I have been toying around with a theory lately.
It's a wildly unpopular one, so that's fun.
Well. Not so much a theory as it is an excuse.
Calvin and Hobbes is harmful.
The reasoning goes like this. I posit, based on anecdote, that a significant portion of readers fit the following profile:
- Of above-average intelligence
- Bored or frustrated by school
- Of impressionable age (typically around 10 years)
- Undersupported intellectually (and perhaps emotionally) by traditional authority figures
- Curious by nature and learning about the world around them
I suspect there are two things that happen when someone fitting this profile reads C&H:
1. They adopt the author's trademark disdain for traditional authority structures, particularly as typified in education.
And more generally:
2. They find answers to many questions about life, both ones they have been asking themselves and ones they have not considered.
The unpopular bit about all of this is that I believe this is the perfect storm to create a thought-terminating environment. Readers are sheltered from a very critical period of development in intellectual questioning because they do not need to seek answers elsewhere. This goes back to my long-standing theory of the introversive development of intelligence: that being miserable and isolated as a child tends to bring out one's potential. With too much hand-holding, this potential is quenched.
C&H gives just enough opinions to satisfy curiosity, and not enough questions to keep its readers reaching further. This is perfectly reasonable for a syndicated strip, but breaks down as a didactic instrument when, inevitably, kids acquire anthologies and treasure them as sources of wisdom. (Or a crutch, perhaps.)
So what of outcome #1? I think, because of this process, readers are more likely to simply accept the anti-authority, anti-school stance at face value, and while they will certainly not develop anti-intellectualism, might be deterred from pursuing careers that would put them on a track to improve society as a whole. Counterculture stays counterculture because it invariably includes this kind of outlook to some extent, and C&H is very much a staple of the underground nerd mentality.
So that sucks.