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Taking Care to Offend

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WHENEVER CIVILIZATION AS WE know it is threatened by wicked evildoers, rude tyrants and fraternity louts, one intrepid cultural force can always be counted on to come to mankind’s rescue: the cartoonist. In the past, these noble folk have created such heroic defenders as Superman, Wonder Woman and Plastic Man. Now, from the pen of a 21-year-old history major at Brown University named Jeff Shesol, comes…Politically Correct Person!

Shesol’s character appears in his comic strip, Thatch, which is syndicated four times a week to more than 200 college newspapers. The nation’s campuses make a perfect forum, since they are hotbeds of Political Correctness (whose excesses President Bush recently denounced at the University of Michigan). Now, with a Thatch collection just out from Vintage, the strip seems poised to capture a wider audience.

Politically Correct Person is a tireless caped vigilante of cultural orthodoxy, rebuking environmental, gender and ethnic insensitivity. He chides those who refer to people as fat or disabled (they are “nonslim” or “differently abled”) as well as those who drink Coca-Cola (a no-no because the company sells Coke in South Africa). He warns his archenemy, Insensitive Man, not to call 9-year-old females chicks. The Politically Correct term, naturally, is “pre-women.”

Shesol, who graduated this week with a Phi Beta Kappa key and a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford, sees himself as “a frustrated liberal speaking out against the excesses of my own side. I think the PC lost sight of the things they’re supposed to be fighting for.” The son of an Aurora, Colo., surgeon and a mother who is an educator, Shesol has no advanced art training but has drawn all his life. After his two years in England, he may accept an offer from a commercial syndicator, but he is unsure what kind of strip he will move on to after the campus-based Thatch. Whatever he comes up with, one can be sure it will carry on Thatch’s mission: smiting smugness wherever it rears its ugly head.