June 9, 2013
(of Calvin and Hobbes) Grown Up
|When I recently saw
the painting of a grown-up Calvin holding up his
stuffed tiger which he'd just pulled out of box,
made me pull my Calvin and Hobbes books off the shelf and dive
back into Calvin's world. A weekend later, I had read a decade of
the adventures of Calvin and Hobbes from Calvin first catching
in a tiger trap baited with a tuna sandwich to Calvin and
setting off on the toboggan to go exploring.
Re-reading the comic strips for the first time in years, I realized
something I hadn't noticed before. A
grown-up Calvin is not going to be a nice person. If
Calvin's parents didn't change the way they parented this kid, Calvin
as an adult is going to be one of those spoiled, entitled, selfish
jerks with anger management issues. And probably a very lonely one
because the only friend six year old Calvin had was an imaginary
one.......a child six years of age (two years of that in
other children his age) who hadn't manage to form a single
is going to have an extremely difficult time forming healthy
relationships as an adult. So, in imagining what a grown-up Calvin
would be like, I don't come up with some sentimental picture. Strip off
the rose colored glasses and the adulthood of Calvin is going to be
contentious, disruptive, irresponsible, and, in many ways,
dysfunctional unless Calvin's mom and dad changed how
they parented. (And if Freud was correct, it was already too late for
Calvin as Freud thought personality was mostly set by age five.)
In the strip Calvin asks his mom and dad, "What assurance do I
have that your parenting isn't screwing me up?" It's a fair question to
ask because I think their parenting was
screwing Calvin up. And if you think that's too bleak an assessment,
ask yourself "What about
Calvin makes you think he'll grow up to be a
well adjusted adult who'll take responsibility for his actions and be
able to form healthy relationships with other people?"
Calvin as a six year old comic strip character is fun to read about.
But you wouldn't want to live with him. By the second time he floods
your house and destroys your stuff, you'd have enough of him. Even Bill
Watterson said of his own creation, "I wouldn't want Calvin in my
house." Six year
old Calvin repeatedly does a lot of damage in the house and to the
car. A normal kid would be able to do that much damage once,
maybe twice, then he'd catch so much hell that he'd think twice about
ever doing it again. But that requires effective discipline which
Calvin's parents did not do. Whenever Calvin destroyed something, his
cleaned up the mess and his dad paid for it. Calvin's allowance wasn't
he wasn't forced to do extra chores to pay for it; usually he didn't
even have to clean it up. No wonder the kid had no sense of
responsibility. He'd never been taught to have one. The time he
carelessly broke his father's expensive binoculars instead of
punishment he was rewarded with his own pair of binoculars. The third
time he took
the car out of the garage the car ended up in a ditch. (The first major incident with the car Calvin
described with "If we imagined he could
the car, we could pretend it might be fixed" though we never found out
what actually happened. The second was when Calvin backed the car through the garage door. Those were major incidents as opposed to minor car incidents like breaking the windshield, letting the air out the tires and removing a tire to use as a swing.) In the third incident since the car wasn't
damaged and no one was hurt, for the third time Calvin
took the car all Calvin got was a lecture, not a scolding, but a
lecture --- he didn't even
have to pay to get the car towed out of the ditch. Of course
acted the way he did and was as destructive as he was (flooding the
bathroom and the house again and again, drilling holes in the walls,
hammering nails into the coffee table, constantly breaking furniture,
etc), if all any kid got was being sent to bed early or losing dessert
for that kind of destruction, no kid would think it was that
Yet it was possible to effectively discipline Calvin, and
Calvin was more than capable of controlling himself when faced with
discipline. Rosalyn proved that. Rosalyn was only in high school, but
Calvin's babysitter she had on several occasions gotten Calvin to
But other than Rosalyn
who Calvin feared, Calvin had little respect for
authority figures: he thought his dad was replaceable, he described his
mom's cooking as "barf" and "puke" at the dinner table, ambushed both
his parents to soak them with water, threw a squishy tomato at his mom
(Would you have done those things even once to your parents much less
repeatedly?), he ignored his teacher and principal. Calvin had a lot of
traits of a six year old, but, as a comic strip character, the traits were exaggerated for a heightened effect. His cheating,
his selfishness, his self-centeredness,
his lying, he thought he should be allowed to do whatever he wanted
& rules were for other people. Calvin expected to be given
everything especially money (wanting his dad to go out and
million dollars so he can inherit it). Calvin was spoiled, but like a
of spoiled kids, he thought he was deprived.
is not a pretty picture if the rest of Calvin's childhood were like his
early childhood. Add in the fact that Calvin was a horrible
a year of first grade, Calvin never even learned simple addition.
couldn't even grasp the one area of math that most children quickly and
eagerly learn: money.
