Friday, March 23, 2018

E. Simms Campbell: All the Comforts of Home

In Esquire's July 1952 installment of E. Simms Campbell's "Harem Girls" cartoon, we are treated to an awkward encounter between father and son at the beginning of a college break. The caption doesn't make a joke exactly, but it does clarify the fraught scenario with "Pop, I asked some of my American college friends home for the holidays." So the sultan is being asked to extend his hospitality, shall we say, to a group of his son's virile college friends who have shown up with him unexpected and unannounced. As always, the sultan has improbably surrounded himself exclusively with women of about his son's age—where then is his son's mother?—and abruptly he realizes he is not the only rooster in the henhouse.

Alcohol, of course, is forbidden in Islam, but whether or not Campbell knew of the prohibition, it does shows up in his harem cartoons and may have seemed natural enough to Esquire's readers. It is the women though whom the college students seem utterly stunned to behold; for their part the Harem Girls appear...intrigued. 
The men are for the first time, one imagines, encountering nubile, semi-clad women who must be considerably more experienced than they are. Usually Campbell's Harem Girls appear as passive figures merely to be ogled, but here, while this is still to some degree true, there is at least a suggestion that they may have desires of their own. Pity then the poor sultan. His young and somewhat naive son, who still sports a freshman beanie rather than a varsity letter, is oblivious to the confused excitement he has stirred up all about him.

The composition is a bit odd though, with the sultan's exaggerated reaction off way too far to the extreme right. He is meant to be the last thing we see as we take in the busy scenario bustling with no fewer than fifteen figures. Quite naturally we are supposed to read this cartoon from left to right, with lingering pauses expected no doubt for the scantily-clad Harem Girls.

"Pop, I asked some of my American college friends home for the holidays[.]"
E. Simms Campbell
Esquire, July 1952, page 39[?]

Note:  Welcome home! Attempted Bloggery continues its revue of the work of prolific cartoonist E. Simms Campbell (1906-1971). Ambitious readers may wish to send in high-resolution scans or photographs of original Campbell art or of rare published cartoons and illustrations.

Quick Links to the Attempted Bloggery Archives

E. Simms Campbell


Attempted Bloggery's Educational Index

Attempted Bloggery supports net neutrality.


No comments:

Post a Comment