Bringing Up Father

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Bringing Up Father.jpg

Bringing Up Father was a classic newspaper comic strip written by George McManus. It debuted in 1913 and ended in 2000, and featured the day-to-day life of "Jiggs", an Irish-American with a habit for drinking, brawling and being generally uncouth, and his long-suffering, abusive wife Maggie, who was constantly trying to get the family into "society". The over-reaching gag was that Jiggs preferred the simple life, eating corn beef and hash, drinking and partying with his buddies, and lazing about, while social-climbing Maggie beat him over the head with various utensils in her eternal efforts to force Jiggs into more civilized behavior -- dressing well, meeting other rich folk, traveling the world, and more. Filling out the recurring cast was their daughter Catie, a pretty (but horrifically spoiled) young woman who shared her mother's social-climbing tendencies, and received dozens of marriage proposals from wealthy dukes, generals, and businessmen.

More or less a comic strip version of a Dom Com, with a healthy dose of ethnic-based humor (more European than anything), Domestic Abuse, and the everlasting image of the Henpecked Husband.

One of the most popular strips of its day, it spawned a 1914 Broadway Musical, a dozen or so silent cartoons, three two-reel shorts, several volumes of comic books, a 1941 radio show, and several film adaptations, including one made in Finland.

Tropes used in Bringing Up Father include:
  • Abuse Is Okay When It Is Female On Male: The strip just wouldn't work without this.
  • Art Evolution: Maggie was initially very fat, and Jiggs was taller, burlier and hairier. Maggie eventually grew into a tall "old hen" build, while Jiggs grew more squat to make Maggie's beatings seem more believable.
    • Also, Jiggs' best pal Dinty Moore was drawn differently in nearly every instance for no apparent reason.
  • Brother Chuck: Maggie and Jiggs had a son in the first couple strips. He quickly vanished, not really working within the confines of the strip (which worked best with two women admonishing him).
  • Crossover: Over the decades, Maggie and Jiggs have made appearances in numerous other works, including the comic strip Arlo and Janis, Gasoline Alley and (of all things) Marvel Comics' Power Pack.
    • On the Fan Works front, they've made a cameo appearance in The Teraverse: Jiggs owns a sub shop called "The Daily Grinder" somewhere in Massachusetts.
  • Domestic Abuse: Played heavily for laughs as a major running gag. Maggie frequently beat Jiggs with frying pans, rolling pins, and whatever else was available when he displeased her.
  • Executive Meddling: As a Hearst newspaper strip, Bringing Up Father reflected its bosses' political beliefs. Particularly a pro-Germany stance in World War I (from Jiggs' perspective), which went against the majority of American opinion.
  • Henpecked Husband: Jiggs is one of the archetypal versions of this, constantly being berated by his wife (and daughter) to act more civilized to get them into "society".
  • Long Runner: 87 years fits this nicely. It was one of the oldest newspaper comic strips still in existence when it died, with numbers that are nearly impossible to replicate anymore.
  • No Name Given: It seems that the family name is "Jiggs" sometimes, but it isn't very clear. And then, one wonders what Jiggs' first name is.
  • Shown Their Work: George McManus was a very thorough researcher, designing all the women's clothes based off of the latest Parisian fashions.
  • Rule of Funny: Many gags blatantly ignored continuity, which wasn't seen as that important. Jiggs and Maggie would often suddenly be unable to read for the sake of a gag (being unable to order at a restaurant), when they were shown reading a newspaper only a few strips earlier.
  • Running Gag: Several. Most common is Jiggs' constant (though mainly accidental) befuddling of Maggie's attempts to civilize him, and the resultant beating. Others include Jiggs running out to drink (filling various things with alcohol).
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Jiggs loves corned beef with cabbage. Justified in-universe by him being a first-generation Irish-American.
  • The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: Jiggs and Maggie are hideous, cartoonish exaggerations, while their daughter Catie is drawn as a typical turn-of-the-century beautiful chorus girl.
  • What Could Have Been: When George McManus died, the strip was expected to be handed over to his apprentice, who could easily replicate his art style. Instead, it inexplicably went to a series of imitators who weren't nearly as good, and the strip faltered horribly until its demise.
  • World War I: The strip's second year featured the outbreak of hostilities, and it was referenced quite often (the characters had just ended a large world tour).