Calvin overpaid Susie on a bet because he was trying to cheat
her by paying three dimes instead of the 25 cents he owed. I
don't see college in this Calvin's future. Even though Calvin had a
general interest in science (dinosaurs, space travel, astronomy, etc)
and once expressed his desire to be a geneticist,
he's not going to have had the ability to get a degree and become a
scientist or engineer in any of these fields.
I do see a grown-up Calvin doing is becoming an
artist. (Though Calvin would also make an effective talk radio host
because, as Calvin observed, talk radio hosts act like six
olds.) But I see Calvin's natural genius and flare in art. Picasso's
genius showed even in the drawings he did as an eight year old.
Calvin wasn't much of a drawer, about typical for a six year old. But
Calvin was an absolute genius when it came to sculpture.
He was the
Mozart of snow; a genuine child prodigy. If Calvin were a real
old today, his neighbors would be photographing his snow creations
posting videos of them on YouTube. And those videos would be going
(I say his neighbors because Calvin's parents never appreciated or even
recognized his genius.) Even as a six year old, Calvin was interested
the art world. So, in Calvin's future, I could definitely see him
becoming an artist though I don't see Calvin going to art school. He'd
be a self-trained sculptor. Calvin actually was "learning real skills
that I can apply throughout the rest of my life" by playing in the
snow. Not the skills of "procrastinating and rationalizing," but the
skills of how to sculpt.
I could see the appeal of street art
for Calvin. In describing his art, six year old Calvin said he wanted
to be a neo-deconstructivist but his mom wouldn't let him; so he had to
settle for being a suburban post-modernist. I don't know what "ist" or
"ism" it would be, but doing big street art projects......in a way it's
like getting paid
to graffiti and
vandalize and disrupt traffic. However, being a large scale street
Calvin doesn't have..............the ability to play well with others.
Calvin would fight with his volunteers; he would fight with the people
on the street. His antagonistic attitude would cause the projects a lot of bad
publicity. In the end, he couldn't make it doing big public
street art projects.
Calvin & Hobbes Pet Theory
Back in the 80s I was introduced to Calvin and Hobbes by a friend
of mine who cut out the strips from the newspaper and brought
them to me. I hadn't
seen a photo of Bill Watterson yet. Reading the strips, I
developed a private theory about Calvin and Hobbes based on the dad's appearance.
father is Dennis the Menace grown up.
Calvin's dad looks like Dennis' dad with a round nose rather
than a sharp one. And Dennis has a round nose. Blond hair frequently
darkens. So Dennis was a towhead who grew up dark haired.
But mainly what I thought was Dennis growing up to have Calvin as a son
was an example of the
traditional, parental curse "May you have a child exactly like
you." Except Calvin's ten
times worse than Dennis ever was.
But Calvin would be
perfect with smaller scale art.
Sculpture commissioned by museums or private individuals who are used
dealing with artists. Calvin's bold and not
afraid to take risks. His imagination and
strong fantasy life would
keep his work fresh. But his work would be dark --- nihilist
and dystopian, gory and violent, exploring dark worlds and the
side of human nature with themes of persecution. (And I can see a
series of works
childhood bully Moe and bloody revenge.) That is, his work would be
Calvin thinks he could make more money doing light subjects with wider
I think Calvin as an
would be would what he always wanted to be: rich, successful and famous.
of the advantages of being an artist is that all of Calvin's bad
behavior would be accepted as "artistic temperament." He'd not only be
allowed to get away with being a selfish, obnoxious, egotistical
jerk.........he'd be encouraged in it. However well that works out for
Calvin as an artist, it wouldn't be good for Calvin as a person. Calvin
the artist would
still feel like the outsider and out of step with the world. He would
suspicious that people are using him and think that's wrong, but
he would use people and think that's right. And
Calvin use them because that's what celebrities get away with. However,
I don't see Calvin the artist falling into the trap of drug and/or
alcohol abuse ----- Calvin's imagination is wild enough on its own.
