Monday, September 5, 2011

"Get Your Blow in First" : St. Trinian's

Anyone who's seen the original Addams Family cartoons knows the brand of humor: single panels, drawn in a crude but lively hand, portraying terrible deeds carried out gleefully by characters whose malice is perfectly logical in their world. Welcome to St. Trinian's Girls' Boarding School, where anarchy rules.

The first St. Trinian's cartoon appeared in 1942. Soon afterward the author, Ronald Searle, spent a bit of time in WW2 and by the time he got out of it had learned even more about mayhem and viciousness -- enough to turn the belles of St. Trinian's into real monsters and thereby, into classics. Cartoons often showed dead bodies of girls who had been murdered with pitchforks or succumbed to violent team sports, sometimes with vultures circling; girls drank, gambled and smoked. The older girls used their sexual wiles to get their way. The teachers at the school were often no better; whenever they scolded a student for misbehavior, it was usually for some minor infraction all while in plain sight of a vicious crime being perpetrated.

The original school Coat of Arms was a skull and crossbones. The lyrics to the school song were:

The cartoons were very well known in England, but never quite made a complete leap across the pond (perhaps because formal boarding schools were rarer in the US, making the joke of the contrast between prim and proper young schoolchildren and of the rowdy pupils of St. Trinian's less apparent.) Several films were made based on the comics, including one that stars Rupert Everett in drag as the headmistress. However, if you want to go oldschool, here's the way to go about it:

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