Cartoons have been use for many years and its modern usage refers to a typically non-realistic or semi-realistic drawing or painting intended for satire, caricature, or mock different things. John Backderf, known as Derf, is a famous and recognized cartoonist “who works out of an unheated, attic studio in his Cleveland home, grew up in a rural, small town in Ohio and went to high school with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer” (“Bio”). He drew a cartoon in 1995 in which he presents an implicit theory about how and why things evolve to be “cool”.
This paper will elaborate on explaining what Derf’s theory actually is, an interpretation of the meaning presented in the cartoon, and a fad or style that follows Derf’s theory. In this cartoon, Derf’s theory of how things get to expand and get “cool” expresses that a fad starts by a small group of people, many times not even knowing where it came from, then eventually evolving and reaching greater groups of people by the influence of media, and at certain point the fad just disappears.
In his cartoons, he expresses this theory by starting to say in the first box that some art students who often go to a coffee shop started to use a “large, hardened boogers dangling from their nostrils”. He even mentions that no one remembers who started to use these boogers or why. In the second box, he states that the booger fad expands to the Hipsters Citywide and eventually the Indie-Rock musicians starts to use it too, spreading the practice to other cities. He also expresses that Tabitha Soren gave the MTV news with a booger and suddenly 30 million High School students “blindly follow” this fad.
Here the audience could see how he critiques that once a fad gets to media eventually more people starts adopting that fad, in this case the millions of students. In this same box, Derf shows that some people always will relate certain fad to some source of criminality. He uses a Principal confiscating boogers from students because the Principal believes the booger is gang-related. In the third box, Derf refers to older people as “has-beens” and “vain baby boomers” to say that they adopted the booger style “in a lame attempt at hipness”.
He also mentions Madonna appearing in Letterman’s show with a booger. His attempt here is to critique how celebrities even start using a certain fad to stay current in media and fashion so they could get more fame. So, his intention is to demonstrate how celebrities play an important role in fads. When celebrities adopt a fad many of their fans will eventually start using that fad too, making that fad to become even more popular. Lastly, in the last box, Derf states that Calvin Klein uses a booger to promote their latest collection.
Consequently, this causes the art students to stop using the booger. The intention of this is to show how many times when businesses gets involve in a fad it eventually dies or to demonstrate that the ones who started the fad, in this case the art students, stop using it after businesses get involved and eventually that fad disappears. Overall, with each box, Derf is able to elaborate on how a fad starts small, spreads to more people, is influenced by media and celebrities, gets to business, and eventually it dies and disappears when it becomes too commercialized.
Derf is mocking society in this cartoon by saying that they are followers manipulated by media or other outside influences to express that society should avoid being manipulated so they can act based on their own believes and not according to other just to “fit in” in society. This message of avoiding outside manipulation on people’s actions is shown throughout the cartoon because, in each box, he shows how a group of people follows another by using a fad just to stay in actuality and fashion. One example of this is Madonna, which Derf includes in the cartoon.
Probably the intention of adding Madonna using a “booger”, which symbolizes a piercing, is to demonstrate that probably she is not really using that booger because she loves it but more because she wants to stay in actuality with her fans and media so she could gain more fame. With this example, Derf wants to demonstrate that people just follow others to “fit in” in actuality or society. He wants to express to people they should be unique in their own ways without the influence of anyone. Furthermore, Derf also mocks how High School students are influenced and manipulated by media.
In the cartoon, he clearly critiques how Tabitha Soren appears in the very popular channel MTV with a booger, which is watch by an immense young population. He attacks this by saying that after she appeared in television “30 million High School kids blindly follow” the booger fad. With this statement, he clearly critiques how people, in this case students, are influenced and manipulated by media. Many times, these persons adopt a fad so they are not discriminated or ignored in school because they are not “cool” since they are not using a certain fad.
Often, people feels it is necessary to feel “cool” so they can be accepted in society and not be judged, and that is why they start using a fad. This is what Derf is mocking, he is trying to encourage people to do not be followers just to feel “cool” or be accepted in society because each individual should take their own decisions based on their beliefs and not based on what others think. Probably, he is trying to encourage people to not be manipulated by media, society, or peer pressure because he had an incident that changed his life forever.
When Derf was still in High School one of his friends was Jeffrey Dahmer, who is known as a serial killer. Derf states that “Before there was Jeffrey Dahmer the infamous serial killer, there was Jeffrey Dahmer the shy, introverted and bullied kid growing up in small-town Ohio” (Truitt). Dahmer was a victim of bullying when he was a kid and this might be Derf’s inspiration to tell people that they should not do something and follow the rest just to be recognized as “cool” because it could bring negative consequences.
For example, Dahmer was bullied probably by kids who were just followers and just did it to “fit in” into the rest of the students who thought bullying someone could make them “cooler”. Derf’s book about Dahmer claims that it “is about a sad, damaged boy who spiraled into madness… ” (“You Only Think… ”). By stating this, Derf is saying that the consequences of following something just because someone else is doing it to be “cool” could bring very catastrophic consequences, such a serial killer.
This is why people should avoid being manipulated to take actions that could result in very disastrous consequences that could transform the “cool” feeling into a feeling of sorrow and regret. Overall, Derf is advicing people to prevent to be followers or being manipulated by society just to feel “cool” because if actions are not taken responsibly they could turn into negative results. To conclude and prove that Derf’s theory of how things get to be “cool” is true, I will illustrate a fad that was adopted by some friends.
Around two years ago, I noticed that some of my masculine friends at school started to use very bright color skinny jeans. Then, I realized that some of my neighbors started to use those jeans too. One day, I went to the mall and observed that many guys were wearing those jeans as well. So, as Derf expresses in his cartoon, a fad starts by a little group of people and eventually it starts to spread around. These colored skinny jeans were becoming very popular and I observed many more people started to use them as well.
Later, I realized that these jeans were used by a famous hip-hop group “The New Boyz”. They had a very famous and popular song that became one of the teenagers’ favorite song, its name is “You’re a Jerk”. In their musical video of this song, the singers were using those bright color skinny jeans and they served as a big influenced for the many kids who started using this fad. Just as Derf concluded, media plays a big role in expanding a fad because the more the kids watched these singes on television with those jeans the more they would wear them.
In addition, every time I would go to the mall, I would see those jeans almost in every store. This relates to how Derf included Calvin Klein in his cartoon to show how businesses are a big part to make a fad bigger. After “The New Boyz” song was not heard no more, these colored skinny jeans are not seen as often in kids as they were two years ago. It is not really known if these singers were the ones who started this fad or if they were just followers, but it seems the jeans became very popular when they started using them.
In conclusion, Derf theory is true, just as the booger in his cartoon, these colored skinny jeans started to be used by a small group of people, then it spread to schools, then to neighborhoods, then to shows in TV, they were seen in many retail stores, and eventually that fad just disappeared and died. Work Cited “Bio. ” About Derf, Man of Mystery. N. p. , n. d. Web. 18 Apr. 2013. Backderf, John “Derf”. The City. 1995. Cartoon Truitt, Brian. “‘My Friend Dahmer’ Depicts the Boy before the Monster. ” USATODAY. USA TODAY, 22 Mar. 2012. Web. 19 Apr. 2013. “You Only Think You Know This Story. ” My Friend Dahmer. N. p. , n. d. Web. 19 Apr. 2013.