He'd try them, but once would be enough, and after his experimentation
Calvin would be contemptuous of anyone who abuses
and has trouble stopping.
he'd become a rich, successful artist, grown-up Calvin would not live
in the city. He'd have a big place out in the country ---- some place
with forest and hills or maybe up in the mountains. Calvin would spend
hours and days out enjoying nature, and he'd come back to a home with
shower stalls instead of bathtubs and instead
of Charles Schulz's personal hockey rink, Calvin would have a bobsleigh
track and a snow machine in his backyard and maybe even that ski lift
he kept bugging his dad to build.
I expect grown-up Calvin
to spend his money on himself. No
charity. Calvin's parents never taught him as a six year old about
helping out others. He was never taken to any kind of charity function
to watch his mom and dad work as volunteers. Even with the little
raccoon Calvin's parents didn't bother to take the raccoon to the vet
or to a wildlife sanctuary where the raccoon would have gotten trained
medical assistance. They just wrapped the little raccoon in a
towel, placed it in a box with some food and water, then stuck the box in the garage
the little raccoon to die. We never see Calvin doing any fund
raising for charity or school. The only charity I could possibly see a
Calvin supporting would be environmental/wildlife causes as Calvin has
love of nature. But, despite his love of nature, I think Calvin would
love his money more. I could see Calvin complaining
about humans doing
environmental damage, but I have a hard time seeing Calvin doing
anything about it that involved giving away his money.
In ten years of comic
strips, Calvin never spent a single penny on anyone other than himself.
Calvin never bought his parents or even his best friend a single gift
though Calvin bought himself
a lot of stuff. Calvin's
money was for Calvin.
His money was to buy
himself toys, models, comic books, etc. Or to buy his safety when Moe
extorted quarters from Calvin by threatening him. The closest Calvin
ever came to spending his money on someone else was when he paid Susie
Derkins twenty-five cents to get Hobbes back. (Calvin had
stolen Binky Betsy, Susie's doll, and demanded one hundred
for the doll's return. A
very smart Susie then laid a plan and stole Hobbes in retaliation.
After failing to drill his way into Susie's house, Calvin brought her
doll back, but Susie said Calvin could keep Binky Betsy and she'd keep
Hobbes. So Calvin gave Susie a quarter --- not one hundred dollars, but
a quarter --- to buy back Hobbes.)
for girlfriends, grown up Calvin would have long since gotten over his
G.R.O.S.S. slimy girls attitude. He and Susie Derkins would have had a
romance, but it wouldn't have lasted past high school. A grown-up Susie Derkins
would have too much sense and respect for herself and her own
ambitions to stay with this Calvin.
And Calvin the artist will have lonely moments when he looks back at
Susie as his first love. But for girlfriends in his adult life, Calvin
would have his art and fame groupies for shallow, meaningless
relationships. As a successful artist,
he would treat them as disposable objects to be
used. No matter how rich he gets he would be as cheap as Tiger Woods
with his mistresses. Calvin wouldn't wear condoms and would
responsibility for birth control. But it would still come as an
unpleasant shock when one of his groupies either accidentally
deliberately becomes pregnant. Calvin wouldn't accept any
for the child or for child support until he's ordered to by a court
insists on a paternity test which he'll then try to avoid). And even
with court ordered child support, Calvin would just forget about paying
it........until Calvin gets hauled away in handcuffs and goes to jail
as a deadbeat dad. In jail, Calvin would pass the time
with his vivid
fantasy life, something that a grown-up Calvin would still have.
Calvin quoted Paul Gauguin then asked,
"Say, who the heck is Paul Gauguin anyway?" I can answer that
question. Paul Gauguin was a fantastic
artistic, brilliant and ground-breaking. And Paul Gauguin was a terrible husband
and father, deserting his families.
The Calvin I picture as emerging from the six year old portrayed in the
comic strips is a man who would have a successful career and
a lonely and isolated private life because he still
how to correct his own behavior or how to relate well with
six year old Calvin thought the secret to happiness started with
money ----- with enough money he could buy the other two ingredients of
happiness: power and fame. As a grown-up, Calvin would have
wealth, fame, success and
a stuffed tiger sitting on a shelf. Maybe for grown-up Calvin that
would be happiness enough.
For more on how parents mold their child, read "When
You Think God's Light Shines Out of Your Kid's Asshole.........You're
Raising a Brat (And Why It's Not Doing Your Kid Any Favors)"
Calvin would approve of "As Dumb as Deer."
Calvin would also like this one, "Scientific Stupidity."
Since Calvin was inspired to poetry by his feline, I offer this poem even though Calvin would think it was too mushy, "You!! The Song of the Domesticated Cat." It's nothing that Hobbes would ever tell Calvin, but Hobbes wasn't a domesticated cat.
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