks will help see us through.

Click here to see the last Little Orphan Annie strip.

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